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"What's over that mountain?"

"What's over that mountain?"

In working with students over the years, I have referred to this phrase to describe the difference in the nature of a boy and a girl. Most teachers and parents know that boys tend to be the ones to push the limits. Girls tend to shy away from doing that. (Of course these are generalities that do not include every single child in every single situation.)

One example I can give is doing homework assignments. The boys I have taught in my classes will usually be the the first ones to come to class without their homework. Is this wrong? Yes. Will they try it? Yes. Why? Because they have to know what's over that mountain. As soon as I have said, "Do your homework" something is driving them to find out what happens if they don't. They must know what is over that mountain.

Girls however dread this moment. They will generally do their homework and want to please me. They agonize over missing an assignment...they DON'T want to find out what is over the mountain.

As a teacher, I have come to expect that one of the boys will try me...they will go to uncharted, uninvited places to find out what happens there. There is an innate drive in the boys it seems to find out what happens over the the mountain. (Girls sometimes don't even want to acknowledge there is a mountain. They are happy in the green valley.) Even if I warn the boys there are bad consequences, my words are not enough. They have to experience it. They have to go there.

I have learned to be ok with letting boys go there...Letting them experience the other side of this mountain without judging them too harshly. I am consistant in my responsive message- that not doing your homework is not a good place to be. Usually there are negative consequences, even as I inwardly smile at their testing me. If they don't do their homework and they get in trouble, then they find out for themselves that bad things await them on the other side of the mountain. They will eventually decide this is not a good place; this is not worth the effort if I am sending the right message in response. Oftentimes just knowing what is on the other side of the mountain satisfies them.

Though the boys I work with will challenge me, I still love them. I love that they must know. I love that have to explore the other side of the mountain for themselves. I love that words can't stop them on their journey because they must experience it for themselves.

Sometimes the other side of the mountain they choose to explore might be more wonderful than expected. For example, I had a four year old boy decide recently to stop the whole class to tell me he loved me. This was rewarded with a big hug and a big "I love you too!" He found out what happened if he showed love. He saw a mountain and went over it and it was great!

So stay encouraged and don't be too hard on those students who have to find out for themselves what is on the other side of the mountain. Whether it's good or it's bad, train them appropriately but patiently. They will learn. And try to enjoy their exploration with them.

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