Am I Raising Cain?

October 27, 2009 at 10:25 pm 10 comments

One of my fears about entering CPS was the “Raising Cain” issue.  If you don’t know about this book, it’s about how young boys in our society are often labeled as “naughty” in class because our schools are set up so that typical girl behavior is the ideal whereas rowdy, energetic little boys have a hard time conforming to the sit still/don’t talk/don’t touch any one standards.  (Actually I think a lot of 6yo girls are like that too, but according to folklore, they can reign it in when needed.)

It took my son a good 6 months to warm up to school and his Kindergarten teacher last year and all the other kids in the class.  The teacher mentioned to me one day that “he really seemed to be coming out of his shell and showing his true personality.”  Then a week later was the first time he got in trouble in class.  So his true personality was a naughty one that had been held captive inside for many months and was ready to break free.

This year has been tougher because first grade is a bit more serious: no play time (exploration stations,) more real work time, and in general, not a lot of time to chat with friends throughout the day.  Frustrating if you are 6-7 years old.

So today my son’s class went on a field trip and he told me that he was in the teacher’s group and he thought that she put all the naughty kids with her (I think teachers do that so no parent gets stuck with the crazy kids and refuses to do field trips any more.)  I scoffed at the notion (since MY son isn’t THAT naughty) and asked for the names of the other kids in the group.  All boys.  All energetic boys.  I think he was right.  I love all those boys.  They’re all full of energy and goofiness and fun.  But of course that doesn’t fly when a teacher is trying to corral six of them at once.  In fact I remember losing a kid on that same field trip last year.

I still am having trouble understanding little boy energy.  I see them play fighting and wrestling around and whapping each other and it freaks me out, but they seem to be having fun.  I can see where a young teacher would also have a hard time just letting it happen.

I don’t know what I’d do in the perfect world to deal with the rambunctious types in a first grade class.  What comes to mind is letting them out into the hallway every hour to run like banshees for 5 minutes.

Or maybe I’ll form P.O.N.K.  Parents of Naughty Kids and fight for our rights.

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Coonley Mom  |  October 28, 2009 at 9:02 am

    I am laughing right now, b/c I know my son was in that group too!!! It is so hard because I want him to behave, but I also want to allow him to be a six year old boy. I think first grade is a huge adjustment. My son had three years of school where there was play time, center time, exploration stations, etc. He wants to know what the heck happened to school?? Recess is so crucial, they have to get out and run around, burn off some of that energy. Recess should be guaranteed everyday, I cannot imagine having my son in our house for six-seven hours straight without giving him some time to burn that energy off!

  • 2. Mayfair Dad  |  October 28, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I am the father of two such “naughty” boys: highly energetic, highly curious and highly social. They love to be the center of attention. Some teachers appreciate their spunk and try to channel their energy in a positive way. My own belief is that they get bored because the classwork is not challenging. Both are now in gifted/magnet schools and the acting out in class has abated.

  • 3. Paul  |  October 28, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I’ve heard the same concern from other parents. I’ve got a couple of years before my son is in First grade, but I can see the same thing happening with him.

    There seemed to be a lot of attention to this issue a few years ago. First Lady, Laura Bush was making “educating boys” a pet issue, and there were news artlcles about new ways of educating boys: taking more frequent breaks for physical activity, letting boys stand at raised desks rather than have to sit, etc.

    I’m thinking that there’s no real way to fix the problem. It takes an adjustment period for energetic kids to learn how to behave in school. This may also be where the short CPS school day comes in handy. They could burn off some energy before school, have their short school day where they have to sit still, and then burn off some energy after school.

  • 4. momofboy  |  October 28, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Join the club. My son has always been in that group, and now in 8th grade, is STILL in that group. When the teacher is tolerant and flexible, it’s fine. But, it can, and has been, hell at times.

    Get him into sports later on. As a feminist, I never realized how important all that boy bonding etc is, but it is wonderful to watch.

    I LOVE boys!!! Since we are still having issues, I am seriously considering a boys high school.

  • 5. Mary  |  October 31, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    That is hilarious. I have 3 boys and used to get frustrated when I couldn’t get them to sit still when I was trying to show them something. Now when we do sight words, I let the oldest run around the room, screaming out the correct word as loud as he can. It’s a bit nuts, but works. Boys are definitely much different.

  • 6. InTheSystem  |  November 3, 2009 at 6:42 pm by Michael Thompson.

    You have no doubt heard of this work, which explores the issue that you’re considering.

    I know there are teaching styles that totally encompass the very ‘boyness’ of boys. I have heard wonderful things about a 1st (?) grade teacher at Sacred Heart in Chicago (single sex school) who incorporates all sorts of kinetic strategies into teaching to maintain focus, increase attention and productivity and class calm.

    The fact that CPS is co-ed does tend to limit how a teacher can address those ‘high energy’ children with these novel and interesting strategies. Not to mention the fact that the time to allow this to happen isn’t really available. The time to allow children to play, really play, at recess isn’t afforded them either.

    It is an interesting conunudrum.

  • 7. Ms. G  |  November 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    As the teacher who put these boys in a group together, I want parents to know that teachers put kids in groups for all kinds of reasons. On a pumpkin farm trip, I put kids with their friends so they are likely to have a good time and want to do similar things. It should come as no surprise then that active boys who love the straw playground end up in a different group from those kids who want to hang out in the petting zoo. First-grade teachers know boys (and girls) need a lot of chances to move around, but they also need to learn that sometimes impulses have to be controlled. It’s a tricky balancing act that parents and teachers work on all the time. Being active doesn’t make you naughty, but it might earn you a reminder that you shouldn’t poke your neighbors during story time in hopes that tomorrow you’ll remember to listen quietly on your own.

  • 8. InTheSystem  |  November 4, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Ms. G!! A sound answer. Kudos to you.

  • 9. cpsobsessed  |  November 4, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Well, it is nice to get a teacher’s perspective. Especially one with such personal relevance! 🙂

    Very good points indeed. Thanks for contributing to the dialog.

  • 10. KateCPSTeacher  |  November 5, 2009 at 9:59 am

    When I place students in field trip groups, I consider all that Ms. G outlined above. However, the one element that I consider first is what I think individual parents can and cannot handle. I’ve had parents of complain about active boys or girls in their groups, especially ones with shorter attention spans. I’ve also had parents complain about things students have said, most of which falls in the goofy or gross category, and would hardly warrant an admonishment in my classroom.

    In general, I’ve had many complaints from parents regarding behavior and verbalizations that differ from what’s the “norm” in their households. I try to place the “firecrackers” (like your son) in my group b/c they are the most entertaining! I’d rather have fun conversing and enjoying the field trip with them than deal with a parent who might be “disturbed” over a 6 year old fart joke.

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