Teach to boys’ energy, curiosity, drive

Stop Penalizing Boys for Not Being Able to Sit Still at School, writes Jessica Lahey, who teaches middle school, in The Atlantic.

“Something is rotten in the state of boys’ education,” she starts. Boys are kept back at twice the rate of girls, according to Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys: Strategies That Work and Why Boys are “diagnosed with learning disorders and attention problems at nearly four times the rate of girls,” do less homework, earn lower grades and drop out of high school in higher numbers. Only 43 percent of college students  are male.

Many teachers and school administrators think “boys are too fidgety, too hyperactive, too disruptive, derailing the educational process for everyone while sabotaging their own intellectual development,” Lahey writes.

Peek into most American classrooms and you will see desks in rows, teachers pleading with students to stay in their seats and refrain from talking to their neighbors. Marks for good behavior are rewarded to the students who are proficient at sitting still for long periods of time. Many boys do not have this skill.

What works for boys?  Teaching Boys: A Global Study of Effective Practices recommends lessons:  that result in an end product (a booklet, a catapult, a poem, a comic strip), that are structured as competitive games, that require movement, that require boys to assume responsibility for the learning of others, that address open questions or unsolved problems, that combine competition and teamwork, that focus on independent, personal discovery and realization and that introduce drama in the form of novelty or surprise.

In short, ‘the most effective way to teach boys is to take advantage of that high energy, curiosity, and thirst for competition,” Lahey concludes. And it’s not as if girls can’t learn from these sort of lessons.

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  1. SuperSub says:

    While I agree that there is an issue in boy’s education, I’m hesitant about Lahey’s lesson suggestions – they look a lot like what’s been implemented over the past 20 years across the nation’s public schools… project-based group constructivist navel-gazing.
    I think he hit it on the nail about administrator’s and teacher’s attitudes, though. Generally, boys and girls are different animals with regards to maturation and social dynamics, and school personnel need to be willing and capable to handle both. Its less about curriculum and more about class management.

    • SuperSub says:

      Doh…hit the nail on the head…that’s what I get for posting before my morning coffee.

  2. “Peek into most American classrooms and you will see desks in rows, teachers pleading with students to stay in their seats and refrain from talking to their neighbors.”

    Actually, if you peek into most classrooms, you will likely see a female teacher, one whose style exactly matches the above description. In our district, the K-8 is nearly 90% women, when you count teachers, paras, and administrators. It’s not surprising that many boys and girls who are active and dynamic kids are feeling a little stifled. http://mathcurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-problem-with-boys-in-school-is.html

    • SuperSub says:

      And the sad part is that its not even a male/female thing. With the exception of phys ed, I never had a male teacher until 6th grade. None of the female teachers, though, seemed exasperated when dealing with misbehaving boys. They were fair and strict, and knew when to give students room to run and play and when to reign them in. Didn’t bat an eyelash when we played kickball and dodgeball, but did enforce good sportsmanship. The psychobabble classroom management crap that teachers are taught in ed school and carries over into district policies nowadays is what drives it… luckily, when I got my ed degree seven years ago, all three of the professors retired after 30+ year careers and one was a nun.

  3. Today’s teachers do not seem to like or understand boys. They see them as defective girls. I see the current ES teachers as the ones who loved to play school, lots of arts and crafts, lots of touchy feely stuff, no competition and no serious content. My old maid ES teachers appreciated boys and the ways they differ from girls and their classroom policies reflected that. BTW I think desks in rows help kids concentrate and groups are a waste of time, aka pooling ignorance. They are likely to be hijjacked by the most socially adept and teachers will not realize it because those kids are like them.

    • SuperSub says:

      I agree on your desk comment. I’ve always found that boys, as a population, perform better in highly structured individualistic environments where the expectation are clear and consistent.

  4. It would also be nice if both boys and girls were .not fed a diet of wonder woman and the wimp stories.

  5. My boys at the ele. age preferred desks in rows, isolated from neighbor. That kept other people’s bodies off their workspace, away from their personal supplies, and chitchatting students, aides, and sped teachers far enough away that they could get their work done without using earplugs or moving out in to the hall.

    • Amen. My son’s 5th grade teacher told me that when she assigned him a seat at the back, on the edge of the room, he replied “That’s the seat I’ve been wanting all year.”