What does a female Kindergarten teacher do when she ends up with an entire classroom of boys? How does she best serve them without trying to mold them into the norm? Well, it’s not really that difficult. Friends and colleagues cringed when I told them that one year, I had 15 five year old boys in my class and not one girl. “Oh my God Lauren, that must have been living hell!” Is this how the world sees our boys?
“On the contrary ladies, it was one of the most poignant years of my teaching career.”
In all honesty, I felt blessed to have been entrusted with such a gift. I was ready to put into practice what I had been learning the year before in my own self-development and awareness. Without this work, I doubt I would have been ready to graciously honour these boys, nourish their masculinity, and watch them graduate into grade one as strong, emotionally-secure young men.
To honour is to serve one’s highest good and the good of all concerned. In Taoism, honour is an inner quality ‘more precious than the finest jade.’ Being a Montessori teacher allows the graceful freedom to make adjustments where needed in order to be of utmost service to the children in our care. With a classroom brimming in testosterone, this would translate into the acknowledgement of the evolution of man: more time outdoors, digging in the mud, barreling with sticks, blazing through trails, role-playing, swinging from tree branches, lifting rocks, and building shelters. It would also mean taking a different path with the curriculum, one that would bring in a deeper understanding of early civilizations, with various hands-on ways of safely exploring who they are in their essence: strong and focused.
To nourish my 15 tigers physically and intellectually didn’t seem like such a daunting task, but emotionally meant walking a fine line that I had only hoped I was prepared for. They needed clear boundaries, with no female wishy-washiness. They needed compassion for both their enemies and comrades, with a self-control that lingered on ‘genius.’ They needed a clear and concise non-violent language to understand themselves and be able to communicate this to others. Putting a sword in the untrained hand is dangerous, but providing the foundation through emotional intelligence while learning to use it safely is what would propel these boys forward.
The most defining moment was near the end of our year together. I watched the boys at their tribal best, with mud-splattered faces, calculating rivalries and snapping fallen branches into the harshest of swords. They ran in unison, barking orders and holding their weapons high. I always kept my eye on one boy in particular, a boy who often needed extra guidance and patience from all of us throughout the year. He caught up to his opponent and with stick raised, he was finally able to notice the fear and uncertainty in his friend’s eyes. Realizing this, he dropped the stick, they wrestled to the ground, rolled around in the soil, and laughed hysterically as they helped one another up. Tears came to my eyes in the realization that this boy had finally become ‘aware,’ that all my hope and trust in his process came to fruition with that simple gesture only a man could understand. He was now on his way to building the solid foundation of trust that the rest had incorporated earlier on that year.
This day just happened to be Mother’s Day, a day that we transform our classroom into the Cherub’s Tea House and invite all the moms to come. The boys washed off their warrior markings and changed their clothes, anxiously awaiting their mother’s knock on the door. One by one, my little men greeted their mothers with a flower, hugged them with heart and soul, and strode hand-in-hand to a special table for two. Here, they served their mothers with elegance, then served themselves, and sat down to enjoy a conversation that only a mother’s heart could yearn for…
We all shared tears that afternoon, tears that allow our boys to be boys, our men to be men, and our hearts to be filled.