I've had some high/low light this week, but this was the most informative of the situation that the boys have at my school.
I'm in my room while my class is in gym class. I'm feverishly making sure all my lessons will flow and that my new Best Friend the Promethean board works/sounds good. In walks a 5th grader.
"Son, what are you doing in here?"
"Miss D sent me in here."
"What did you do to get sent in here?"
"She said I was talking."
"Well, were you talking?"
"But nothing. You said you were talking so SHE didn't say it. You just did."
"Don't waste my time son. You were talking. You broke her rules and got on her nerves so much that she didn't want you in her room for the lesson. You didn't do the right thing and you need to take responsibility for that. The sooner you do the sooner you'll make more progress."
"Man you're mean Mr. Whitaker."
"Thank you. I do my best to be as mean as I can. But I'm not nearly as mean as life will be to those that don't take responsibility for themselves."
(Deer in headlights stare)
"Now go sit down in the corner and please be quite. I have work I'm responsible for."
This just isn't a problem with the boys, but the entire student body. Very few know how to or want to take responsibility for themselves. It's much easier to point the finger for their issue than to say "hey I didn't do my assignment and that's why I don't know this subject." They fail to see that when they take the onus for not knowing they can also change it around next time around. "I did my assignment. I didn't goof off and now I have a grade that shows just how hard I worked."
If I'm able to help most of my 4th graders embrace responsibility for themselves this year I know I'll have the highest math scores in the building. It's the only thing holding my students back, themselves.