Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Trouble with Boys

By Michelle Goff, Age 17, Idaho

 

As a fifth grader, I decided boys were not to be touched. I avoided them at recess and I avoided them in class and I avoided picking them as partners. Boys, in my opinion, were the work of the devil – even young, innocent, friendly little boys.

Yet the day came when I could no longer avoid Satan’s dirty little creatures, and they could no longer avoid me. It was December; I was ten. My teacher had just assigned a daunting project: working in groups of four, we would build a bridge that could withstand an earthquake simulation test. Spaghetti, marshmallows, teamwork and cooperation were the only tools we had to complete this project. Glancing nervously at my friends around the room, I silently prayed that at least one of them would be on my team. So I was horrified when my teacher announced that I would be working with David and Michael and James. Boys, every one of them.

I sullenly sauntered toward the table we had been assigned to. While a group full of boys was a tough break in and of itself, this was by no means the worst part. I would have to sit with these boys for the rest of the month while we finished our project. Yes, I would have to sit with them and smell them and feel the immaturity oozing out of their conversations. How could my teacher do such a thing to me?

Fortunately, my friend Emily was in the same position. Deciding we had had enough of this travesty, we confronted our teacher one day before recess. Using our sweetest smiles and our irrefutable logic, we pleaded to be free from the boys. We begged her to put us in the same group; we would make the best bridge she had seen in all her years of teaching! How could she refuse? Yet somehow, she did. We remained trapped in this situation; boys surrounded us and we had no way to escape.

The first day on the job was a living nightmare. According to David, I was the best at math; therefore, I was assigned the position of accountant for the bridge-building team. The click-clack of the chalk on the board felt like a death sentence as my teacher hammered out our duties.

Work began. We developed several ideas for the bridge; none of them seemed realistic to me, and by the end of the day, we had accomplished little. Emily and I felt exhausted; the boys, confident they would win. As frustrated as I was, I soon realized that some of my other friends were just as frustrated, if not more: the girls in their groups were all trying to control the project, yet none of them were presenting good ideas. The boys in my group actually seemed preferable to those girls; they were quite agreeable, and they did not care that I wanted to be in charge.

That was when it hit me. James had presented the perfect idea for a bridge this morning, with a rectangular base, triangular anchors, and just a few marshmallows among the spaghetti sticks. I had been absorbed in the disgusting nature of their masculinity; consequently, I had failed to understand how intelligent these boys really were.

The next day, I returned to the group with a big smile and suggested that we pursue the triangular design. David and Michael took the news with relief; James, with pride. We were building his bridge, and it was going to stand up to that earthquake simulator. The next few days were spent in tireless work. We broke the sticks, tore the marshmallows, and compiled our masterpiece.

When we were at last finished, we proudly displayed our bridge at the front of our table. We were poised and ready, and so were the other classmates, but my group was selected to go first.

Needless to say, our bridge survived the earthquake. Emily’s group’s bridge also survived. A few others did too, but none held up as well as ours. We built that bridge, and that bridge built us. Not only was our creation strong, but our team bond had proved strong as well, despite earlier adversity. This day marked not only the completion of a successful project, but a shift in my view about the opposite gender. I had learned through this experience to never again negatively stereotype others based on their gender. Those boys had been quite delightful to work with – much nicer than the girls in my friends’ groups. I had even gone as far as to discover that I liked working with boys more than with girls; no longer were members of the opposite gender cootie-infested pains. In fact, these young men were not really from Mars. They were humans, determined and able to succeed, just like me.