A Mother Writes About Our Invisible Boys - Michael Gurian

A Mother Writes About Our Invisible Boys

May 15, 2017

From L.F.
If I could add one thing to the note about my younger son’s experience because it says a lot about a young boys’ needs.
When I asked him why he thought he couldn’t sit still when the teacher requested it, his response was “because my body told me to move.” Followed by “I was sad that I didn’t get recess because I like to run and I didn’t get to.”

From L.F:

Thank you very much for responding and clarifying. Semantics can change everything, especially for those easily swept up in the popular narrative.

I sing your song to all who will listen. I have read a number of your books and attended your first winter workshop in Tampa a few years ago. I think I was the only one there who wasn’t a teacher, just a parent with two boys in elementary school trying to figure out how to better meet their needs.

I, as well as a number of other parents of boys, will tell you that we all have had similar experiences with elementary school teachers suggesting our boys should be assessed for attention or learning issues and that perhaps medication would help. Having watched the system change dramatically in the seven years I have been involved in it, I’d say the children are at an increased risk because of the system requirements and the strain the teachers are under. There is little understanding, tolerance or time to give the children what they really need. The system is driven to perpetuate the system, not to serve its constituents.

My older son’s first three teachers suggested that my son might benefit from an ‘assessment and medication’.  He was not hyper but he was easily distracted and a day dreamer. I educated myself, talked with professionals and decided against it. I added some extra work practice at home, a reading tutor, and structured physical activities and he excelled. His fourth teacher, a third grade male teacher, never had any comments about daydreaming, wiggling, or incomplete work. He was on track, a great student, just talked a little too much at times. Wow, did that get my attention! My son did not change over the summer. But the male teacher had a different tolerance, expectation, and understanding of a boy. He remains my son’s favorite teacher to this day.

In kindergarten, my younger son was reprimanded for “not sitting still on his square on the carpet” as the guidance counsellor taught her lesson. I received an email from the teacher and a hand written note from the counsellor regarding this non-compliance. I investigated with the teacher and I learned that he was quietly rolling and stretching on his square while the story was read. I learned that this lesson was given during recess, so they missed their regular morning physical break. My son did not make any noise or bother the rest of the class it seems, he just needed to move. When I asked him what the counsellor taught (thinking he wouldn’t have a clue) he recited the entire story. No one bothered to ask him if he had learned anything. I thanked the teacher for communicating with me but I felt the reprimand was unwarranted. Take away recess and expect them to sit still? Shame!


With my experience and having learned more from you, I have become ever more wary of the situations my boys are in and watch very closely how they are managed. I wish more people knew about your work. I continue to spread the word!

From: Michael Gurian

On your question about the Science report, the report is correct that girls tend to think of themselves as “smart,” gifted” and “good at school” but fewer girls than boys tend to think of themselves as “brilliant.”   To some extent, this is semantics, and semantics make for good copy, which is why, as you said, even though boys are behind girls in most aspects of education, most of the popular social literature (even in Nat. Geo and Science) focuses on girl-deficits.  This focus is good but when it is mainly about semantics and soft science, it avoids dealing with the chronic intellectual and achievement deficits boys experience.  But, all that said, the report is still correct that if girls don’t think of themselves as brilliant, they may not pursue some of the engineering and high tech jobs.

I hope we can come, one day, to a time when we talk about all the deficits (and assets) that both our boys and girls experience, not just some.  Until that day, those of us who advocate for both boys and girls will have to keep pushing for hard science, in all the fields.

From L.F.:

I started reading my new National Geographic magazine this morning.  I don’t always read the editor’s note but today I did.  I’m also more than half way through Michael Gurian’s latest book – Saving our Sons. I have two young boys and I experience quite a few situations where there needs are not honored or being met. I am not the only one. I have friends with boys and the stories are all the same. The book is proving very helpful.

With references to the DGP and his recommendations to stick to real science and authentic studies, I read the Nat Geo editor’s comment with a critical eye. Is the study from SCIENCE that they refer to really as valid as they seem to be saying?  With the data showing that girls are outpacing boys in education this comment has left me wondering.


I thought I would share with you in case you hadn’t seen this. I’d also love your feedback.

Thank you for all you do.

L. F.

1 Comment

on A Mother Writes About Our Invisible Boys.
  1. -

    this is an excellent perspective – good luck with your new Community Conversation section on your website

Leave a Comment

Your feedback is valuable for us. Your email will not be published.

Please wait...