Tanya Belz Rauzi is a Marin County, CA mother of three sons and a daughter ranging in age from 5 to 15. Ms. Belz Rauzi is a local pioneer in championing boys who have faced academic challenges. Together with other local parents, Ms. Belz Rauzi has successfully organized a local coalition to enlist school administrators and teachers in efforts to more fully engage boys in the educational setting. She has been the co-chair of Every Kind of Mind (a parent education support group for parents of kids with learning differences) for the past 7 years. She also serves on the local school Site Council, Coordinating Council, Stanford’s Challenge Success Team, Marin Parent Education Group (PEG), EKOM Advisory Committee, and is the school representative to the Marin County Office of Education Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). In the past she has also served on her school’s Strategic Planning Committee and in her free time, she blogs on the website www.fighterpilotmoms.com as an advocate for non-helicopter moms and raising kids in the world today.
My name is Tanya Rauzi and I live in northern California with my husband and 4 children ages 6-16 (three of them boys!). Back in the spring of 2011, I was honored to be invited to go to Washington DC to attend The Boys Initiative initial Press Conference where I presented comments and ideas from the local Marin Moms of Boys Initiative that myself and my Co-Chair, Tammy Mobley, began earlier that year. To view the whole event on video, go to the following link….http://www.theboysinitiative.org/TBIN_Webcasts.html.
Here is a copy of my statement and the words of the moms of boys in our area……
In life, I have always been sure of my own path. The women’s movement has ensured that I have had as many choices and opportunities as there are possibilities. But, as a mom of three boys and one girl, I see this path continuing to be available for my daughter, but not so much for my three boys. As my colleagues have already pointed out today, the view of boys at school has changed, and girls have become the new gold standard. While they have given us an overview of the big picture, I would like to share the particulars that occur at school because unless you have a boy or boys in your home, it is really hard to understand how these details affect the boys of today…..because what we need to change is “the gender perception gap” that currently says that boy behavior is bad, and girl behavior is good.
There is a great line from the Disney masterpiece, Pinocchio. The blue fairy says to Pinocchio, “Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish and someday, you will become a real boy.” She is talking about character….the qualities that should really matter in the development of a young boy or girl. These are the qualities that make parents proud, but they are clearly not enough today to successfully sustain most boys through their early education and beyond.
My Moms of Boys co-chair, Tammy Mobley and I have been meeting with moms in our area and we have come up with 10 consistent issues that are plaguing boys in school today…..
#1. GIANT PUSH DOWN OF WORK:
The media generally reports that kids in kindergarten today are doing what we did in 1st grade….but, the moms in our area feel that kids in 4th grade are doing what we all did in 8th grade….a much wider gap. If we all know that boys are on a different time clock than girls in reading and writing, how can this be good for true mastery if our boys are learning to read and write at too young an age?
#2. INCREASE IN ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS:
Moms report that being highly organized is not only expected, it is demanded. But, we all know that this is not developmentally possible for most boys, even in their teens. It is a running joke among my friends that men never really get this skill set…they just get a wife and a secretary when they grow up. And in all honesty, that is what today’s moms have become…..our boys’ secretaries.
#3. THE TOO STRICT, TOO STILL, TOO QUIET CLASSROOM:
Moms in our area report that “It is all about focus for today’s teachers,” and they ask “What happened to creativity and curiosity?” Moms feel that most teachers have no patience for boys and every mom we have spoken to tell us that teachers just get defensive, not proactive when spoken to about their tolerance level or anti-boy attitudes. All moms know that engaging boys, not stifling boys is the key to their success.
#4. TOO MANY RULES ON PLAYGROUNDS, PE CLASSES AND SCHOOL SETTING:
If you ask any grade school boy their favorite class, they will inevitability tell you that it is recess or PE….but, at today’s schools, recess and PE are not only getting shorter (or disappearing), they have also become limited and controlled. A parent pointed out to us recently that “there is not one inch of space when students are not following some regulation or procedure when at school.” Spontaneity is gone. Most fun is gone.
If you ask a grade school boy what they did at school…they will tell you “nothing” and the reason is simple….their day is just one big blur. I have always volunteered in my children’s classrooms and I am always amazed at the multi-tasking that is going on in there in even the lowest elementary grades. One mom said to us that it is just “shift, shift, shift all day long.” The idea is a good one in theory, as it gets the kids up and moving, but for those who did not understand the directions, who works at a slower pace, are easily distracted, or have trouble making transitions, this system can be exhausting and discouraging.
#6. TOO MUCH HOMEWORK:
On any given day our 7th grade son leaves the house at 7:30am to meet with a teacher or two. After school activities generally run from 4:00-6:00pm. With showers, dinner, a few chores and “free” time spent playing or socializing with his family, he is now sitting down to do his 3+ hours of homework at 8:00pm at night…which means that he is also not getting the recommended amount of sleep for kids his age (8-10 hours). As a mom, I think that this is one of the toughest challenges facing our boys today and one of the reasons they give up (just too tired) and act up (just too grumpy) in class.
#7. INCREASE IN COMPLEXITY OF SCHOOL ASSIGNMENTS:
In addition, instructions are often written in a way that students can’t understand or written above their grade level and therefore moms are required to assist them, creating both a system of dependency and false competency. Remember me, “mom the secretary?” When I have spoken with teachers about this, they have generally replied, “Well, I went over that in class today, they should all understand how to do it.” But, that is assuming that the child received the explanation exactly as it was intended. I have never once had a teacher say to me, “Oh my gosh, I will go over that again tomorrow and make sure they all understand.” Why is that? We’re all supposed to be in this together.
#8. INCREASE IN TECHNOLOGY USE:
While technology is wonderful, it can also be a huge distraction for boys. I think that every parent we have ever talked to has shared with us that they have caught their child doing other things on their computer while they thought they were doing homework. And while parental controls can be helpful, if a child has to do research or be on their school website, parental controls have to be off. I know adults who cannot manage their time wisely on their computers or Blackberries; we have all seen adults reading email while at a school play, in church, or at the dinner table. How can we expect an 8-, 11- or 16-year- old boy to be responsible enough to know when and where to go on their computer?
#9. MORE SAFETY NETS:
Currently, our two oldest boys are in middle school and having two completely different experiences. Our oldest, who has dyslexia, has an Individual Education Plan, or IEP, a modified curriculum, complete support system, and he is thriving. He rarely comes home with homework as it is done at school with his resource teacher. He is happy.
Our second son, an advanced learner, is our boy having the most trouble. He has 3-5 hours of homework almost nightly. He would also benefit from a modified curriculum and time to do homework at school. He is very unhappy.
But really, shouldn’t all boys, special education or not, be given the safety nets or support systems that will provide them with the best and the most possible number of successes? The easiest solution to this problem is clear….there should be IEP’s for all kids…because all kids deserve the best case scenario.
#10. POWER RESTS WITH THE TEACHER:
Moms feel that the match between the student and the teacher is the most important criterion to determine if their child will have a good or a bad year. One mom suggested that schools should have teachers fill out a personal inventory, like executives do, so that everyone knows who works best with each type of student when developing classrooms. Understanding the profound affect that teachers have on our students is another important step in rectifying the situation boys are in.
In closing, I hope that the comments my fellow Moms of Boys and the 10 issues that we identified inspire you as much as it did us. We are very excited to be working with moms in our area to help solve these issues and just like Pinocchio, we should all be doing whatever we can to foster all boys….to be real boys, and to work together to close the “Gender Perception Gap” because all of our children are good and all of them deserve an equal opportunity to be the best they can be.
So, there you have it….let us know what you think by posting a comment and let us know if these 10 issues ring true to the boys in your area…..
contact Tanya at: