It’s time that we rewrite our playbooks for teaching boys

Kelley King

When little boys were being handed out, I got my son for a reason. I had been a teacher for eight years and I had a lot to learn about boys. Connor taught me that little boys learn by smooshing, smearing, rolling, colliding and that not all boys want to sit on your lap and read. He taught me that some kids want to run around and hit things with big hammers and jump off things. He taught me that homework doesn’t always get done at the kitchen table. Sometimes it gets done under it – or not at all. And, he taught me that not all kids want to work hard enough to get an A. Some are perfectly satisfied with a B…or a C. I know you have met a boy like Connor. They make us scratch our heads, they test our patience, and they push us to get better at what we do. And that benefits all students, both boys and girls.

As Connor was entering kindergarten, I was entering the elementary school principalship. Ah! How my worlds collided. I was faced – day and night – with the challenges of how to effectively educate boys. By day, I talked through behavior problems with little boys on the bench and attended “student concern” meetings with their parents. By night, I fretted about my own son’s reading progress and the seemingly impossible task of getting a single worksheet done. As both an educator and a parent, I needed more effective strategies and this is what set me on a journey to find answers.

After co-authoring two books on classroom strategies in 2008 (Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls: Elementary Level and Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls: Secondary Level) and speaking with thousands of parents and educators about how to effectively raise and educate boys, I realized that a critical part of the conversation was missing. Leadership! A parent or a teacher can make incredible changes in his or her setting with a child, but we know it takes more than a single person to transform an entire school organization. It takes a team to become more thoughtful, proactive and transformative in meeting the needs of boys. And don’t all boys deserve this?

Why am I emphasizing the needs of boys in my work? Might this be at the expense of girls? Well, first off, I’m the parent of a son and a daughter, and I discovered that they tackle life and learning very differently. Do I value my daughter’s success in school and life? Absolutely. But here’s the bottom line: the school system, as it stands today, is much more attuned to our daughters’ social/emotional/physical/intellectual make up than to our sons’. Secondly, I’m a principal and I have observed children and studied the achievement data over large groups, across ages and geographic locations, over the last decade. Boys are way under-performing on just about every single measure. Thirdly, when I ask parents and teachers, “Who are you having the most difficulty reaching in your classroom? Who is struggling most?” the answer is, almost unanimously, BOYS!

So now back to my point about leadership. If we believe that too many boys are struggling through our K-12 system and beyond, we need to move beyond change at the level of individual classrooms. In order to change the frightening national and international trends for boys, change needs to happen on a larger scale – across and throughout organizations. And that takes leadership from building and district administrators, headmasters, deans, teacher leaders, instructional coaches, professional development directors, department chairs, parent leaders, and school board members. All those who are committed to turning around the low performance of boys in the preK-12 and higher educational systems need to take a comprehensive look at their schools.  Personally, having done this in my own school and now, as I continue to feel so compelled by the persistent crisis for boys, I embarked upon writing a third book – this one directed to school leaders as a blueprint on how to create a “boy-friendly” school. Writing the Playbook: A Leader’s Guide to Creating a Boy-Friendly School will be released in June 2013.

But there’s no reason to wait for the book. You can get started now by pulling up your schools’ data by gender – early literacy assessments, special education referrals, discipline referrals, state or national assessments, attendance and discipline data, student perceiver data and more. Get your hands on any and all of it. Do you have a gender gap? Does your staff have a clear picture of what is going on? Start a dialogue with your community about ways to tackle boys’ under-performance.

Next, take a look at your Student Handbook. Highlight the policies that you suspect might be causing more difficulties for your boys versus your girls – Zero Tolerance? Late homework? Grading practices? Playground rules?

Start these conversations now and you will be ready to take it to the next level once Writing the Playbook comes out. Resources such as The Boys Initiative website can help you find answers and chart a course for improvement, as can the many books on the topic of boys’ education. As trends worsen for boys over time, boys and young men can’t afford to keep waiting. If you are a principal, I urge you, from one principal to another, to tackle this issue. You will see your school achievement rise and your behavior problems go down. If you are a teacher or a parent, I urge you to make a compelling case to your school’s leadership. Without a doubt, all schools should create an educational environment that is responsive to the developmental trajectories, needs and learning styles of both boys and girls.

Kelley King is a 25 year veteran of the public school system. As a teacher, Kelley worked in regular education, special education and gifted education. As a school principal, Kelley led her staff to close the gender gap in reading and writing in just one year and has had her school’s success featured on The Today Show, in Newsweek magazine, in Educational Leadership, and on National Public Radio, among others. As an educational consultant, Kelley provides professional development internationally and has co-authored two books (with Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens) in the education field. Kelley’s third book, Writing the Playbook: A Leader’s Guide to Creating a Boy-Friendly School, is due to be released by Corwin Press in June 2013. For more information, please contact her at

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A Home Run for the Whole Family

A Home Run for the Whole Family

Tanya Belz Rauzi

We have three sons and one daughter ages 6-16.  We have watched them struggle and have seen how education has changed for our oldest to our youngest.  Basically, our children were learning to hate school.  Dinner time had become a time to go over homework and the kids’ time to complain.  Our kids were always tired, with little to no downtime, and certainly less and less family time.  Weekends had become just an extension of the school week with excessive sporting games and practices, community service and weekend homework.  Knowing that a move to another city or state would just bring us the same situation, we decided to move to Costa Rica and try out what being an expat family would be like!

In August, we boarded a plane with two suitcases each.  The rest was sold, given away or put into storage.  That huge purge was the first step to living with less….which calculates to picking up less and organizing less.  All time for better things (like playing checkers instead of looking for checkers).

We zeroed in on La PazCommunitySchool in Playa Flamingo,  an area we had visited before and loved.  Their school model is one of inclusion…40% are local and 60% represent 25 countries.  The tuition is well below market rate and allows for economic diversity to be evenly balanced.  A true melting pot of families brought together for the same goal….to educate our children in an open, honest, happy, peaceful manner (La Paz means “peace” in Spanish).  This school is an IB (International Baccalaureate) candidate and fully accredited by the Costa Rican ministry of education.  What they do is a model that many a US school could stand to learn from.

What’s making a difference for our family:

  1.  They have changed the terminology.  Field trips are called “Field Studies” and happen at least once per month. Spelling is called “Word Study.” Tests are called “Investigations.” Teachers use investigations to know what to teach next or what to spend more time on.
  2. All classrooms are differentiated or all kids have an unofficial IEP and work at their own pace.  Because they keep the classroom size under 20 with several teachers in the room, they are able to give one-on-one assistance on a regular basis.
  3. Homework here is open-ended in grades K-5.  It is due when the child gets done, not by a certain date.  It was explained like this, “We want your children to want to do their homework, not to do it because their teacher said they had to do it, and we find that if we leave it up to them, they eventually do it willingly and automatically.”
  4. We were instructed NOT to ask our kids if they have any homework because this teaches them to rely on us to remind them.  If we start out never asking and they forget, they eventually learn to remember on their own, building in a system that does not punish children for “failure” and allows them to learn valuable skills.
  5. Our kids now like their homework and have no qualms doing it on their own without being asked for one other key reason…..homework is a short amount of work and usually art- based.
  6. Each morning has a 15 minute “jump-start” in the lower grades when students go around the room, greet, smile, and check-in with each other.  It also buffers any students arriving late, and thus there is no need for tardy slips or interruptions.  They turn in their agendas, get organized, and read the morning message.  A kind of warm-up to the day.  Be happy, be polite, be helpful, and be prepared.
  7. Our older boys were amazed there were no tardy slips, penalties for being absent, or regulated time schedules for how to make up missing work when absent or sick.  Just turn it in when you can is the policy.  When a child arrives late, the teacher greets the child with “So glad you made it.”  Amazing what a little leeway does for a teenager’s motivation.
  8. A block schedule in high school is also key.  Ninety minute periods allow for completion of science projects, teachers assisting kids with assignments IN class (reason for so little homework), and long runs in the hills during PE.
  9. Built-in career planning, community service, and advisory periods also allow upper classmen to work together at school on these important life skills.
  10. Large windows, sliding doors, and plain white walls allow for a peaceful, healthy classroom setting with the breeze and butterflies flowing through.
  11. The Big/little buddy program is part of the school schedule daily.  The school knows the value of mentoring, of children looking up at a big buddy.
  12. Projects are also embraced differently.  The teachers tell the students to do “+1”….which means, add anything they want.  Projects do not come with a long list of requirements, we are not told what size of paper, how many pages, spaces, or what font to use.  Just simple instructions that open up the kids’ creativity and allows them to focus on content, not style, format, or length.
  13. After school activities are held at school: dance, gymnastics, soccer, basketball, baton twirling, homework club, art, etc.  This means ZERO driving around all afternoon from one activity to another…it’s all in the same spot for all the kids and because organized sporting teams are not a part of this culture, we have open weekends spent as a family doing what we please.

We moved to Costa Rica to gain more valuable family time, to live by the beach, to learn Spanish (this is a bilingual school), slow down and regroup.  But now we just may never return as we have never seen our kids happier, healthier and more engaged in school and life.  The teachers who started La Paz (all from the US, by the way) have hit a home run with their school model and we are so happy and honored to be on their team.

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Moving Into the Red: Boys and Education


Jennifer Fink

Moving Into the Red: Boys and Education


It was the call I’d been expecting.

Yesterday, not even one month into the school year, I got my first call from my son’s first grade teacher.

“Sam’s behavior moved into the red zone today,” she told me.

His elementary school uses a color-coded behavior tracking scale, similar to the one the United States government uses to track the terrorist threat level. All students start the day at Green. If they misbehave, they have to move their clip down a notch, to Yellow. Another incident of misbehavior moves the clip to Orange – and results in No Recess. Continue to misbehave, the clip moves to Red and the teacher calls your parents.

My son reached Red. Not because he’s done anything outrageously horrible, like going into a rage and hurting another student or school property, but because he’d steadily accumulated a list of misdemeanors. He squirmed on the rug. Visited with his classmates when he should have been listening. Ran in the hall when he should have walked. And ran again when sent back to re-try. (“Fast walked, Mom!” my son insists. “I fast-walked!”)

Because he was squirmy and wiggly and sociable and active, he lost recess, moved his clip to Red and had his teacher talk to his parents.

I knew this call was coming.

Boys Move – and are Penalized

My son is a smart, self-motivated kid. He’s a kid who loves farms and machinery, who will spend hours cultivating and maintaining pretend fields in the sandbox or on the living room floor. He’s the kind of kid who lights up when working on a project of his own imagination – and some of his projects have been pretty large and ambitious. Using scrap wood, he designed and built a toy boat, all by himself. Lately, he’s been exploring electrical circuits with our Snap Circuits kit. He enjoys playing board games (and video games), and is becoming quite comfortable with numbers and basic addition. He loves to hear stories, is obsessed with the Titanic and really, really wants to learn to read so he can read chapter books independently.

He’s the kind of kid who learns best through movement, through touching and feeling, and through projects. And guess what? First grade doesn’t work like that. First grade, today, involves a lot of sitting still, either in a plastic chair, at a desk, or on a rug. First grade involves a lot of “sit down and be quiet” and very little free exploration. First graders today get to do very little that is interesting, because the current educational system expects kids to read and write proficiently before letting them explore higher concepts. So little brains (and bodies) who want to physically explore higher concepts are instead told to sit still, follow directions and stay between the lines.

That’s not how my son learns right now. It’s not how most young boys learn. Heck, most girls would do better in learning environments that encourage active engagement! But because the entire school system revolves around desks and passive learning, boys like mine get in trouble – often many times a day – for acting like boys.

For the record, I don’t believe that “boys will be boys” is valid excuse for bad behavior. But why are we asking little boys to adapt to a system that doesn’t meet their needs, instead of realigning the system to meet the needs of the learners? And why oh why are we taking away recess from kids who are already having trouble sitting still in class?

Early Education Sets the Tone

Is it any wonder, then, that boys tune out? That boys very quickly conclude that school is “not for them?” Any surprise that boys’ reading and writing scores are less than girls, that boys drop out and are suspended from school at rates far greater than girls?

Not even one month into the school year, my son got in trouble – major, Red-level trouble – for moving, talking and socializing. The school gets into no trouble whatsoever for failing to provide my son with a learning environment that engages him, that takes into account his needs and knowledge and learning style.

We blame little boys, and then, quietly bemoan the outcomes: low literacy levels. Low high school graduation rates. Decreased college enrollment.

Perhaps, instead of blaming little boys, we should take a long hard look at our boys and their educational needs and desires. Perhaps we should talk to – and listen to! – our boys. It’s not a co-incidence that most boys name “Recess,” “Gym” and “Lunch” as their favorite subjects. Our boys are trying to tell us something.

I think it’s time to listen.

Jennifer L.W. Fink is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys. Her blog, Blogging ‘Bout Boys, is All About Boys – Raising Them, Educating Them and Learning with Them.

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Our Boys DO Need Our Help


Janet Allison

Janet Allison is Founder of Boys Alive! ( and Director of the Gurian Parenting Community (  She is a veteran teacher and author of Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best!  She helps parents and teachers understand gender differences and what boys need to be successful at home, in school, and life!

You may have heard that the Olympics this year were called, “The Year of the Ladies” and the legacy of Title IX was often cited as the reason.  In 1972, Title IXwas passed into law, requiring gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.   It is best known for breaking down barriers in sports for women and girls and opening doors for them to pursue math and science studies.

Tim Wright said, “Back then, society collectively stood up and demanded change, and the government responded by investing over $100,000,000 to get the girls caught up.  And it worked. The amount spent to get boys caught up?  $000,000,000.  (and that’s not a typo).”  Read more……

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Interesting Site

From Mark Sherman, Editor

A site with interesting posts on raising boys and on other issues concerning boys and men is the Good Men Project (

Here are a couple of links that parents of boys and others who work with boys might find helpful:

“25 Rules for Moms With Sons”:

“Raising Boys (A Dad’s Advice for Moms)”:

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Active, Bright Boys: Our Most Underserved Students

Marty Nemko, PhD



Marty Nemko, PhD

When I was a boy, I just could not sit still in class. I was very bored and active by nature, so I would rock my chair back, whisper and write notes to kids, even wander around the classroom until the teacher yelled, “Martin, sit down!”

That was decades ago. Today, I suspect I would, like so many boys, be put on a Ritalin leash. Indeed there are eight boys for every girl on Ritalin.

The blame is placed on the smart, active boy, rarely on the schools, which claim to celebrate diversity of learning styles and needs but stop celebrating when it comes to smart, active boys. Indeed, this decade’s signature domestic policy, No Child Left Behind redirects nearly all efforts to educate the lowest achievers.

This, of course, is ironic in that smart kids have the greatest potential to contribute to society: to cure its diseases, close the racial achievement gap, develop cost-effective solar power, etc.

The unfair treatment of smart, active boys comes from four factors:

1. The widespread abandonment of ability-grouped classes. In most of today’s elementary schools, gifted and slow are placed in the same class. That creates more equality–especially racial equality–but the result is that all children receive a worse education. Imagine for example, that you spoke good Mandarin but wanted to become expert. Wouldn’t you prefer a class with advanced students rather than one that also had beginners? Yet today, we don’t give smart kids (or their parents) that choice. We force them into mixed-ability classes, where dispositive metaevaluations reveal they learn less and are bored. And because, on average, boys are more active than girls, they more often can’t sit still for six hours a day, five days a week, 180 days a year, year after year. Rather than the harder task of accommodating to smart, active boys’ needs, it’s “take this (meth-like) pill.” and/or be yelled at, and or given bad grades.

2. That elementary school teachers are overwhelmingly female. Today, the percentage is up to 93%, the highest ever recorded. Even if teachers believe they’re accommodating to all students’ needs, they can’t help but tilt their teaching to what appeals to them. Thus, books about male heroism are replaced by those of female relationships and heroines, typically in which an inferior male is shown-up by a wise female. Competition–a prime motivator for boys–is replaced by so-called “cooperative learning,” which usually reduces to the bright doing the slow’s work, boring the bright kid and precluding him from learning new things.

3. The media’s continuing to perpetrate the myth that females are oppressed and males are the oppressor. For example, they continue to spout these disproven assertions:

– women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. In fact, a rich research literature documents that sexism is not at the core of pay differentials, for example,  THIS is from the New York Times, THIS is from the Wall Street Journal, THIS is from Compensation Cafe, THIS is from City Journal. Alas, the media chooses to ignore all that research in favor of the broadbrush, “Women earn 77 cents on the dollar.”

– women are underrepresented in high-level positions because of sexism. In fact, as documented in recent well-reviewed books such as Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, women’s not being in high-office comes much more from choosing to have a less work-centric lifestyle.

– the schools shortchange girls relative to boys. (the long-debunked Reviving Ophelia canard.)

– men abuse women–in fact, studies show that 30 to 52% of severe domestic violence is perpetrated by women.

Thus, the feeling among educators, policymakers, and the public, is that we need to do more for females than for males, ignoring such statistics that boys are achieving far worse in school than are girls, much more likely to abuse drugs, commit suicide, and drop out of high school, far less likely to graduate from college, much more likely, as young adults, to be sleeping late unemployed on their parents’ sofas.

4. Society’s bias that says: let’s help those with the greatest deficit rather than those with the greatest potential to profit: “Those smart boys will do okay on their own. Let’s commit our resources to the lowest achievers.” I deeply believe that such a philosophy will reduce our society to the lowest common denominator, ironically resulting in a worse life for us all. Besides, it simply is unfair for the public schools to not provide at least a marginally appropriate education for all kids, and right now, smart boys get the very least appropriate education.

Dr. Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is the author of six books and over 600+ published articles, including many on boys and men’s issues.  They are archived

1,000+ of Dr. Nemko’s published articles are archived on His latest book is “What’s the Big Idea? 39 Reinventions for a Better America.” EDITOR: Here is the link to that book’s Amazon page. Please embed it in the book’s title.

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The 10 Issues Affecting Boys Today

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 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….

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…..


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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…..

ImageFighterPilot Mom Tanya Rauzi and her family

contact Tanya at:

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In Defense of Boys

by Dorothy Dimitre

“Boys, our new myths tell us, are inherently flawed creatures.” – Michael Gurian, Ph.D., The Wonder of Boys.

Shortly after he turned three, older grandson, playing on the floor, looked up at me with his brown eyes sparkling and proclaimed: “I’m going to be a MAN when I grow up and I’ll go to WORK!”  That got me to thinking about what he would have to deal with along the road to maturity.  Now he’s 23, just graduated from college, and now I think of his eight-year-old cousin and the even greater plight of today’s boys in our culture with much more fear and trepidation than I did his cousin.  I also lament the many detrimental changes in our culture since those boys’ parents were young.

Yes, there are boys who seem to have it all together and make it through school and on through adulthood relatively intact and unscathed psychologically or physically.  But there are many young men who aren’t really sure how they fit into the scheme of things in today’s culture and there are many more who struggle and fall by the wayside because no one has appreciated their needs and helped them find their productive purpose in our schizophrenic society.  And now even their physical maleness is threatened, as I’ll explain later.

Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist and author of the book, “Save the Males”, must have been thinking about this when she lamented in one of her columns that President Obama appointed a White House Council on Women and Girls but did not do the same for men and boys.  And yet, as she wrote, …“boys in this country are in far graver danger than girls in nearly every measurable way…Boys won’t be equal to girls if we don’t focus our resources on their needs and stop advancing the notion that girls are a special class deserving special treatment.”

Consider that “male mystique” that most boys in our culture have always emulated and it’s easy to see how so many boys become troubled.  Men and boys are expected to be strong, independent, competitive, aggressive, stoic and invulnerable.  Despite some gains in awareness of the problem, this cultural expectation continues to prevail and, in one way or another, influences our boys every day.  Their penchant for aggression and competition is regularly exploited by the media.  Just by watching television, a boy will see men portrayed as bumbling idiots, crude Neanderthals, lecherous predators, rigid automatons obsessed with power and violence, narcissistic and arrogant athletes and entertainers, or maybe just mindless airheads who have no clue.  For many boys, this is all they have to look to for role models.

So how does this all add up?  Today’s boys need thoughtful nurturing and support more than ever, but a great many are lacking in this regard.  Too many children are born to people who don’t have their own lives together enough to provide for them physically and/or psychologically.  As a result, a deep-seated rage often develops.  Such boys will be considered successful if its ramifications are generally considered socially acceptable – such as participation in violent sports, exploiting others for the compulsive accumulation of wealth and power, defiantly blocking the progress of legislation in Congress or producing gory and sadistic movies.  But when the rage breaks through in street shootings and murderous rampages, we are horrified.

We must face the fact that, in general, young boys do not mature as rapidly as young girls, do not develop speech as early, are not as ready to sit still, pay attention and tackle academics in school.  As Michael Gurian wrote in The Minds of Boys, “…many are not cut out for the educational establishment’s idea of the school experience.”  Boys suffer more from lack of bonding and family dysfunction, are much more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs, commit suicide and become involved in criminal activity.

For instance, the football coach who pays his players to inflict concussions on the opposing team, gang members who gun down their adversaries, and men who abuse their wives and kids – all stem from boys whose purpose was distorted by seriously inadequate caretakers and an exploitative culture.  As Gurian wrote in his new book, The Purpose of Boys: “Whether isolated or becoming physically dangerous, even the most hardened young man began his adolescence as a young boy who yearned, because of his own internal nature, for his family, community and society to provide him with safe risks, important challenges and deeply felt rites of passage to purposeful manhood.”

We must appreciate boys for their own unique characteristics as we help them grow into well-functioning men by providing good role models at home, in the community and in the media.  Boys who are not academically inclined should not be allowed to fall by the wayside.  They must be provided education related to their interests and abilities – like vocational schools.  We must face up to the fact that in many ways our culture demeans and exploits boys.  Boys must feel appreciated, must have someone to help them develop a positive purpose so that they can grow up to become well-functioning people, productive citizens and successful parents. “We desperately need new heroes for our boys – heroes whose sense of adventure, courage and strength, are linked with caring, empathy and altruism.” – Miriam Miedzian, Boys Will Be Boys

We haven’t been paying enough attention to the plight of boys in more ways than one.  Those of us who have seen how males’ qualities have so often been denigrated and demeaned by our culture which has been heeding the pleas of female equality but in many ways failing to take seriously the cries (some obvious, some not) for respect and appreciation that emanate from boys, might realize the seriousness of the situation when they are reminded of an article that appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal on Aug. 7, 2010.

In part: “A fascinating yet shocking development has been transpiring over the past few decades.  The world is slowly started to lose its boys though declining male births.  This recent phenomena has a lot to do with the steady infiltration of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our daily lives – chemicals such as bisphenol-A and phthalates…Not only are we seeing fewer boys being born around the world but we’re also seeing an increase in physical feminization of boys whose mothers were exposed to high levels of these chemicals.”

The health and well-being of its children is the barometer of any culture’s viability.  How long are we going to look the other way when repeated significant indicators point to the despair, loneliness and alienation of so many of our boys?  When are more of us going to face the fact that we all have a stake in this and do something about it?

Since 1984 Dimitre has written over 600 columns for various local newspapers.
She graduated from UCLA with a degree in education in 1951. She taught first grade for a while before having two sons and a daughter.  Dimitre was presented with her first great-grandchild on March 30, 2012.  The new baby’s mother is the oldest of Dimitre’s 7 grandchildren, who range in age from 27 to 3.  Dimitre has always been interested in children’s issues.
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Encounter with a feminist mother of a boy

By Dottie Lamm

The young woman strode toward me eyes blazing and mouth set.  Oh, oh, I thought – here it comes!

I had just given a talk to a group of feminist women on why I thought boys might be the new disparaged and discriminated against group.  That boys and young men were dropping behind academically and not rising to their leadership potential.  That perhaps we feminists should take them on as a cause, like we have always taken on the issues of women and girls.

Many in the audience seemed receptive, but having written an article along the same vein, and having received comments from feminists like:

“Boys are still favored and men still run the world, so what are you worried about?!”

“Some feminist you are!!”

“So now that you have grandsons, are you only worried about them, and no longer about the plight of girls?”

I now expected more push back.

So bracing my self for an attack from this young determined woman, I tried to relax into a smile and told myself to just listen.  And I’m glad I did, for here is what she said:

“I am the mother of an eight-year-old boy now in the second grade.  He seems to have lost his interest in learning, and so have some of his friends. Though the girls in his class are all ‘eager beavers’ – dashing ahead, he just isn’t performing, though earlier tests show he is bright enough. I thought maybe you could tell me where we could get some help……….”

Take home message:  Feminist moms have boys too!

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It’s OK to be a Boy


by Jennifer L.W. Fink

I am not a boy. I have never been a boy. I am, however, acutely aware of the issues faced by boys because I am the mom of four sons.

Every day, I send my sons, ages 6, 9, 11 and 14, out into a world that is often less-than-friendly to their needs. Don’t believe me? Consider this: the first bit of communication I received from my nine-year-old son’s teacher this year informed me that he’d been drawing “disturbing” pictures of animals eating humans. Her note had a dire tone to it; the implication was that my child might be well on his way to a career as a serial killer. Further investigation, though, revealed that the picture in question was a crude pencil drawing of a shark attacking a surfer. (No blood was spilled).

So what, you say? That tiny, insignificant-seeming issue is emblematic of an entrenched ignorance of boys’ developmental needs. My boys need to move, to test their theories and ideas against reality and to find their place in the world. They need to know that their thoughts and ideas are important, and that it’s OK to share them with others. But every day, I send them into a world that doesn’t really want to want to know what they think, a world that asks them to check their warrior instincts at the door and become passive recipients of adult-infused, standards-aligned knowledge.

Nearly every day, society tells my boys that what they’re thinking and feeling is not OK. It’s not OK, apparently, for a nine-year-old to draw pictures of sharks attacking surfers because, well, because violence, even cartoon or kid-drawn violence, is no longer accepted in our schools.  It’s not OK for my boys or their friends to play flag football or other vigorous ball-related sports at recess because “too many kids get hurt.” (Yes, that’s a direct quote from the principal, and yes, soccer is banned as well.) Instead, my boys, who feel a strong urge for physical movement, are invited to play four square or walk around the playground.

And we wonder why our boys are struggling in society?

What if we responded to our boys’ instincts and desires, instead of squelching them? What if the boys who want to play football were helped to create a system of rules that respects their desire to play, as well as the adults’ desire to keep them relatively safe? (And what if adults would learn to accept “relatively safe” as good enough?) What if adult teachers or volunteers were recruited to provide some supervision, intervening only when the kids were straying from their self-crafted rules or unable to solve a conflict by themselves?

What if boys (and girls) were allowed to draw whatever they want? Instead of sending scary notes home, teachers could ask the kids to write about or discuss their pictures instead. (And if something truly ominous reveals itself, by all means, contact the parents and appropriate authorities.)

What if boys who love video games were allowed to nurture their passion without nearly every adult on the planet telling them that video games are a waste of time? What if, instead of criticizing, the adults helped them check out books based on their favorite video games, or encouraged them to design a computer or board game based on the favorite game or genre? What if the adults bought the kids video game magazines? Or helped the child create a timeline of video game history? Or connected the kid with a video game designer?

What if we assumed that boys’ instincts and inclinations were good and right, instead of inherently destructive or deviant?

I’ve never yet met a boy who has absolute no interest or zero passion. I have, however, met scores of boys who have been told, overtly or otherwise, that their interests, passions and desires are not OK. Our communal desire to make our boys fit a neatly and quietly into our society is letting down our boys, and shortchanging our nation.

So let’s support our boys instead.  Let’s meet them where they are, and let them know that it’s OK to be a boy.

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