Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Gender of teacher matters

I just read an interesting article, which I'll copy here, about the impact of the gender of teachers. Apparantly, boys learn better from men and girls from women. It makes a lot of sense to me. When I was in 6th grade I went to a small private school that tried something really neat. The male teacher taught the (small class of)5th-8th grade boys and the female teachers taught the (small class of) 5th-8th grade girls. In my opinion it was wildly successful. The only shortcoming that I can recall was that when we read Pride and Prejudice it went over the heads of the 5th and 6th graders. Anyway, there were a lot of factors that played into the success and innovation of that class. #1) the small classes - something like 8 students. #2) the splitting of genders (and targeting the curriculum to the gender, for instance the boys read the Iliad and the Odyssey) #3)the same-gender teacher #4) the devoted parents. So that's been my experience with same gender teachers.

As a mother of three boys I am alert to the slight unfairness of the public schools which are more geared toward girls. For instance the sheer amount of coloring they do in elementary school... not a boy activity! This new research is just one more explanation for the disparity between boys and girls today.

My final comment is that two of my best teachers growing up were my two male teachers. There is just something special about men that is hard to describe. They command a certain amount of respect, just because they are men. They fill a certain need in your heart to get their approval and love. It sounds so silly in todays enlightened post-modern society, but it is an undeniable truth. When my husband is away there is a male role that I cannot fill. So I guess my last point is that more male teachers in the public schools would be a bonus to boys AND girls.


WASHINGTON - For all the differences between the sexes, here’s one that might stir up debate in the teacher’s lounge: Boys learn more from men and girls learn more from women.

That’s the upshot of a provocative study by Thomas Dee, an associate professor of economics at Swarthmore College and visiting scholar at Stanford University. His study was to appear Monday in Education Next, a quarterly journal published by the Hoover Institution.

Vetted and approved by peer reviewers, Dee’s research faces a fight for acceptance. Some leading education advocates dispute his conclusions and the way in which he reached them.
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But Dee says his research supports his point, that gender matters when it comes to learning. Specifically, as he describes it, having a teacher of the opposite sex hurts a student’s academic progress.

“We should be thinking more carefully about why,” he said.

Dee warns against drawing fast conclusions based on his work. He is not endorsing single-sex education, or any other policy.

Gender gaps in middle school
Rather, he hopes his work will spur more research into gender’s effect and what to do about it.

His study comes as the proportion of male teachers is at its lowest level in 40 years. Roughly 80 percent of teachers in U.S. public schools are women.

Dee’s study is based on a nationally representative survey of nearly 25,000 eighth-graders that was conducted by the Education Department in 1988. Though dated, the survey is the most comprehensive look at students in middle school, when gender gaps emerge, Dee said.

He examined test scores as well as self-reported perceptions by teachers and students.

Dee found that having a female teacher instead of a male teacher raised the achievement of girls and lowered that of boys in science, social studies and English.

Looked at the other way, when a man led the class, boys did better and girls did worse.

The study found switching up teachers actually could narrow achievement gaps between boys and girls, but one gender would gain at the expense of the other.

Dee also contends that gender influences attitudes.

For example, with a female teacher, boys were more likely to be seen as disruptive. Girls were less likely to be considered inattentive or disorderly.

In a class taught by a man, girls were more likely to say the subject was not useful for their future. They were less likely to look forward to the class or to ask questions.

Dee said he isolated a teacher’s gender as an influence by accounting for several other factors that could affect student performance. But his study is sure to be scrutinized.

“The data, as he presents them, are far from convincing,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, which works to advance the progress of women.

Greenberger said she found Dee’s conclusions to be questionable and inconsistent. More broadly, she said, boys and girls benefit by having male and female teachers as role models.

“I don’t think there are many parents or students, looking back over their educational careers, who haven’t been inspired by a teacher of the opposite sex,” she said.

“And many have had very unhappy experiences with teachers of the same gender that they are. We have to be careful of too many generalizations,” Greenberger said.

Student success cannot be narrowed to the gender of the teacher, said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers’ union.

Experienced teachers, good textbooks, smaller class sizes and modern equipment all influence how boys and girls do in class, Weaver said.

‘Just one variable’
“Students benefit by having exposure to teachers who look like them, who can identify with their culture ... but this is just one variable among many,” Weaver said.

Dee said his research raises valid questions.

Should teachers get more training about the learning styles of boys and girls? Should they be taught to combat biases in what they expect of boys and girls?

In the nature-nurture debate, he said, teacher gender belongs.

“Some people will react strongly to this,” he said. “But I’ve taken pains to explain that we need to be cautious about drawing policy conclusions. As provocative as this all might seem, I really haven’t gotten that much negative feedback.”

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cooking club's first meeting



Last month I was decided to start a cooking club so that my friends and I could inspire one another in the kitchen. So I sent out some invitations and yesterday was our first meeting. Only two of my friends came but Stacy brought her husband so mine joined us too which made it a respectable five and the food was just heavenly. Ruth brought my absolute favorite Mandarin salad. I cooked my famous Tacoritos and Stacy brought a sublime dessert. We're publishing our recipes on a blog so that we can just look them up online rather than copy them by hand over and over. Check the recipes out at www.perfect10recipes.blogspot.com

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Wrapping up summer homeschooling

Public school starts in a week. My first "summer of homeschooling" was successful, but far less ambitious than I imagined it would be. I think that's typical of year round homeschoolers too. The "daily" feild trips I planned were few and far between. The kids watched a little more TV than I planned and we didn't get into any major subject areas. Nevertheless, I have no regrets. We just worked on two subject areas a day plus devotion. We pretty much stuck with handwriting and math and reading. One resource that I found helpful was the internet. I would google "free math worksheet 4th gade" or "free math worksheet clocks" and I would get exactly what I needed. It was very handy. We also studied some Khmer and one thing I did well was a devotion every day. We use Keys for Kids. The kids can find locate the books in the Bible by themselves. Dimitri loved that, because there's a song we sing. We also studied the calandar for Brandon who needed to brush up on it.

I look forward to doing it again next year, and as they start to master the basic skills it will be fun to delve into topics in greater depth. The fun is over for now and I have to buy my Microbiology books because my class starts soon too.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Acknowledging feelings in a fight

Acknowledging feelings. It seems like such psychobabble. But I've tried it and it actually works. I guess there's something about the human condition that creates a need to be understood and sympathised with. (Side note: that's why, in my opinion the saddest tragedies are the ones that happen to people who get no sympathy for their plight, like the woman who lost three of her babies. The first to SIDS and the next set of twins to possible roll over death. A very sad story...) I digress. Today my husband and I got in a fight. It kept escalating until I tried acknowleging each others feelings. Since he's new to this I made him repeat after me my feeling and then I summed up his by myself. Amazingly it worked. It totally squashed the fight. There was nothing more we felt we needed to say. We felt understood. Here is basically what we said:

Timmy: "You're disappointed because we don't spend much time together during the week and you were looking forward to hanging out with me today. I was wrong not to give you some warning that I would be working today."

Me: "You're mad because you've got all these financial burdens and you are going to work today to try to pay the electric bill and you feel like you're the only one who is shouldering the burdon."

So did that solve our problems? No, but the fight was over and we weren't even mad any more. It was like magic.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Droopy breasts aren't all bad

Droopy breasts aren't all bad, you know. They make breastfeeding easier. Especially at night when you're trying to sleep. ha ha.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Back from camp

We just got back from the yearly church retreat in New Hampshire. It is the most refreshing time to "get away from it all". No TV. Lots of fresh air. Good fun. Good fellowship. I luv it. As you can see from the slide show - it seems like Dimitri has grown in just the past week. On Saturday I managed to choreograph and teach four early-teen girls a dance to worship song - in time to perform it at the talent show that night. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Another highlight was going to the top of Foss mountain at midnight with my husband. (You can see the daytime view with on my slide show above). About a dozen dogs come with their owners which is very special for us since we love dogs but don't have one. Well, except for Wolfie who is afraid of dogs, but it is good therapy for him.

It also feels good to be home, showered and rested and ready to go back to work tomorrow. The cats and bunny are thrilled to have us back and I missed them too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My housework shortcuts

I think I do a decent job of keeping up with housework while raising three kids and a part time job and part time school. My secret is to simplify, simplify, simplify. Obviously that means minimal clutter. I throw away at every opportunity and also don't buy very much. Here are some of the more unusual techniques I employ to keep my house clean...

*I bought the cats the cheapest litter and didn't change it much til they got the hint. Now they go outside 90% of the time. (Which is OK because unlike dogs, cats bury it).

*I do a load of laundry every day and DO NOT Own any laundry bins. Why? Because once an item of clothing is removed it goes right into the washer. Yup. Darks and lights together. I've never had a problem with bleeding. If I think something will bleed I'll separate it, but that is pretty rare. Also, if the thought of mixing them makes you queezy you can buy these new toweletes created to soak up bleeding color. Pretty cool.

*I USED to use a dishwasher to save time... but eventually with a husband, three kids, and a brother, even that was becoming too much work - the constant loading and unloading. My new method is to keep a small selection of dishes in the dish drying rack. Then we use it, wash it, and put it back on the rack to dry. All done. Also, our flatware has widdled down to nine spoons, four forks, and a few knives. We don't need any more than that. If you need something, you just have to wash it. Also, I use the sponge with the handle filled with detergent so it's always bubbly.

* I spent a good deal of time teaching Brandon to clean his room in our first year of homeschooling. I mean, as much time on that as reading or math. It's paid off because not only is he good at keeping it clean but he insists on it. Wolfie learns some from Brandon but I do need to spend some more one on one time with him too.

*The bunny is litter trained so every other day I just dump the hay into the garbage, put newspaper and hay in the box again and I'm done.

*I file away paperwork ASAP in the small file cabinet downstairs or the small file cabinet upstairs (whichever is closer). You've got to keep up with it!!

*We only own four bath towels which are always in use. I wash them about every other day so they are always fresh.

*I don't own any top sheets for the boys' beds. Why? Because boys do not use top sheets. No. They kick them to the bottom the bed, leaving you one more unnecessary job when making beds or washing sheets. I literally threw away all the twin sized top sheets I know all you pack rats are gasping in horror, but it's drastic measures like that, that keep me on top of my housework.

*"A place for everything and everything in its place." Especially keys. They go on the hooks by the door.

*My dear Grandma does all my sewing. What would I do without her???? (I was an honor roll student. The only C I got was in sewing. ha ha)

*Shoes are removed immediately upon entering the house and put on the shoe rack. Like I said before - simplicity is the key. The kids only have one pair of shoes each (plus sandles in the summer). Timmy and I have boots and sneakers. (I keep my two pairs of dress shoes in my closet for special occasions).

* Keeping up with housework is a huge part. I try to clean the whole house every day and deep clean on Saturdays. I mean, I'm no superwoman, but I try my best. When my schoolwork-load is heavy I employ a teenage girl to help me on Saturdays.

If you have any housecleaning shortcuts, tell us! We can use all the shortcuts we can get, right ladies? It's a struggle, but we can do it!

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