In many of today's English speaking societies there is a burgeoning academic literature on 'boys and literacy', 'boys and English' and 'boys and schools'; and also a widespread, media-driven sense of alarm and crisis around the same areas. With an increasing circulation of discourses around boys, there is a potential danger of reinforcing or propagating unproductive stereotypes about boys and girls. In this paper I discuss some of the unexpected findings produced in my recent qualitative research with one Year 8 co-educational English class. My aim was to explore some of the complexities of the interplay between subject English and gender, with particular emphasis on masculinities. My central point in this paper is to argue that my unexpected findings, the deviations from my preconceptions and assumptions, constitute critical points for reflection on our practices as teachers and as researchers: they are the 'cracks and fissures' in the stereotypes, and the spaces for potential negotiation and change in our classrooms.