By some random act of computer-generated scheduling I have one class this year that has 13 boys and three girls and another one with 12 girls and four boys. They meet back-to-back, immediately after lunch, first the boys, then the girls.
For a variety of reasons I won't go into, there's been a lot of contention surrounding the master schedule this year, and at first I didn't think that my little disproportion was enough to request a change over. It was true that neither of those classes ran quite as I expected, even after I had taught the exact same lesson three times before I ever saw them. The boys were silly and rowdy: they didn't keep their hands, feet, or even their shoulders to themselves, and they took at least ten minutes to wind down from being outside at lunch. The girls, on the other hand, were constantly minding someone else's business-- questioning, directing, and correcting, and openly competing with me for the class's attention. Because I didn't have these issues in my other classes, I was pretty sure it might have something to do with the gender imbalance. Duh.
Still, I felt like it was somehow wrong to complain, that it showed some kind of teaching weakness and might even be considered to be whining. I thought that a veteran educator such as myself should easily be able to accommodate these different group dynamics, so I decided to approach it from a research perspective, noting the differences and varying my instructional strategies to address them. Well...
Let me state for the record that all of my English classes are heterogeneously grouped, by my choice. I have found that diversity of all kinds is a strength in our reading and writing groups, and maybe that's why I'm still struggling with these classes. Those guys are still pretty goofy and those girls are still really bossy, and all that social energy is beginning to impact the amount of work those classes get through.
I haven't decided exactly what I want to do next, but I will confess that I pulled up the schedules for every child in each of those sections, and it was pretty easy to find a two-for-two switch with a couple of other teachers that will create a little more gender diversity in my 5th and 6th periods.
Should we do it?