Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday Summary: Boys & Men in Education #slowchated

After a week of discussing boys and men in education, I have even more questions than I did when I started. The biggest of those questions is how I should respond to the statistics that show boys struggling in schools. It's important to not generalize from the statistics: to continue to be responsive to the students in front of me, not the "average student" presented by the numbers. Still, the statistics concern me. How can we make school better for boys and boys better for school? Here is a selection of tweets from the week to assist you in finding your answer to that question.

I started the week with a cold opening. I hoped this question would elicit some emotion and strong opinion.
The answers ranged from uncertainty over whether this claim was true to collections of links about boys performance in school. Most responses, however, shared observations that may point to the problem.

And my first question also brought back the first reminder that we must be careful with these statistics to avoid stereotyping our students.

When I reflected on the statistics shared in my opening statement and from various tweets on Monday, I realized that I had seen many of the behavior statistics play out in my classroom (more frequent suspensions and discipline infractions related to bullying), than I had academic differences between boys and girls. That led to this question:

All of those tweets began to point at the problem, but the next ones really summed it up for me.

I've seen just as much inappropriate behavior from girls as boys, but boys are more likely to break a big school rule that results in harsh consequences like suspension. For example, bullying seems to happen equally with boys and girls, but boys' bullying is more likely to get physical and our school rules are clear that physical aggression results in suspension. Although the humiliation that can come with name-calling and rumors is just as damaging, if not more so, it is more difficult to determine when those behaviors warrant severe consequences.

After spending two days discussing the problem, it was time to look for solutions.
 Interestingly, no one mentioned something specific they were doing for boys. All of these strategies would benefit all students. The key seems to be breaking away from the traditional teacher lectures/student listens model.

Our fourth question went back to the big picture.
 Again, the suggestions were not specific to boys. When schools better meet the needs of all learners, boys' performance and school experience will improve, too.

I ended the week with a question I think about frequently as a male elementary school teacher. I've never worked (or attended) an elementary school with more than three male teachers. I've always felt that some boys get the idea that school and education is a female pursuit when they don't see men teaching classes. Being the Friday question, there weren't too many responses, but I think the one below says it all.
Male role models are important, whether or not they're found in schools. Still, this is an idea I would like to explore more, so I might dedicate an entire chat to this topic in the future.

Thanks to everyone who participated this week. I enjoyed seeing the thought put into the answers for this topic. I look forward to more discussions of big ideas with #slowchated

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Boys & Men in Education #slowchated April 6 - 11

Boys are 22% more likely to repeat a grade than girls.
For every 100 girls diagnosed with a learning disability, 276 boys are diagnosed.
For over 50 years, girls have outperformed boys on standardized tests measuring reading ability.

"The Dunce" by Harold Copping [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
At first I wondered if all of these statistics were telling the truth. As a fifth grade teacher, I never noticed a gender gap in my classroom. I've had high performing boys and girls. I've also had just as many girls as boys requiring additional academic support through remediation and special education programs. Then I thought about it some more. In 12 years of teaching, I can only think of two girls who had an out of school suspension, but every year at least two boys from my classroom were suspended at some point during the school year. Nearly every time a student surprised me with uncharacteristically poor performance on a standardized test it was a boy. The students I've hounded most about homework, my least motivated readers, my students who required in-class aides: all boys. Something is going on here. And it isn't just a problem in the United States. Finland, who is often held up as a model of a successful school system, has twice the gender gap of the United States on the reading portion of the National Assessment for Education Progress.

Photo by deradrian via Flickr
What is causing these problems? Is it the way our schools are run? A Time Magazine article suggested that teachers discriminate against boys. Do we? Or is it boys themselves? Does the development of the male brain differ so much from the female brain to account for these statistics? How can we, as educators, address these issues?

All of these thoughts about boys in school led me to think about the men in my school. I've taught at two different elementary schools and had the distinction of being the only male classroom teacher in the building. Now that I'm the advanced learning specialist, there aren't any male classroom teachers in my building. How does the lack of male teachers in elementary schools affect boys? Current statistics show that men make up only 19% of the entire elementary and middle school teaching force. Could that be part of the problem of boys' underachievement? How can we encourage more men into our profession?

This isn't exactly an opening statement for the chat since we've already been discussing this topic for two days. Every Tweet and every link is giving me more to think about. I jotted down potential questions for the week when I signed up to moderate, but all of the great information we're discussing leads me down different paths. So I won't be posting questions in advance.

Please keep sharing, and remember that the beauty of a slow chat like this is having the freedom to take time. Explore the posted links, find additional statistics and articles to share, and engage with the rest of the #slowchated community. I look forward to seeing what you contribute.

Monday (4/6/2015)
 Tuesday (4/7/2015)
 Wednesday (4/8/2015)
Thursday (4/9/2015)
Friday (4/10/2015)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Inspiration from #NCCE2015

Image from
I've been home from the NCCE-Northwest Council for Computer Education conference for two weeks, and my head is still spinning with all of the educational awesomeness I encountered there. It was my first time at a big education conference, and I did my best to take it all in. I attended 14 sessions and workshops and kept up with countless more via Twitter. I walked every aisle of the exhibit hall, and spent all of my free time connecting with inspiring educators from around the country.

New Tech Ideas
Collaboration is the big idea in education right now. I learned strategies for managing collaborative work in Google Drive including having students experiment with collaborative documents by starting with a spreadsheet with their own assigned rows (thanks Nikki Robertson). Cheryl Steighner hosted a terrific session about Google in elementary schools. One of her ideas is to have a collaborative story that students can add to over time. She has one story that students have continued even two years after leaving her classroom! Throughout my time in Portland, I heard about countless apps, websites, and tools that I will be exploring for months to come.

As great as the official sessions and workshops were, the best part of attending NCCE was connecting with other educators. There were quite a few sessions about how important it is to build a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter or another social learning platform. I am a full-fledged Twitter evangelist, and my time at NCCE proved why. Everywhere I went, I ran into people I already knew. We were able to jump in and discuss because we already knew each other's backgrounds. I added many more educators to my PLN so I could continue to learn from them after NCCE.

Excuse the random
photo, but the mens'
rooms in the Portland
Convention Center have
amazing artwork!
One highlight of connecting at NCCE was Wednesday's #IDedchat. We met at a swanky, 30th story bar in downtown Portland to discuss professional development. It was a little strange staring at our phones to chat online when we were in such a beautiful place with great company, but being together created a more festive atmosphere for the chat. Plus, most of us arrived early to share dinner and chat.

I also got to have a wonderful lunch with Cheryl Steighner to discuss tubas and elementary education, and I spent a night on the town with some of my colleagues from Coeur d'Alene (Kelli Ogle and Kiersten Kerr are the only ones on Twitter) and Nikki Robertson from Alabama. I also got to chat with one of the most inspiring bloggers I know, Steve Wyborney, in the exhibit hall. Those informal learning moments were the best of the conference!

Now it's time to put what I've learned in to action. On Monday, I'm hosting a Monday Morning Appy Hour at my school to share some of the iPad apps I learned, and I'm working many of the other ideas I learned into upcoming lessons. It also sparked a desire to attend (and possibly present at) other big conferences. We'll just have to see where that leads, and I'll keep you updated as I continue to experiment and refine...