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?