Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys

My Assistant Superintendent and I were having a discussion recently about a former baseball coach we both remember from our school days. Curtis Young was a larger-than-life, foul mouth, tobacco spitting man who used to yell obscenities on the ball field while I hung my head out of my school bus window to hear them. Later, when I was a senior in high school, Coach Young grabbed my arm as I entered the school auditorium for West Side Story dance auditions and asked me if I would keep the score book for the baseball team. I momentarily looked toward the stage, thought about high school boys in baseball uniforms, and enthusiastically agreed to take the job.

I was telling my Assistant Superintendent that I was the first girl to letter in baseball at my high school, but he had another story...about the time he played against Coach Young while in junior high. He went on to explain that he played ball in a rival county and had one of the best games of his life the day he played Coach Young's team. I stood there listening as he recounted every ball, strike, and hit he got that day. He provided information about his fielding also, and then went on to say that he thinks that game was the reason he was named All Conference that year. When he was finished with his story, I asked him if he ever forgot to pick something up at the grocery story for his wife. He grinned and walked away, knowing exactly what I meant.

My husband cannot remember the butter if I ask him to pick up milk, eggs, and butter. He'll come home, proud to have milk and eggs, and say, "You didn't want anything else, did you?" But he can tell me every play of a high school football game that occurred in 1967. He doesn't know what we did on our first date, but he can recount every golf shot from a game several years ago. "Well, I placed the ball on the tee on number one..." he'll start.

These men in my life have helped me to understand the boys that I teach. In my classroom, I can stir up immense interest if I just make everything a game. It begins like this: "Okay, we're going to get into two teams..." and I'll watch as the girls look distressed (will my friends be on my team?) and the boys start jumping around the room, unable to contain their excitement.

So all we have to do is figure out a way to make everything that happens in a classroom a competition. I have found in my experience that boys don't even need prizes for the winners. They just want to strut out of the room at the end of the class, chanting, "We BEAT 'em, we BEAT 'em!"

Oh, if only we could award All Conference for most pages read or Most Valuable Player for the most math problems done correctly, all of our boys would achieve. And if only I could say what Coach Young used to say: "If you ain't gonna give me all you got, get off my ball field!"

Wow, would schools be different!

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