They Should Spell It “Boysterous” #JusJoJan

The prompt for Linda Hill’s Just Jot It January was sent in by my buddy Dan Antion, who suggested the word “boisterous.”

A lot of people started their entries with the definition of “boisterous”, so I’m not going to do that. All I’m going to say is that the first definition of the word sounds like the job description for a boy.

Let me share an example. When I was in seventh grade, we were still segregated, with boys in one class and girls in the other. The boys’ teacher was Mr. Kavanaugh, the first male non-gym teacher at St. Ignatius School. We did have some classes where half the boys would go to the girls’ classroom and vice versa, but we spent a good deal of time without the girls.

Once a week (I think our day was Friday), we had art with Miss Connelly, also known as my Fabulous Auntie Jill, who had just returned to St. Ignatius after several years. One Friday was the last day for one of our classmates, Rory O’Donovan, whose family was moving to Ireland, so before Jill arrived in the art room, Mr. Kavanaugh came in with a cake, which he presented to Rory, and we all sang “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow.” Being thirty-five 12- and 13-year-old boys, we sang it with gusto, or, if you will, boisterously, i.e. loud as hell.

We had just launched into the second verse (same as the first) when suddenly it got very quiet. Standing in the doorway was Mother Marcella, our principal, and she was not happy. “Mr. Kavanaugh, may I see you in the hall, please?” They left the room together and closed the door behind them.

I learned later from my aunt (it’s kind of fun being the nephew of one of the teachers) that Reverend Mother, who was all of five feet tall, ninety pounds soaking wet, and, as we learned later, suffering from cancer, was, pardon my French, tearing Mr. Kavanaugh a new asshole, not only for allowing us to be so loud, but for being a willing participant, and for compounding his transgressions by having the audacity to tell her, “Rory was leaving, and we were just singing.”

Christina Hoff Sommers, who wrote the book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men, wrote an article for Time Magazine that gave three suggestions for reform in education: reintroduce recess, turn boys into readers, and allow them to use and develop their imaginations. These sound like good suggestions to me. But then, I always felt like we got this in school. Wonder where it all went?

22 thoughts on “They Should Spell It “Boysterous” #JusJoJan

  1. I don’t want you to think that I only read your last paragraph, but those three suggestions for reform are a great idea! As a retired teacher, I agree with you in wondering where it all went! I think a little Boysterous is exactly what some young men need! ~ Lynn

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  2. Oh I so love this for many reasons! I had many a nun as teacher during my time grades K to 12. You painted pictures with your words and I could SEE those boys singing with gusto! I picture our old choir room and the risers invoking a mental image of the good ole days. I am all for reintroducing recess. Heck even at work I think we ALL need time to go out and play :). Also my niece and nephew on B’s side of the family call me Auntie Jill. There’s two of us :). Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

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  3. I’m a BIG fan of recess and think it should never be taken away, and do, in fact, think plenty of kids may benefit from even more activity midday. So much depends on the teacher these days.

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    1. We were lucky in that we walked to and from school and went home for lunch. I think about the kids in the neighborhood that get picked up by the bus at 0-dark-thirty and spend the entire day shut up in a building, no matter the weather, and it’s depressing. I’d be bouncing off the walls by lunchtime.

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    1. Rory was a good guy, and deserved all the boisterousness we put into the song. I could understand that yes, we were very loud and were likely disturbing the other classes, but Reverend Mother overreacted. Mr. Kavanaugh was the perfect teacher for a roomful of seventh-grade boys.

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  4. Reading this, there was a familiarity to is…in a way. Went to a Catholic boarding school from 6yrs-12years. Having fun was not something that was ever encouraged. Ever.

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  5. Fun story, John! I agree with – wonder where it all went! You know, one size doesn’t fit all – never has and never will. It seems too much is being over analyzed these days and who are “they” that think they are experts on what’s good for us. End of rant. 🙂

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    1. I know the concern is that “our students are lagging behind the rest of the world!” but if they were to analyze what the rest of the world is doing, they’d find that the rest of the world is doing what we stopped doing (such as recess, art and music programs, shop, home ec etc.). All that time is being used to teach kids how to take tests.

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  6. I like that word but it is often used to describe boys and men not girls or women which is a bummer as we can be boisterous. I enjoyed your story..made me smile

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