My younger son was a “problem child” in school until the third grade. Teachers didn’t know what to do with him. He was clearly very bright, but not the least bit interested in following classroom rules and routines.
In second grade, he had a teacher who was new to the profession and also newly married. I say that to say I don’t think she knew very much about males. On several occasions, I got three phone calls in one day from her, reporting his misbehavior. She had no idea what to do with him. He seemed to be able to sense when he was getting a teacher flustered, and then he would then do more of whatever it was that unhinged her.
Then he got to third grade. No phone calls. He was getting his work done, and there were no complaints about his behavior. Same school, same classmates. At parent-teacher conference, I asked Ms. Payne what she was doing to keep him in line. I guess I was hoping it wasn’t illegal, although I’m not sure that would have been a deal-breaker. She said, “Nothing special. I just like boys.”
She liked boys. She didn’t think there was anything wrong with a boy who could not sit quietly with his hands folded on his desk. She accepted her students on their own terms, set high standards, and chose to not make an issue out of behavior that wasn’t intended to be oppositional. My son thrived.
I should note that Ms. Payne was white, so I’m not saying that race was the issue in this case. She just understood that boys and girls are different, and she accepted him as he was. If he wasn’t intending to defy her or cause problems, she didn’t make a big deal out of it.
One writer stated that women see men as “females behaving badly”. In other words, they assume that everyone should be able to think, respond and behave the same way they and their women friends do. If men think and respond differently, they assume the men are intentionally being difficult. It’s not true.
Over time, I will share some of the ways in which males and females are different, in the classroom and at home. Many times, what we interpret as misbehavior is not that at all. Black Boy Advocate will be sharing information that is aimed at helping you, the reader, to see Black boys in a new way. Not the way we think they ought to be, not the way we fear they will become, but as they actually are. And to help them to blossom and grow into the strong, productive men we need for them to be.
(c) 2021 Dr. Abena Asantewaa