Friday, May 12, 2017

Boys, Pain and Silence

I've raised two boys into young men. I am proud of my sons.
And i thank God that my boys aren't growing up today.
I think of the way our society treats boys from kinder through college and it's a wonder they don't en masse rise up and slaughter us.

This year, through the kismet of computer humor, I ended up with an Art One class of 31 students, 24 of them being male. That's fine. It ends up boisterous and we usually take some odd side trips, but it's okay. What is strange is how some of them have attached themselves to me as a substitute Mom. I've had students do this in the past. It's usually not the star students or the worst of the worst, but instead the average kids who have quirky personalities and interests.

One kid in particular seems to enjoy trying to shock me with outrageous comments. He's a handsome kid, tall, but really goofy. He was complaining about not knowing how to pick out a tux for prom. I told him to get help from his Dad. He replied, "If my Dad actually spent ten minutes with me it'd be a miracle. He's an asshole who left my Mom when I was two months old." It was shocking and I told him I was sorry he had to go through that and his reply was "I'm over it," which of course means, he's not. He's hurting, and badly. Hearing this story, another kid stated," My Step Dad is okay, but I'm pretty much just a replacement for my step-brother who died of an overdose." Wow. So that kid doesn't even feel he's important enough to care about on his own merit. Then another boy talked about how his Mom and Stepfather travel and have missed most of the senior events even though he's heading to engineering school halfway across the country in June. What was strange is that as more boys spoke out, others were having conversations over the things they've experienced-one kid had to run away when his stepfather got so mad over a bad grade that he threw him against the wall. Another had friends buy an airplane ticket to his Dad's home when his Mom and Stepdad threw him out. Others were simply ignored over overlooked or acting out just to get someone to look.

People have talked for years about the pain girls go through in school. But girls, in my experience, are more than willing to tell you about it. Boys generally do not. They carry their pain around until it erupts in ways that are destructive to themselves and to others. Counselors, by and large, are dismissive of boys' problems until they develop to the level where students are shipped to alternative school or juvey. The same people who will intervene for girls when they feel threatened or diminished will rant and rail at boys who are experiencing the same emotions, but don't have the same outlets for their pain. I listen to the teacher next door who nurtures bunches of need girls, but who regularly screams at her class which has many boys in it. I worry because we only have two and a half weeks of school and these boys are showing the type of pain that manifests in binge drinking, drugs, risky behaviors of all kinds. And I fear that the quirky kid who plays jazz and grows bonsai trees or the kid whose father is a radio guy on a large national sports show will do something that will cause me to cry when I see their names associated with some summer tragedy.

Our society, our schools, our nation have failed boys. The push to make things more acceptable for girls has permitted an entire system to ignore the growing problems boys experience. Bullying, learning deficits, special ed and at risk labels are all more often directed toward boys. More boys succeed at suicide. Fewer males than females are in college. We are letting them fall through the cracks.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ack! Spinners!

I want to offer my sincerest thanks to whatever idiot invented "spinners". As if my high school students aren't distracted enough chatting on their cell phones and playing games and movies on their IPads, now I get to contend with the type of behavior I thought I would avoid in high schools.Right on the heels of Pokemon Go, distantly related to the perils of Pogs, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchi, Spinners were promoted as a way to get ADHD kids to stop fidgeting.

It's a lie.

Instead those same populations, AND OTHERS WHOSE PARENTS PERMIT THESE TOYS, are more distracted, more fidgety, less engaged than they were before. I've seen this before when I found Tech Decks in my briefcase. The same kids who come to class with reams of paperwork for 504, IEP's and BIP's are also loaded for bear with every electronic gadget and toys they can carry. It's a wonder our district electric bill hasn't soared beyond all reason.

As a teacher, please, please, please don't buy these stupid things. Don't let your children take them to school. And don't believe any "professional" who claims these are a cure for your child's lack of attention.

"The alleged mental benefits of the toys have helped fuel their sales, but even a cursory look at the nonexistent science — and the history — of the spinners makes it clear that these claims are specious at best. Fidget spinners weren't created by behavioral scientists with a deep knowledge of intellectual disability nor were they created by experts in a lab; they were first patented by an inventor from Florida named Catherine Hettinger who wanted to promote world peace. She began imagining the spinner while visiting her sister in Israel. What if the young boys throwing rocks at police officers played with something calming instead? she thought. Hettinger's spinner never took off: Hasbro passed on it, her patent expired in 2005, and the spinner toiled in obscurity until earlier this year, when a series of YouTube videos featuring teenagers doing tricks with them went viral."~Time Magazine

Spinner History

Spinners' Questionable Science

Friday, May 05, 2017

Throwing Shade

I've taught for a long time.
I've taught kids who were rich and kids who were poor.
I've taught kids from trailers and kids from mansions.
I've taught white kids who thought they were black, Asian kids who claim to be Mexican and Hispanic kids who are really Americans.
But we have a problem in this country and it comes when anyone thinks how they look entitles them to be treated differently. I'm sorry if this offends, but there are reasons that African American  kids are in trouble more is because in too many cases whatever good lessons they get at church and home are undone by the music they listen to, the movies they watch and the examples they see in their own homes. How can we stop violence in schools if at home it's the norm? How can we expect to see respect given to us from kids who don't even respect each other?

Today, during the misbegotten period known as Block Lunch, I asked several students who were lying, yes you read that right, lying on the floor of the hall blocking the way during lunch to move to allow people walking to pass. See for some reason even though there are ample seats at tables and desks around the building, kids prefer to sit and eat on the floor. Why? No clue. I asked them to sit up and one young man decided to respond, " I don't have to listen to you." Oh really.....it was the wrong day to pick that fight. Then he got others the chime in. I seldom write up kids, mostly because it does no good, but this type of Lord of the Flies gang mentality is disturbing. Kids take up causes for other kids they don't even know based on God knows what evidence. What is more, because of this, teachers and other students are intimidated into tacit approval. I watched these same kids blocking the hall from one of our special ed students who is wheelchair bound. It appears that intimidation is seeping down from universities of high schools.