Sunday, 17 April 2011

He's been out from 7am till 6pm. How will he stay in a classroom?

Son is due to start school in September (this is provided we get the school we need, but that's another blog). He's a bright boy. He's sharp, funny, and keen to read, pretty much can already. But, but but.
But: he spends all day, every day, outside. He needs 2 walks a day like a dog. He needs outside air and exercise, like, constantly. If he doesn't get it, he's like a sad gorilla I saw in London Zoo, pawing at the patio door and pacing. He needs outside. I need him to be outside. He runs, he jumps, he climbs, he's happy. He spent all day today in the garden, or out in the park. Even ate his lunch and tea outside. Inside is for bed. The bedtime story is a motorbike manual (Honda Fireblade, since you ask. It's quite a dull read for me).
But: he learns through doing. He's a boy. He wants to know how something works, he takes it apart, puts it together. Takes it apart, puts it together. Learns that insects don't take apart. Learns to observe. He learns, in short, by trying something himself, NOT by listening. If he learnt by listening, I wouldn't have to say everything 4 times.
But:he frets about noise and space. He, like many, many boys, like quiet, space, and time. He will take himself off to his room, for peace. He will avoid noisy, crowded environments. He likes familiarity. On returning from holiday, or even playgroup, he checks everything is as he left it. All rooms. His dad does it too. I don't know how he will get up the nerve to push himself forward at school when he can't even go on the trampoline if someone else is on it.
But: he tires. He is ready for bed at 7. So ready. Sometimes earlier.
But: he likes girls, and girls things, and dancing, and drawing, and imaginative games.
So? But school doesn't cater for boys like this. School, is all day, more or less INDOORS. Sitting, stuck. School is the death of playing with girls for boys. School is small voices lost in too big a class size. (I taught 35 per class, 40 one year. This primary is 25.) Son doesn't like playgroup when it's full (20 kids) because of the noise and sheer kidfullness. School is peer pressure. School is a long, long day for a 4.5 year old, and homework besides. School is learning by listening. School is not designed for active boys.
How do I know? I saw hoardes of boys at age 11 who were already faliures, already bored, already not engaged. Already examined and written off. As a secondary teacher it was obvious to me that boys learn differently. Most do not excel in the usual classroom setting of sitting, listening. As a result, I would pitch my lessons every two or three weeks to include oral and physical learners. Hard, with history, you might think. No, not really. Want to get how Norman England was controlled over to boys? Make the class desks into Britain, add towns and props. Now variously sack and burn some of them (I really did do this: we burnt little models of the principal towns William sacked. And little model sheep, too). Re-enact Hastings in the playground (again, I would advise ensuring that you hand control of the English army to a boy who will actually DO AS HE IS TOLD, rather than try to win). Build a mott and bailey. Get out and look for medieval ditches. Get them to present a show on UK vs Germany in THE AIR WAR. Cook some ration recipes. It's not hard, but it does take effort. We do not school young children well in the UK. Exams? That young? Why, they must be useful, right? Wrong. Useful for league tables, not for schools. I would automatically disregard SATS results at age 11. Within a year of secondary they were null and void, of no earthly use. So why do it? OFSTED. Stick 'em in a classroom all day, why not. Why not? Why not do as Finland and Sweden do, make the school day shorter, more intense, and outside a lot more. Their results don't suffer, in fact they are better than ours, and don't show the boy/girl discrepancy ours do. Why not, in fact, follow a whole lot of Europe and put them into school later? Why not? Ah, work. Mums must work. They must work, now, or lose their benefits. Funny how the Conservatives would seem to promise most for mums but deliver least. Now mums must practically deliver the baby and hand it over, chuck it over the childcare fence, wave it goodbye. No, school for them, soon as, and work for mums.

But how silly it is. Boys do not even physically develop the ability to fine hold a pencil until 6. Yet they are expected to learn to use it. Son can identify all letters, small words, all phonics. Yet, he can't hold a pencil and control it. They lack fine agility, they develop slowly with regard to fine concentration skills. But, they must be benchmarked, and labelled and boxed. My good friend got told at her last parents evening that her son had settled well, he was now like "all the others". Well, what a great aim. Assimilation. Submission. Loss of boyness. No. She's my friend, so she nearly punched the teacher. And yet, it's not their fault. It's the system. The system which is now worse: more guidelines, more strictures. Less ability to teach interestingly. Longer school days, longer hours. Thanks, tories, you are totally ensuring I never go back to teaching.
I will give it a year. Maybe i'll teach my own.

1 comment:

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Good post! I don't recognise my own son from your discription of the "typical boy" at all but I think there are actually 3 genders - male, female and geek :-)
He is a September baby and was more than ready for formal education at 5 BUT not all kids are (male and female). I think it's so unfair on both types of child to make them all start at the same time.
Why should the quiet ones be disrupted by the ones who still want to run around and why should the more physcial ones be forced to sit down all day?
Each child should be able to start school when they are ready.
I am totally against the "single intake" which is taking over in our town this year. A year's age gap is HUGE between 4 and 5. It's also having a bad knock-on effect on the Nurseries and Pre-schools with some losing funding and some taking on children who are barely 2.

Also, did you know when CTC comes under the Universal Benefit we will have to sign on each week to keep claiming it unless we can actually find a job once the youngest is 7 (current age limit, bound to go down!)