Guest Post: Teaching XX Versus Teaching XY

8th grade girls are _________. Yep, all that plus a bad attitude. Gotta love 'em.

Guest post by Maria Castro, Guest Blogger, From The Tough Cookie Mommy

Wife, Mommy, New York City Teacher, Career Woman and Much More

Thanks for giving me the night off, Maria!

All my life I have heard both sides of the gender debate between men and women. Actually, it has always been a subject that I have felt passionate about. As far as I was am concerned, women could do anything that men could do and we deserve to be equal to one another, blah, blah, blah, I digress…Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing could have prepared me for how different it is to teach Middle School boys from Middle School girls. You want to see gender differences, walk into my eighth grade classroom. This age group personifies every possible stereotype regarding men and women that has ever been spoken by any person on this entire planet.

Let me begin by introducing you to the typical teenage boy in Middle School, he is a walking, talking, breathing hormone with legs. Although I have been known to be a master of hyperbole, this is by no means an exaggeration. Boys this age are literally reduced to the primitive ways of the cavemen that we see in prehistoric films and texts. Short of clubbing the girls that they like over the head, they engage in every other typical caveman behavior such as grunting, spitting, passing gas, making weird sounds, and competing with their male counterparts. As an English Language Arts teacher, I am reduced to censoring certain words when I read texts aloud to my class due to my male students’ hormonal impulses. I kid you not, I cannot say the words jerk, ball, nut, penalize, or pianist in my classroom for this will incite a full blown attack of hysterical laughter from every single boy in the room.

Girls, on the other hand, are a much more complicated group to teach. Unfortunately, many of the catty behaviors that prevent adult women from maintaining positive female friendships begin during Middle School. Although they perform academically better than males, their main social objectives are to destroy each other through perpetuating vicious gossip, stealing each other’s boyfriends, writing obscene things about each other inside bathroom stalls, and just being better looking than one another. They are experts in the fine arts of manipulation, deception, flirtation, and competition. If you think I am exaggerating in this description, I dare you to spend one whole day inside a Middle School. As a woman, and self proclaimed feminist, it has been extremely difficult to see that these types of behaviors start off so early.

In terms of hormones and romance, Middle School girls are just as concerned with the boys as the boys are with them. The difference is that girls look for boys, at this age, to make them feel pretty and validate them. Also, they look for boys to give them the affection that is sometimes lacking at home. Boys look for girls in Middle School for purely physical reasons, hence why I refer to them as hormones with legs. Ironically, this very much mirrors the reasons why men and women interact romantically into adulthood. Women equate sex with love and feelings of being beautiful or special and men equate sex with, well sex.

As the teacher, I have to assert myself as the alpha female in the room and keep a flow chart of when I have PMS and when my girls have PMS. A room full of a woman and teenage girls with PMS is a recipe for disaster. Although I say this “tongue in cheek” I do have to take these things into consideration when teaching because not doing so can mean the difference between a discussion between teacher and student about the importance of good behavior in class or getting cursed out by a 14 year old in front of 32 other 14 year olds.

Teaching the boys is a little different, their behavior in class is dependent on whether their favorite team won the night before, whether the girl they asked out turned them down, or whether they had an argument with another boy in the school yard because they were trying to mark each other’s territory. Boy students will generally not answer back and will just sulk and be upset when you correct them in the classroom. This is the opposite of girl students who will talk back to you, suck their teeth, and mumble how much of a bi*ch you are under their breath. Boys will at least wait to call you that outside after dismissal.

The good news is that they only lose their minds during this fleeting time in their lives called adolescence. Years later they will return to the wonderful boys and girls that their poor parents remember if only a little bit older. Of course, they will reflect upon their adolescence differently than their parents and old teachers will. They will remember that I was too strict, that I gave too much homework, that I never let them chew gum in class, and that I held detention every Friday. Hopefully, they will also remember that I cared and that they very nearly sucked my life force with their teenage shenanigans.

Maria Castro is the Tough Cookie Mommy

A few words from Maria, about her blog and herself:

Why the name “Tough Cookie Mommy” you ask? It’s simple, I have been through it all and will get through it all, God willing. Your experiences make you the person that you are so you should not regret one single event in your life.

I am a native New Yorker who was raised in Spain until the age of 8. Since my return to the States I have made my life in New York City and I love it here. Don’t let anyone lie to you, New Yorkers are great people who will never judge you and accept you at your best and at your worst. Also, if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere in the world. It is an unforgiving city where weakness is not tolerated and diversity is the word of the day.

It is my privilege to be the mother of two sons, ages 7 and 4, currently. They are the most important people in my life and everything that I do is for their benefit. Both of my boys have unique and distinct personalities. My older son is sensitive and playful and my younger son is tough and independent. I am greatly enjoying watching them become individuals and interact with one another.

My husband and I have been married going on eleven years, this November. I couldn’t have asked for a more caring and devoted husband. He truly is my soulmate and we are connected on every possible level. We take great pride in raising our sons with integrity and strong family values. It is our hope that they will become positive and productive members of society with strong ties to their family.

I am also a careerwoman. I possess a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Spanish Language and Literature and a double minor in Education and Multilingual Journalism from CUNY. Additionally, I also possess a Master of Science degree in Education in Literacy Studies, grades 5-12 also from a CUNY school. I have spent the last 10 years as a Middle School English Language Arts teacher for the NYC Department of Education and I love my job! Don’t let anybody tell you that teaching is easy because it is exhausting, however, it is extremely rewarding.

These are my stories, reflections, triumphs, tragedies, comedies, obstacles, epiphanies, thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I hope that they will give you some insight into who I am and maybe, make you reflect upon who you are. You might be a tougher cookie than you think…

15 Responses to “Guest Post: Teaching XX Versus Teaching XY”
  1. Pamela says:

    Just got a comment on FB about how much a reader enjoyed this post. She has two kids in middle school. I have one — Samantha is 13 and in 8th grade. And you have just described her clique of friends, male and female. However, she said that while there is a lot of writing on the walls in the girls’ bathroom, that no one SHE hangs out with does that. *Snort*

  2. Daria says:

    Love it! Although having a daughter that is 8 (3rd grade), has opened my eyes to exactly how early that catty, girly stuff starts. I was the nerd on the outside looking in growing up, but not my daughter. She’s “that” girl. The one that is popular, that has her “in” friends and is focused on her appearance 16/7 (she sleeps the other 8 hours).

    At parent teacher conferences last week, her teacher encouraged her to use her powers of popularity for good – not evil. Positive leadership.

    I believe it will make a difference for a few days. She is over the moon to learn she is liked by everyone – I just hope she heard the other stuff too…

    How did I raise this little girl? The 8 year old going on 14? I can only imagine junior high. I don’t think there is enough wine in the world!!

    As a middle school teacher, how to you recommend communicating with the teachers at that age to learn about these social things? Academics you know from report cards and HW, but what about social?

    • It is definitely important to maintain open communication with the teacher regarding to social habits of your child. I tend to share with parents trends that I am noticing with regards to cliques or being a follower. The best way to stay ahead of your teenager in this respect is to communicate with their teacher regularly and ask questions about what your child’s habits are in class and in school. You would be surprised how much information the teacher will be able to give you about this. I can pretty much summarize all of the social habits of each and every one of my students. After all, they spend a lot of time with me and I have the opportunity to observe them in various social settings.

      • Pamela says:

        Maria: our youngest daughter was late or skipped homeroom (their first period) 23 times in 7th grade. Due to a communication breakdown, the school did not inform us (nor punish her) until #23. The little darling thought she was getting away with it! Anyway, when everyone got on the same page, I found the teacher to be a wealth of support and information. IN the end, she said “don’t worry about her, she’s a good girl, this was a small rebellion.” I’m thinking, “SMALL? TWENTY-THREE TIMES IS NOT SMALL.” But you know what? She was smarter than me. Samantha has her again this year, and the teacher said that Sami is the helpful kid now. I would never have believed it. I thought we were in for a tough time. But the teacher explained all the behaviors of the kids who are really heading for trouble, and that they don’t realize how she, their teacher, sees all of it, because the kids don’t really think about adults as players in their “real” dramas. 🙂 Hallelujah for caring middle school teachers.

  3. SenoraG says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your post and agree with it 100%. Having raised both boys and girl I will take the boys any day. Thankfully my daughter is 23 and wonderful but man those were a tough few years.

  4. LBDDiaries says:

    This made me smile (and so glad mine is out of school and far far away from that age) – you are one brave woman, teaching now days. My mom truly taught back when spit balls was one of the worst offenses. A teacher now days is an amazing miracle worker.

    • Your words have warmed my heart. As a teacher, I am so used to hearing teacher criticisms that it really affects me when someone validates what a difficult job it is to be a teacher. I bet you were one of those supportive parents that I love and very involved in establishing a “united front” with your child’s teachers.

  5. Educational post. Now, how do I apply this to my scenario.

  6. Eric Hutchins says:

    Well done, interesting post, I have a tremendous amount of respect for our teachers “in the trenches” it is a job I know that I am not capable of doing.

    Thank you for the insight.

    • Hi, Eric. It is good that you are aware of your boundaries. Some people are under the impression that anybody can be a teacher. As I like to jokingly say, you have to be a little crazy yourself to deal with the craziness of adolescence and become a Middle School teacher. I have seen my share of people jump into this profession only to realize that they weren’t cut out for it. It is definitely not a career for the faint at heart. Thank you for your respect and consideration.

  7. Christina says:

    As a former middle school alpha female (well, also current, but currently using her powers for good and not evil) I can say that on the inside, I didn’t “feel” popular or well-liked. I don’t think I liked myself very much at all until well into my late-20s. I think kids are hard on other kids, and on grownups, because it beats beating up on yourself. At least that’s my feeling on it, in retrospect of the horrible teens/20s.

    • Hi, Christina. I completely agree with you. It is a defense mechanism to mask how insecure and uncertain they feel during this confusing time in their life. Being a teenager is no easy task because you are stuck in limbo between being a child and being an adult. It is definitely a tough time in anyone’s life…

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