I'm far less perplexed about the different energies girl and boy preschoolers tend to bring into the classroom. I could write a book about that, but since many, many others have before me, and anyone who has spent any time with young children is aware of those differences, I'll just let that stand as a self-evident truth
My blog friend and fellow teacher Launa Hall over at The Classroom Composition asked in yesterday's comments if we strive to create gender balance in our school's enrollment. The answer is No. We make special allowances for alumni, but otherwise we're a straight-forward first-come, first-serve school.
A few years back we wound up with a Pre-K class with 7 girls and one boy. There were a lot of younger boys in school with Sam on the other days of the week, but during that special Tuesday afternoon session, he was "the man." His mom Jean, I know, considered finding another school when she first saw the roster, but I'm glad -- and I think she's glad -- they hung with us. I worked hard to make sure I provided the kind of hands on, full body activities that tend to appeal to boys, and I often fudged things to make sure his opinions weren't always trumped by rainbows, unicorns and ballerinas, but it wasn't always easy. There was one day when I suddenly realized that we had spent nearly our entire 2.5 hours sitting on our blue rug, talking. Sam was about to burst! By the end of the day, he was one squirming, writhing, bouncing, flailing little boy, but you know what? I'm proud to say he pulled it off.
I knew I needed to reward this incredible feat of self-management so we spent the rest of the week doing activities that didn't require a moment of sitting down and minimized the need for discussion. We even did our entire circle times on our feet, jumping, swinging our hips, and chugging like choo-choo trains. I noted that several of the older girls chose to sit out circle time that week, but I didn't care, I was balancing out the preceding Tuesday.
I'm guessing that most preschool teachers strive to balance out their curriculum in this way, even if they don't always have a gender balance in their classroom. Boys tend to dominate the block area, so I'll introduce things like ponies or costumes to lure girls over. Girls tend to dominate the art table, so I try to mix in "art" activities that will appeal to boys.
Yesterday's art project was a classic example of boy-energy oriented art: an on-your-feet group activity that lent itself to "drive-by" participation. I rolled out a sheet of butcher paper, taped down some blocks to create a rim around the edge of the table, then broke out corks and ping pong balls for the kids to dip in paint and blow around with straws. Many girls tried it out, but this was definitely one for the boys.
By the end of the session, several of the boys lead by Finn P., Isak, Ariya and Marcus had discovered that I had provided "bendy" straws, and had turned them into hockey sticks to move the balls and corks around the table. It got a little wild as boy energy sometimes does.
I've just learned that next year's 3-5 class is going to feature a girl-heavy roster, but my Pre-K group is 8 boys and 1 girl. Demographic anomalies keep things interesting.