Our private school started yesterday, to a mess of excited boys ready to start their school year. They were loud and boisterous, their voices booming through the school. They leaped up and tapped the top of hallways and hooted. They talked and made weird noises. They bounced their legs when seated and tossed things in the air.
But when Miss Isabel settled them down, they looked at her with adoring eyes.
It’s odd, but as we start our fourth school year, I have to ponder why we have only ever had boys enroll in the Harp Academy. Hey, we’re an equal opportunity school, but we specifically cater to kids with learning issues. And of course, everyone knows that there are more boys with learning challenges than girls. Most of our students are on the spectrum, and it’s amazing how they function, learn social skills, and find their way around learning.
Yesterday, a new boy sat nervously in the front office. His dad was with him, chatting with another mom, but he had the panic on his face of starting a new school. I remember that feeling well; we moved a lot when I was a kid. I sat down next to the boy and talked to him, trying to ease his nerves.
Just then, the front door opened, and one of our past students strutted through the door. The new boy’s head shot up, his face relaxing into a smile. Our “old” boy grinned widely and raced over to the new boy. Their excitement at knowing each other was palpable, and they moved toward one another like only friends can.
I watched on, as they nearly embraced.
At the same moment, the boys leaned back and softly patted each other on the shoulder, their stoic faces taking over. I sent them back into the learning room and got distracted by another parent wanting to talk. Later, as the new boy’s father was leaving, he told me how happy he was that his son would have a friend. He also told me that both boys had been bullied at their previous schools, which I already knew.
The cool thing about this, was the “old” boy is on the spectrum, and had struggled socially. Even the “lunch lady” picked on him at his old school. At our school, a safe school, he was put in a place of social power. He knew the ropes. He’d weathered the storm. His chest puffed up and he became the leader, because he could. Because it was in him all along. We just had to get past everyone else’s prejudices for him to find it in himself.
Once again, I have to wonder what we are doing to our boys. Why we expect them to act like girls all day, sitting quietly in a chair while a teacher rattles on about something they aren’t interested in.
Why we allow them to be bullied by bigger, stronger boys.
Why we don’t let them embrace a friend.
Why we don’t do anything about learning differences like dyslexia and autism.
Why we think it’s okay to give them an IEP, water down their curriculum, throw them in a room with other kids who are struggling, and forget they have feelings and needs.
Why we don’t teach them social skills but send them outside at recess to be social outcasts.
I have to ask it again. What are we doing to our boys?
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