Having spent a decade working with children (birth to seven years) I can say with certainty that preschools are not designed with boys in mind. In 2011, I was sitting in my office with three boys (all four years old). They were having a difficult time sitting for circle time. I asked them why they could not sit down.
It is sooooo long, Ms. Jill!
It is so boring!
The teacher would not let me answer a question!
After observing the classroom I came to a few conclusions- most of the girls were able to stay seated, each child was given a turn to talk and the others were made to wait, and the topics being spoken about were teacher driven. A recipe for disaster as for as the boys were concerned.
Since 2002, the concept of preschool changed drastically. Once it was thought of as place to play and socialize, free of the stress of grade school. Then President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act and everything changed. Schools frantically changed their structure to revolve around testing. Good bye, science. Good bye, social studies and art! Music? What is that? Recess and lunch? There was no time. Reading, writing, and math became the most important things, as long as it was geared for the standardized testing.
What did this mean for our preschools? As grade schools changed and pressure built to pass these tests, parents felt the pressure too. I began to have parents ask me, “When will my child start writing? When will they read in your classroom?” Preschools began to feel the pressure. Academic preschools soon became extremely popular.
I was in charge of running an academic preschool, and not a day went by where I did not think that we were pushing our children too hard. They were not developmentally ready for what we were throwing at them.
Boys suffered greatly from these changes. Boys and girls, although equal, have many differences. The way in which they learn is different and the time in their development when they learn is different. Now look into a preschool room. Often you will not see a difference in which each child is taught. We like to think we teach to the individual child, but we do not.
The first major problem in preschools is the lack of men. Early childhood careers are often riddled with sexism. Men are overlooked for jobs. Parents become very concerned when there is a male teacher. As a result, our boys have few male role models. Perhaps if there were more men, more ‘troubled’ boys would be understood.
So many times I have heard “He will not sit still! He is disrupting the class!” Why do we have to sit still to learn in preschool? Boys need movement, laughter, and topics that are of interest to them. Sadly, topics that are of interest to them are often seen as not appropriate for school. Teachers, trying their best to create a warm classroom, are not realizing that by telling a boy
No, we cannot talk about fighting.
No, we cannot read comic books.
No, we cannot be silly when we do our work.
We are slowly draining them of their love of school. This will stay with them throughout their educational career. Now, throw into the mix No Child Left Behind and we are really drilling into our boys heads that school is boring, too hard. No time to be silly when we have to sit down and go over letters, letter sounds, and numbers over and over.
Our children’s first impression of school should be a happy one. Schools need to instill a love of learning in every child that walks into the classroom. No Child Left Behind is throwing a love of learning out the window for our boys.
In recent years it is found that girls are surpassing boys in academics and are entering and graduating college in larger numbers. As a woman that makes me want to give a big high five (this is a huge accomplishment for women), but as an educator and mother (of two boys) this upsets me. I want my sons to succeed and to have the same amazing school experience that I had, but I do not see how that is possible unless we change this system.