Local resident Dr. Anthony Rao is a former instructor at Harvard
Medical School and author of “The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in
a Challenging and Complex World

Is the honeymoon over? Across the US, young boys are becoming more
frustrated at school. They’re tuning out and acting up. Teachers are
suggesting evaluations for learning and behavior problems in record
numbers and parents are understandably worried. By the fall’s end, boys
will be referred for psychiatric disorders and learning problems
significantly more than at any other time of the year. Boys are also
expelled from preschool more than any other group of children — four
and a half times more than girls.

Despite these concerns, I urge moms and dads to hold tight and wait.
I recommend against rushing into a diagnosis or doing extensive
evaluations. At very young ages, extensive evaluations aren’t very
useful unless there are clear delays in a child’s developing language
and communication skills. I also tell parents to avoid the big labels
being bantered about, like ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. They don’t
mean much over the long-term for such young kids.

I know of a young boy named Steven, who is described by his teachers
as a serious problem at school. He’s in kindergarten. His mom, a grade
school teacher herself, approached me at a recent book signing in
Southwest Florida. She lowered her voice as if someone might overhear
our conversation.

“Its crazy,” she told me, “The administration dictates that every 15
minutes, the kids have to move from one area of the classroom to the
other, like they’re on a lazy-Susan. They have multiple lessons going
on in the same room. Every 15 minutes they shift. It’s down to the
minute without breaks inbetween. They’re not learning anything! Steven
comes home everyday bored and angry. He’s getting aggressive.”

I was shocked to learn of this approach. I’m an advocate of taking
breaks. The Japanese model is a good example of this.
Grade school kids
learn intensely, but are always given a solid break of several minutes
between lessons, often outdoors. It helps to digest the material. It
helps adults, too. When we separate from our work even for a few
minutes, it gives our brains time to retain the new material. Any type
of break is helpful — listen to music, shoot a few baskets, take a
brisk walk, read a few pages of your favorite book or magazine, or
better yet, run around outside. Its what’s called distributed practice
and cognitive scientists have long known it’s how good learning works.

I asked Steven’s mom, “There must be down time for them to play, right?”

“No,” she explained, “They took away recess to make more lesson time
available. And they also took all the toys out of the classroom, the
kitchen play area, all of it, to make room for these rotating groups.”

In my opinion, this is early education at its worst. In the interest
of teaching equivocally and speeding up learning, we’re giving every
kid the exact same experience like its fast food. It looks good but
doesn’t leave you with much. Worse, we’re eliminating the very thing
youngsters need in order to become better learners down the road, when
the real academics arrive — free imaginative play and lots of hands-on

Steven’s mom feels stuck. I told her that short of finding another
school, there are things that could help. **
Recess and daily indoor
breaks are a must. She should band together with other parents to
demand this immediately. Also, bring the toys back into the classroom
and encourage more free play. Other helpful changes would be smaller
class size, hiring more male teachers (who encourage active physical
learning), and most important, spending more time outdoors and giving
much needed breaks between lessons.**

It’s disconcerting that Florida is following the national trend of
moving children indoors and having kids become more sedentary.

“It’s ironic,” Steven’s mom said, “We moved here because it’s where
my husband grew up. He wanted Steven to have the great outdoor
childhood he had when he was a boy.”


Source: Naples Daily News – http://tinyurl.com/yhfg7nr