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Saturday, August 23, 2008

India Hook Profiled in Single Gender Class Article

India Hook Elementary fifth-graders Tripp Hornsby and Zachary Cawley in Rock Hill compare heights in an all-boy class. CMS now has some single sex classes. DAVIE HINSHAW –

India Hook Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Nikki Godfrey-Hill is surrounded by boys in her class on the first day of school. Proponents say single-gender classes address differences in how boys and girls learn and mature. DAVIE HINSHAW –

ROCK HILL Austin Bailey was psyched about starting fifth grade on Wednesday.

“All my friends are in this class, and there are no girls to bug you,” said Austin, whose classroom door at India Hook Elementary sports pirate skulls and crossed swords.

At the all-girl class next door, a multi colored pirate ship has dolphins jumping alongside and a sail saying “Welcome aboard!” Rebecca Evans and Hannah Simpson are equally happy to be there, saying they'll do better without boys picking on them.

These 10-year-olds are part of a trend that's booming in South Carolina and spilling into Mecklenburg County: Separating adolescent genders so teaching can be tailored to different brains and bodies.

Boys are more likely than girls to flunk classes, rack up discipline violations, be assigned to special education and drop out. Some say that's because traditional classrooms set boys up for failure by demanding that they sit still, keep quiet and focus for long stretches of time.

Expect controversy

Segregation of any kind can be controversial, Chadwell says. When he spoke Tuesday about the “drama” that ensues when girls interpret tones of voice, he got a sharp rebuke from a woman on Hopewell's faculty: “That's the same illogical stuff that says women can't be principals or president.”

Chadwell said he's not talking about limiting anyone. Separate classrooms are designed to break down stereotypes.

“There's nothing about gender differences that says boys and girls can't learn the same things,” he said.

Or as India Hook teacher Nikki Godfrey-Hill says, her boys and Carman Austin's girls are on different roads to the same destination. “My road is a lot different from hers and a lot noisier.”

Natural styles

Austin and Godfrey-Hill attended a talk by Chadwell last year. As he described what works for boys and girls, they kept whispering to each other.

Austin – soft-spoken, well organized, given to focusing on a task until it's finished – realized she's a natural girl teacher.

Godfrey-Hill, who loves roller-blading and hunting, realized that the loud, fast-paced personality that had hindered her as a child could be a plus in teaching males.

As she took her 17 boys through first-day paperwork and rules, she peppered them with quips, fist-bumps and high-fives. They began to realize they wouldn't get in trouble for making a little noise.

“Capiche?” she asked them after giving instructions.

“Capiche!” they called back.

She took them through the list of things they can't bring to school.

“The next one I hope we don't have to worry about in here,” she said.

“Drinking?” a cutup said.

“Nail polish and makeup.”

Cue the groans and gags.

Other versions

Fifth-graders at India Hook chose whether they wanted a single-sex class; there were just enough for one class each. Students at Fort Mill Middle, also in York County, had the same option – and Godfrey-Hill's 13-year-old son said no.

Read the full article here:

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