Who knows when I first met Pete Springer? The guy is amazing. Not only was he an educator for 31 years, he’s published a book on teaching (that I read and reviewed!) and is working on publishing a novel for young adults. In his free time, he continues to influence and praise the work of teachers, administrators, hairstylists, family members, waitresses, and a stray dog that looked like he needed a pat on the head.*
His only fault was trusting me, Chel Owens, to write a post over at his blog. At least he was gracious enough to repair some of that damage with a post of his own, below.
I give you: Oh, Boy! by Pete Springer
First, I apologize in advance for the list of stereotypical comments that are about to come. I detest making sweeping generalizations about anything, except lima beans—they all suck! When you’re a guy, you can get away with saying stupid and crude remarks like, “this sucks,” because the bar is set so low, and no one expects us to utter anything resembling intelligence.
Boys? I’ve seen my share of them over the years. After all, I’m the youngest of four boys. I also taught elementary school for 31 years, so I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the biology and maturity of boys and girls.
What people say about girls maturing faster than boys is generally true. I taught in grades 2-6, so I can provide many first-hand accounts to support that opinion. The difference between 2nd and 3rd-grade boys and girls is enormous. (We’re talking Grand Canyon.) I often laughed to myself, looking out at my sea of faces. Most of the girls were attentive and would do anything asked of them.
Meanwhile, boys were often wiggling and unable to sit still. Several times a year, this involved falling out of their chairs. I recall calling a parent once to tell him that his child got injured at school, falling out of his seat.
Just because males are slower to develop than our female counterparts, we must not overlook their creativity. For example, 2nd and 3rd-grade boys don’t look at pencils as tools for writing but as objects to fly through space while making sounds like “speeeesh.” One of the techniques that usually gathered my students’ attention was to stop talking. Awakened from their slumber, they’d look around to see what was happening. “Now that Springer has stopped yammering, maybe I’ll pay attention.” A select few were so oblivious that they didn’t notice the quiet and continued their Apollo space missions while I looked on in wonder.
Speaking of pencils, boys take special pride in sharpening pencils to tiny nubs. I have no idea why this is just a guy thing. Some of my boys would walk up to me in the middle of class to show me their tiny pencils, thinking I’d be impressed. I was not, and even less enthralled when several times a year, they’d get them stuck in the classroom pencil sharpener. My college professors from teacher prep classes neglected to tell me I’d become a skilled surgeon in extricating pencils from the sharpener.
As boys move into upper elementary school, they become fascinated with jumping. While they no longer fall out of their seats, they have a curious habit of jumping up whenever passing under a doorway. My theory of why this happens is that as boys mature physically, they constantly want to test their bodies. For guys, it’s always about lifting more weight, running faster, and jumping higher. Since I’m declining in all those areas, I look for ways to hang on to my glory days. One of my bedtime rituals is cranking out 40 pushups to prove that I can still do it.
Another truth for most elementary-aged boys is they love to laugh whenever someone farts. I’ve watched a classroom go from zero noise to uproarious laughter in seconds when someone passes gas. Some 6th-grade teachers like me were brave or foolish enough to take their classes on end-of-the-year sixth-grade campouts as a means of recognizing the end of the elementary school experience. Several times I had to sleep in the same cabin with my boys. With nearly 100% certainty, there came a time when someone would fart, and the rest of the group went into hysterics. What followed predictably was another “accidental” flatulence, and the cycle repeated itself until I instituted a “no farting” rule so that we could go to sleep. It was all rather pointless as there was no way of knowing who the offending parties were in a darkened cabin with twelve boys and no realistic way of enforcing such a stipulation.
People frequently ask me what my favorite grade was to teach, but the truth is there is something extraordinary about every age. I preferred teaching the girls through fourth grade because while the boys were all over the place, the girls were usually eager to please and respectful. By sixth grade, the boys had finally matured (minus the farting), but many of my 6th-grade girls became impossible and downright cruel to one another. While the boys could get quite competitive and sometimes lose their tempers during recess games, there seldom was any carryover once they’d calmed down. By the next recess, everybody was friends again. Unfortunately, such was often not the case with my sixth-grade girls. They had a habit of hanging on to grudges and not being able to let things go quite so quickly.
Our upper-grade classroom took on a rather distinctive odor when spring rolled around. I’d describe the smell as a combination of wet dog, vomit, and rotten eggs. The boys, especially those who hadn’t discovered deodorant, were usually the culprits. That was the point I broke out my award-winning hygiene lecture. (Add that to the laundry list of items my college professors failed to communicate.) Upper elementary students are not known for their sensitivity and uttered phrases like, “God, you stink!” to one another. Without fail, some boy would overcompensate by bathing himself in a half bottle of Old Spice aftershave. We all know how brutal that five o’clock shadow can be in 6th grade.
While I like many things about boys, I think it’s time to admit that men have managed to screw up the country after numerous chances. Let’s give the women a chance. Besides, that will provide us with more time to yell at the television during sporting events, drink more beer, and improve our belching and farting skills.
© 2021 Pete Springer
Pete blogs over at https://petespringerauthor.wordpress.com His very helpful and interesting book on teaching is available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/They-Call-Mom-Difference-Elementary/dp/1977200052.
*I have no evidence that Pete patted a dog on the head. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, though, and even took that dog home and gave it a warm meal.