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My 4th grader son does not have any disability. He tests above the average on standard school tests. Doesn't have any issues with any academic subjects.
He's just an antsy boy. He asks a lot of questions. He's very curious. He can't sit still and immediately start his work. All of which seem to bring out the worst in every teacher he has had (he's in fourth grade).
He comes home from school and says that he had a horrible day because he couldn't be 'perfect'. That is his word. He gets into 'trouble' for being a normal little boy - his teachers always say that he doesn't apply himself, he doesn't stay on task, he's not a self-starter, he asks too many questions etc.
He used to love school but not any more, he hates it.
I'll move anywhere - please, please just tell me which schools are the best for normal little boys. Desperate Mom of a boy
As Head of the first all-boys school in the East Bay, I hear versions of your dismayed post often from parents exploring a possible ''fit'' between Pacific Boychoir Academy (PBA) and their sons. While I cannot promise to be unbiased, I hope my reply encourages you to seek out more information about single gender education, and about PBA in particular. (www.pacificboychoiracademy.org)
PBA is an all-boys school offering a comprehensive and stimulating 4th to 8th grade academic program that is enriched by an intensive, professional choral program. We are a choir school but more than that, we provide an academic, musical, and personal development experience that develops confident, engaged and creative boys. With the highest standards of excellence in mind, we keep our class sizes to 15 boys or fewer. This commitment reflects our "best-for-boys" teaching approach that honors how boys learn and ensures more individual attention and a more personalized education that maximizes each student's potential. Faculty works together to get to know each student and to focus the boys' energy using stepped levels of achievement, hands-on discovery, movement, practical applications and cultural and environmental relevance. Consequently, our graduates are admitted to the East Bay's most demanding high schools.
Our choral program takes full advantage of the benefits of music to enhance children's minds. Through their musical training, international touring and professional appearances, boys learn confidence, teamwork, presentation skills and excellence for all aspects of their lives. PBA is meeting the challenges of boy education with innovative approaches, a talented and committed faculty, and real- world experiences that prepare boys for high school and for life.
I encourage you to come and visit the school and see all of this in action for yourself. (510) 849-8181. Best of luck, Jim Jim Gaines email@example.com
If you are staying in public school, then my advice is to be a strong advocate for your boy. Read up on the current thinking about school and boys - there is quite a lot on the topic - and be prepared to stand up to the school administration as necessary. Best wishes Mom of 3 boys
My son, a junior at Berkeley High, has chosen to drop out, take the high school proficiency exam and go to junior college. He really disliked high school. He is bright, creative and bored. Sounds like a lot of adolescent boys.
I recently read a book, ''Why Gender Matters'' by Dr. Leonard Sax. In this book, Dr. Sax lays out the new cognitive science research on how males and females think, behave and perceive differently. School is not designed for boys. Public School does not teach boys the way boys learn best. Dr. Sax is an advocate for same sex schooling.
Recent news articles state that the high school drop out rate for California is 50%. I bet that the vast majority of them are males.
As a female who came of age in the late '60's, I am well aware of the issues of sexism facing women raised by the feminist movement. However, that does not erase other forms of sexism, including how school and society demonize our sons and do not meet their needs.
I highly recommend this book to every parent, and every teacher. And if your son is smart, creative, but a ''low achiever'' in school, maybe the problem is not your son, maybe it's school.
I want to add my experience to the mix. My story is: two bright boys, now 19 and 22, who really started faltering in Berkeley public schools around the 4th and 5th grade. My oldest graduated from Berkeley High, and is now a senior at an out-of-state university. His grades and attendance were very poor throughout middle and high school. He told me recently that he now regrets ''not working harder'' to get into a more academic, stimulating college. His classes are boring and his classmates are .. well ... not that sharp. He would not have graduated from BHS at all had he not been involved in a sport and therefore motivated to keep at least a passing GPA. We felt very lucky when he was accepted to a university.
My second son dropped out of BHS / Independent Studies two years ago as a junior. He took the Ca. equivalency exam but he did not pass. He was enrolled for one semester at Laney, but has not picked it back up. I don't know what's going to happen to him - it really is scary and heartbreaking. He's smart, and interested, and he's a great kid, but truthfully he does not have the academic background to survive college level classes, so I am worried he is doomed to work at low-skilled, boring jobs and never be able to afford to live here, where he grew up.
These kids were both in the GATE program in elementary school - up till 4th or 5th grade they were tops in math and spelling and were eager learners. They have parents with advanced degrees in engineering, and liberal arts. So what the heck happened? They both have friends who did very well in the BUSD. Obviously public school can work for many kids who have the motivation. But they also have friends (all boys) who faltered, lost interest, detached, dropped out.
So how much of this is my fault, and how much can I blame the way they were taught? I'll take 50% of the blame - I didn't get the right tutors, didn't push hard enough to get them into the right classes, wasn't strict enough with homework and studying. But I've heard this story so many times now from so many other boys' parents that the problem really seems systemic to me. It still boils my blood when I think of how literature was ruined for my avid readers around middle school after they were assigned chick-book after chick-book (I'm a chick English major so I know whereof I speak), and how they had to sit through years of deadening math classes where no teacher taught, rather they ''learned from each other, using real-world examples'' instead of being taught real math like the fast-track kids. I pleaded with the BHS math teacher and she explained that ''some kids just don't get math'' and this teaching style is best for those kids. So that's how my boys were shut out of the sciences for a career at the age of 14. (My son who "didn't get math" got a B+ in a very traditional math class at another school that compressed a year of geometry into 8 weeks. It was the experimental group-teach math class at BHS that he didn't get.)
I loved being part of the BUSD school system and I still admire many things about it - don't get me wrong. And my boys loved it too. They had some great experiences and made some great friends. But something is seriously wrong with boys and public school. I've got a third son coming up and he's smart too. I am asking myself whether I want to take the chance that after 12 years of schooling he too might end up with a bunch of great friends and not a whole lot else.
Yes, boredom plays a role - but girls more than boys are just generally more compliant in terms of following the rules (turning in work) or realize that you just can't be an ''A student in your mind'' its got to be on the transcript. If teachers really worked on student organization and accountability, and HELPED parents keep on top of what's going on in school (class syllabi, weekly homework assignment handouts/emails, regular feedback about missing assignments, etc.) alot of secondary school boys (well, many girls too!) would have at least 3.0 GPA's (of course some boys do need academic support - not just organizational skills).
Of course, some adolescent boys are VERY academically motivated and disciplined, but I just see and hear about SO many that don't have a clue and its NOT academic ability and not because of lack of family wanting to be involved - the kids aren't even rebellious or really that resistent to school - just unmotivated and undisciplined. I know that our bright but undisciplined son has stayed on the honor roll ONLY because my husband and I have spent alot of time from 6th grade on tracking his academic progress (including taking time off work to buttonhole teachers that won't return phone calls/email) and keeping a foot up his b-tt (carrot and stick approach) for him to be organized and accountable.We just refuse to let him limit his college options because of immaturity (we're assuming the light will flash on by his junior year as so many friends of ours in education have told us will happen... after all we can't go to college with him...)
Interested to hear more on this topic and what we can do about it.
I have two sons ages 23 and 19. Our older son fits the profile some of you give - bright, bored, but I'm not sure that isn't just a little too flattering. Where does the immaturity part come in, the refusal to do what most other students understand they need to do - like homework? Sigh. He left BHS at 16, did manage to pass the proficiency exam and get into college; he graduated after 5 1/2 years, and he is now astonishingly a dedicated student in an MA program. I realize this is a success story in the context of some of your stories, but there was a great toll on us to keep him going.
And then there is our second son, barely made it out of BHS, is struggling in his second college in two years, and we're in search of yet another option. It's fine with us if he chooses a vocational route, but we're academics so we're no help as models of other kinds of jobs, and he seems so lost.
So who is to blame- parents, kids, schools, media, videogames, internet, Berkeley kid culture. Everyone and everything is to blame, but what are we going to do? I want my sons and your sons to make it in whatever way is best for them. We have our problems to address, and what about prevention to prevent more of these sad stories. What can we do? Should we meet? I am happy to offer my house if people would like to meet and discuss strategies for helping our kids and future kids. Of course there are many struggling girls as well, but it may be easier to focus by gender.
I think in a way your message could read that ''school is not for kids''. I've had many similar issues with my daughter, who arrived in middle school in Berkeley. She's ambitious and clear about what she wants to do with her life, but got herself overcommitted and burned out by the middle of sophomore year at BHS. Math went from one of her favorite subjects in eighth grade, with a terrific teacher, to something to be avoided. I've been in no way impressed with the math teaching at Berkeley High.
I think it's an even bigger problem that kids soon realize that they can slither backwards into the general swamp of faces and no one will notice what they're doing. The number of times when an actual teacher has called home from BHS to find out what's going on is precisely - one. When the attendance office calls, it's all about not losing their ADA. When the teacher calls or even emails it's, potentially, because they care about whether their student is falling apart.
On the other hand I totally agree with you about the ''chick books'' in the English literature program. It's also a shame that the syllabus in California is so heavily weighted toward writing five paragraph essays that creative writing gets practically ignored. As a writing coach I've seen the most surprising kids, especially boys, get fired up when they get the opportunity to write a story. How often as adults are we required to write five paragraph literary analyses anyway?
As the parent of a middle school boy, we mainly have to contend with his desire to spend the least amount of effort on school that he can. He's currently motivated to get good grades only because he has to keep straight As to keep cable tv in the house. His sixth grade teacher was very straightforward in telling him that he was too smart to be getting Bs and should be doing extra credit whenever it was available. He paid attention because it was, sort of, a compliment. He laughed at his friends who took the test for honors algebra at the end of sixth grade, but after a stultifying year in regular seventh grade math, he's changed his mind about next year.
One thing is, that his middle school teachers have tended to get in contact as soon as they see something strange going on, making sure he doesn't get behind. Maybe BHS will do better next year with smaller class sizes.
I don't think anyone can count on this sequence, but the fact that I know two families this happened to (Berkeley USD and Mill Valley USD) makes me think that something developmental is going on. Either schools have changed in a way that doesn't serve boys or, even, male adolescent development stages have shifted somehow. Maybe the high school years need to be spent doing something else, rather than sitting in chairs staring at math problems. I don't know what; surfing, climbing mountains, riding horses? Anyway, something healthy and fun, while they wait for sufficient maturity to handle our twisted educational system.
There's no question that drug use played a huge role in the case of these two kids. It seems misleading, though, to think of drugs as the cause of the problem. Lots of kids have this kind of troubled adolescence without heavy drug use making it worse.
My very best wishes to everyone going through this.
I'm also dismayed at the chick-book literature pressed on the boys. My son must have been assigned ''The Diary of Anne Frank'' once a year for four years. Other reading selections focused on teenage girls from other cultures or of varying ethnic backgrounds. He finally was assigned ''Of Mice and Men'' and ''All Quiet on the Western Front'' this year and enjoyed literature for the first time since grammar school.
I am reading ''Why Gender Matters'' by Leonard Sax recommended last week. It is revolutionary! Thanks to the parent who recommended it.
mother of a boy who hates school
UCSF's Center for Gender Equity hosts its annual ''Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day'' on Thursday -- but judging from the list of activities being offered, the gender equity program is anything but equal.
For example, the 9- and 10-year-old daughters are being invited to participate in 17 hands-on activities such as working with microscopes, slicing brains, doing skull comparisons, seeing what goes on in the operating room, playing surgeon, dentist or nurse for a day, and visiting the intensive care unit nursery, where they can set up blood pressure cuffs and operate the monitors.
They can learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness, how to use a fire extinguisher, how to operate several types of equipment -- even fire a laser.
And what do the boys get to do?
Learn about ''gender equity in fun, creative ways using media, role playing and group games'' -- after which, the boys can get a bit of time in with a microscope or learn how the heart works.
''It's ridiculous,'' says one UCSF doc, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation from the university. ''I have no problem with the Center for Gender Equity, but just make it equitable.''
Longtime center director Amy Levine, however, tells us the program isn't intended to give boys and girls the same learning opportunities -- nor, she says, is it a career day.
''It's about dealing with effects of sexism on both boys and girls and how it can damage them,'' she said.
Hence, while the boys undergo gender sensitivity training, the girls focus on their capabilities -- be it handling a scalpel or microscope.
UCSF tried mixing the boys with the girls a few years back, but Levine says it just didn't work out.
''It mirrored the same sexism that occurs in the classroom daily,'' she said, ''where boys raise their hands more often, demand more attention and have discipline problems.''
So now the boys have their own gender sensitivity program, where ''they learn about violence prevention and how to be allies to the girls and women in their lives,'' Levine said.
While in the Navy I met all kinds of kids who had all kinds of problems at home. For them joining the Navy was their way out, or at least their way to try something else other than school, which clearly wasn't working for them. I wasn't in long enough to see how they turned out but the kind of terror that we experienced in Boot Camp seemed to wake up many of them. Maybe it was simply that they couldn't get away with behaving the way they used to back home.
I also met people I never would have met if I had stayed in my middle class suburb. For example, I never would have met the ghetto kids and hillbillies, or the people who had never worn shoes, or couldn't read and write.
I'm not saying it was completely a positive experience, and I never would have admited it at the time, but looking back 30 years later I can see how it helped me avoid making many of the mistakes that some of my friends suffered from.
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