By Christy Davila
In the 70’s, when I was growing up, girls had to fight to get ahead. Statistically, we didn’t enter fields that included science and math.
Twenty years ago, when I was working toward my teaching credential, it was drilled into us to make sure we asked questions of the girls. Make sure we are giving them an equal chance. Well, that worked, apparently too well. Now it’s the boys who are falling behind, not going to college, not choosing to be doctors or lawyers or scientists, not even finishing college.
What is happening to the next generation of boys? Why are they falling behind?
For a long time we have been in the No Child Left Behind era of education. A sad time for education in this country. Sometimes I felt like my classroom was in black and white, like the beginning of the movie Pleasantville. As a first grade teacher, I escaped some of the pressure of testing, but it still lurked in the background. We were told to use the textbooks to teach to the test so our kids would score high.
Teaching in a Northern California school district where test scores were already high, there was anxiety. Students were asked to sit still and regurgitate facts. This was especially hard for boys, who in my opinion as a teacher and a mom of boys, should be out learning by playing in the dirt.
In the last few years, Common Core has become the new standard for education. The phased implementation is slowly spreading all over the country.
Common Core has many elements that support a learning environment for boys. Boys thrive on competition and they need to move. Those tablets and computers we fight so hard? They are helpful tools for boys to learn.
I hope to see a positive shift in how we teach. My district is shifting toward flexible learning environments. This means we have lap desks, space on the floor, wobble stools and pillows to sit on. We are giving students choices about where they sit. We are guiding them to make smart choices. We are moving toward project-based learning, giving students a say.
In first grade, for example, students are supposed to write complete sentences by the end of the year. This means they need to have spaces between words, capitals and lowercase letters in appropriate places, and correct punctuation. The great thing about this is I’m not told what they need to write about. In my class — in a given year — we learn about animal habitats, winter holidays, frogs and toads, and many more subjects. We also read some great fiction, including Where the Wild Things Are, Laura Numeroff books, among others. Through this thematic teaching, students become engaged, they stay focused and they meet standards.
While I love teaching Common Core and think it’s a great direction for education, I see some struggles.
Students are asked to show their work and communicate how they solved a problem. This is harder for boys. I see my son struggling with this, I see boys in my class struggling with this. This is one of the difficulties our children face with Common Core. Don’t get me wrong, we need to explain what we’re doing and we need to understand the why behind the solution, not recite what we were told when we were in school. Unfortunately, when the teaching generation doesn’t understand the why, it makes it difficult to teach our student and our own children the why.
My hope, as we embark on new territory within Common Core, is we help boys to succeed.
We raise a generation of children who are thinkers and problem-solvers.
With my own boys, and the boys I have in my classroom, I’m hoping they grow up to learn to get ahead, no matter what they want to do, and learn to use all the tools they have at their fingertips to do it.
Here’s to a new — and hopefully better — age of education.
Christy Davila is a mom to 2 boys, and a kindergarten teacher. When her taxiing and trying to keep 2 boys from destroying the house doesn’t take up her time, she likes to dabble in crafting and cooking. Visit her blog.