Staffroom conversation today - biscuits, boys and Botox

(45 Posts)
kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 20:35:41

Well the Botox was a conversation a parent was having with someone about all the stuff she wanted to do to make her face look good.

But in the staffroom. I was just talking about handwriting and the KS1 teacher was saying "well, that's typical boys". The deputy head said casually along with me "you can't say that" but that was it. I have just started working there so did not want an argument.

Then the biscuits. Same teacher was "banning" people from the biscuits because everyone was on a diet. Except the one who was "skinny" because she needed building up.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 17-Mar-14 20:36:35


Did your palm hurt when your face hit it?

noblegiraffe Mon 17-Mar-14 20:39:27

Sounds like a weird place, can you avoid the staffroom?

Boys handwriting though does tend to be worse than girls, doesn't it? Isn't it a fine motor skills issue?

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 20:42:30

The boys/girls thing at KS1 - well there is evidence to support some of that. Boys are lagging behind in many areas when compared to girls, as a group that is rather than 1:1 individuals.

Writing is a key area of concern in our LEA, across the LEA - with a big focus on boys as a group.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 20:43:19

You'd never get anyone to agree on banning the sweet stuff in our staffroom though!

Nocomet Mon 17-Mar-14 20:43:22

Except my handwriting was worse than many of the boys and really was a crime.

The teachers could not accept a girl who couldn't produce neat work, really was trying too.

It's why I'm a biologist only way to stop the bastard biology master up about presentation was to come top.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 20:43:58

Yes - boys tend to develop fine motor skills later.

But that is not an excuse to not worry about their writing by saying "typical boy".

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 20:45:50

Ah - so the KS1 teacher was syaing it wasn't a concern? Mis-read.

Opposite here - big push on boys writing in general, including handwriting, to tey and reduce the gap between the genders.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 20:47:37

I just said my son had poor handwriting and she said "typical boy".

Well - there's a lot more reasons why he has poor handwriting. It's not because he's a boy. If his teacher had taken that approach, we would never have got anything done.

Staff room conversation is mind numbing at times. In my old job I was driven to the point of early death by hearing about:
the 5:2 diet, whatever the fuck that involves; "what a good boy" pregnant woman's husband is for putting the fucking kettle on, making a meal, etc; crass innuendos between male teacher and certain TAs ("pass me those balls please, mrs jones." "Eeeeeee I'd love to grab your balls!!" And so on.)
Luckily I stoved my own head in with a hammer so no longer have to put up with this.

FloraFox Mon 17-Mar-14 21:05:49


kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:11:28

I think I am aware of gender issues in the classroom and try to ensure that I do not show "bias" and include everyone - FWR has made me aware of how language and actions have a massive impact.

I'm now teaching computing in primary schools which traditionally is seen as male stuff. I really want to make sure everyone in my class sees it as fun and achieve their best.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:13:02

But OTOH, I am also doing computer workshops over the holidays and it is currently all boys who have signed up (well - their mums have made the phone calls to organise it. Not one Dad has organised it)

Takver Mon 17-Mar-14 21:14:19

"big push on boys writing in general, including handwriting, to tey and reduce the gap between the genders."

I really don't get these 'boys in general' / 'girls in general' things. Surely it would make sense to have a push to help those who are bad at writing / handwriting, of whom the majority in a given class may (but may not) be boys?

I guess I feel more strongly about this because dd has always had the 'wrong' problems - poor motor skills/handwriting, uneven development, too dominating in group work - lots of 'typical boy' things.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:17:10

Exactly - it should be classroom practice so all those who are struggling are given support to improve - in any subject.

KissesBreakingWave Mon 17-Mar-14 21:23:08

Odd thing: my handwriting has never been calligraphic, legible if ugly was about the best you could say. Declined a bit as more and more of my work and writing came to be done with a keyboard. Still egible, just uglier.

Then I had surgery on my shoulder, coming up on five weeks ago. Don't know quite what they did in there, but for some reason my handwriting is a LOT neater.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 21:25:55

Takver - these are recognised groups of learners that we have to highlight for school records, progress meetings, etc. So, everyone will be still doing the general learning but they will be a focus on key groups of learners in certain areas. Obviously teachers will know who in their classes need specific support even more, but the general LEA wide push/focus will still exist and be expected.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 21:28:41

I also teach computing at primary - Key Stage 1. I used to teach secondary Computing (so GCSE/A level, etc) in the past. I have always been fortunate that I have always had a good mix of genders in my classes, and at KS1 the gender thing in computing doesn't seem to exist. Certainly our computer club has a mix of girls and boys through all three year groups.

I am finding that both genders are really enjoying the move towards much more coding.

noblegiraffe Mon 17-Mar-14 21:44:51

I really don't get these 'boys in general' / 'girls in general' things.

Because they are gendered issues. Boys' literacy is a real issue nationally (GCSE English pass rates for girls 71%, boys 56%), and it's partly due to boys not engaging with reading, and with the slow start with writing due to motor skill issues.

Just like lack of girls' engagement with STEM subjects is a gendered issue due to them not being seen/sold as suitable subjects for girls.

As they are gendered issues, they need to be tackled in a way that acknowledges this.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:52:58

It's observations in school.

In general, boys tend to develop fine motor skills later than girls.

In general, girls tend to be less drawn to STEM subjects.

Not all boys, not all girls. But from a teaching point of view - you can't just say oh, he's a boy, what do you expect? She's a girl, she'll be no good at science.

No - you have to ask why and make sure strategies are in place to help overcome these barriers. Why do boys tend to develop fine motor skills later - is it because they've been brought up to enjoy / do activities that develop gross motor skills whilst girls are brought up to enjoy / do fine motor skill activities.

And not ignore such issues.

Takver Mon 17-Mar-14 21:54:20

That's a fair point, noblegiraffe. Its unfortunate though if that translates into all the boys in the class getting extra handwriting classes, and none of the girls, regardless of their individual needs.

Takver Mon 17-Mar-14 21:55:18

kim, that makes a lot of sense. Presumably it would also lead to strategies which will help all those with problems, regardless of sex.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 21:58:21

That's the idea - especially with handwriting. I've worked in KS1 and I've done lots of activities so everyone can improve their fine motor skills.

Playdough is good. Dot to dot. Loads of strategies. But there is a noticeable difference. There are of course some girls with poor handwriting and boys with great writing. But you can see a difference.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 22:00:01

And same for engaging in literacy - not boy friendly stuff but doing activities that help engage all children rather than assuming all the girls will be engaged regardless of the genre / story / theme.

'In general, boys tend to develop fine motor skills later than girls.

In general, girls tend to be less drawn to STEM subjects.'

I could be wrong, but these seem to me to be categorically different things. Being drawn to STEM is surely conditioning. Fine motor skills presumably could be conditioning (playing with certain kinds of toys, expectations etc.), but it's subtler, isn't it? Or do five year olds show a marked gender preference along maths/english lines?

Anyway ... that was me being distracted by a detail. I meant to post saying this judging of handwriting as a feminine skill is really damaging. I'm dyspraxic, and my handwriting is truly terrible, although I can do calligraphy quite reasonably if I take the time. I remember the almighty shock I got when I went to an all-girls school and was suddenly told that it wasn't enough for writing in an exam to be legible: marks would be removed if it wasn't elegant, too. hmm

Disturbingly, even then, I knew - because my granny told me - that there was research coming out showing that examiners judged neat, 'girly' handwriting to be less intelligent. And yet, the school still set us up for that fall.

I cannot help feeling that focussing on fine motor skills to 'help' the boys up to level is not going to solve that.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 22:13:34

Those were just examples - things that are gender differences in the classroom. There could be a multitude of reasons why. It's important to be aware of them and to question.

You stlll get handwriting marks in SATs. Up to 3 marks. My writing is crap as is DSs. And yes - there is still judgement on handwriting. But it's unfair on anyone who can't write neatly / quickly as so many exams - especially later - are handwritten and that penalises people who struggle. I get tired after writing lots.

So any method that help anyone improve writing will help them overcome a barrier.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 22:19:03

Takver - ime it doesn't generally traslate to all boys having to have extra lessons, all girls having to do xyz, etc.

It may mean that when the class are doing handwriting, then the teacher will focus more of their time with those they know are needing support, and it may be mean in some subjects that the teacher needs to highlight that key focus group's results in more detail.

A good teacher is not going to ignore those who can't do something just becuse they are the "wrong" gender - or whatever is distinguishing a particular focus group. And they aren't going to make those who can do something, go over the same skill over and over.

But they will still be aware of the focus and the general trends and needs.

For example - writing results for boys is lower thn for girls, nationally. One way around this is to try and engage boys more - big move towards topic areas that are deemed to be more by orientated, more dramatic topic titles, linked activities - and yes, I know that really there are no such thing as boy and girl topics. But what schools do is ask their children for suggestions of topic areas - and then look at them and especially at what the boys are wanting, and working on that.

But schools do this type f thing for lots of different focus group, not just boys - but anywhere where there is a need to "close the gap": pupil premium, free school meals, pakinstani learners, BME, etc.

Oh, absolutely, I do see that. I wasn't suggesting it's bad to question (the reverse if anything!), just commenting there are so many different kinds of factors at play here.

I did not know that about SATS! Crikey. I have to say, I get very impatient that there is a mark for presentation and style in university exams, and I argue it should be taken to refer only to things that actually change how you read the script.

What annoyed me at school was that you could cram maths into a tiny amount of the page, leaving yourself far too little room, and yet if it looked 'neat' it was fine. I was constantly being told off for leaving lines between stages of a process, yet these were practical and helpful given I actually wanted to be able to see what I was doing!

I do agree about overcoming barriers. But isn't there a point where an exercise becomes meaningless? It is not necessary for children to write beautiful, elegant script - they are never going to have to write formal letters on a daily basis without a computer. If it's clear and readable, IMO that should be enough.

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 22:21:19

But isn;t that what most schools do as a way of tackling these issues? Fun, engaging activities for all - but just paying particular notice to your focus group?

noblegiraffe Mon 17-Mar-14 22:21:25

Given that girls outperform boys in all GCSE subjects except maths, I can't imagine that girly neat handwriting is still seen (and thus marked) by examiners as less intelligent. In fact, I would suspect the opposite.

As a secondary school teacher, the issue with boys' handwriting in general isn't that it isn't elegant, rather bordering on illegible. I have also noticed boys demonstrating incredibly bizarre pen grips, with some practically writing with their pen in a fist. Whatever is going on in the primary schools that feed into my school, a focus on boys' handwriting is well overdue.

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 22:22:57

You should go into a primary school grin

Poems written out in best ink - and then decorated around the outside. And yes - there is a gender difference in the decorations as well.

I think we should do a lot more computer work - I hated doing written essays in my exams as I was a slow, messy writer. I can do a lot more on the computer.

Now next week - should I have a biscuit grin

Hulababy Mon 17-Mar-14 22:27:21

Maybe with more schools getting tablets we will see a move to more using computer software for writing over time, you never know.

Though legible handwriting will always be a good thing.

We find that everyone's handwriting drops greatly when they move onto joined writing - and then slowly creeps back up, but not in all cases sadly. Maybe we shouldn't insist on joined writing for all?

Since working in primary schools I hardly ever join my writing, tbh didn't much beforehand. My handwriting is much neater that way!

BTW - the answer to the biscuit is YES, every time.

noble - maybe so. I don't know studies and I must check. Only, well, it's certainly still the case, despite all that outperforming, that women in classrooms expect to speak less than men. So clearly, something is still going wrong somewhere.

kim - YY, computer work is good (and I say that as a computer-hating luddite). I don't so much mind decorative writing-out of something short, when it's clear the exercise is to make it decorative ... I mind when it's not meant to be decorative.

hula - that's interesting. I never mastered joined-up writing at all. I can either join everything (inc words) or not much.

noblegiraffe Mon 17-Mar-14 22:30:27

I suspect you'll only be allowed a biscuit if you preface it with some handwringing comment about how you'll only have a yoghurt for dinner to make up for it. Or how you'll have one today but not tomorrow because it's a fasting day.

Isn't that the accepted script?

kim147 Mon 17-Mar-14 22:32:53

"worried about making a mistake"

Words you hear much more about girls than boys. Girls who don't want to make a mistake so they don't try / worry about rubbing / crossing things out.

Again - a generalisation but you do see it. And it's really important teachers find ways to overcome these barriers.

That rings true, kim. sad

AntiJamDidi Mon 17-Mar-14 23:22:06

Absolutely yes to not wanting to make a mistake being a girls issue. I seem to spend a LOT of time in my classroom trying to persuade the girls to TRY the questions, they don't want to mess up their "best book". It's not a fucking best book, it's an exercise book, for them to work in, try things out, answer questions.

The boys are generally more willing to attempt to solve the problems I set, but the way they present it is appalling. I'm not after beautiful or elegant handwriting, but I would like to be able to read what they've written and be able to follow what methods they've used.

YES is the only acceptable answer to biscuits. Our TA makes biscuits for us every Monday and it's lovely. The others talk about "being good" etc, I just dive in (this may be why I'm the one that's overweight blush)

scallopsrgreat Tue 18-Mar-14 08:01:01

None of this stuff sounds innate to me. All conditioned. As LRD said upthread, the way children are encouraged to play can increase fine motor skills. The whole decoration thing, well look at the messages girls get. Wonder where they get those idea from? And the staffroom conversations about biscuits and the boric are just all about women knowing their worth is tied up in their appearance. Sounds like a veritable feast of internalized stereotyping being played out. No wonder children follow the gender 'norms'. The messages are everywhere.

Goblinchild Tue 18-Mar-14 08:22:28

I used to offer a helpful biscuit and cake eating service for others, so that they weren't tempted.
To the handwriting opinion, I'd have said 'Hmm, and what are you going to do about it?'
But not in my first few weeks working there.

kim147 Tue 18-Mar-14 08:58:56

I've been in a lot of staffrooms as a supply teacher - very female dominated and the conversations are often like this. What's worse is you sometimes hear similar stuff being said in front of / to the children.

Takver Tue 18-Mar-14 09:37:57

"A good teacher is not going to ignore those who can't do something just becuse they are the "wrong" gender - or whatever is distinguishing a particular focus group. "

I think it is more subtle than that - if you present with gender inappropriate problems, there's a greater chance of an unthinking assumption that you aren't trying, for example.

This definitely happened to dd - an assumption that because she could read & speak well, she was 'a bit lazy' / 'didn't want to put the effort in' with regards to written work.

Takver Tue 18-Mar-14 09:38:38

Obviously not all teachers do this at all!!

kim147 Tue 18-Mar-14 09:39:37

And also there's a danger that issues can be ignored because "boys / girls are like that".

Nocomet Tue 18-Mar-14 11:51:12

Sadky too true, I'm certain school would have looked into, dyslexic DD1's difficulties far earlier if she had been a boy.

I hope it's getting better, but 10 years ago the stereo type of dyslexia being more common in boys was still strong.

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