Monday, April 13, 2009

Educating Boys


I've felt a bit of pressure thinking about an appropriate topic for my first 'real' post to this new venture. I'm not sure why. It's not like there is a huge audience that will be judging my work or a cranky teacher is waiting to tell me where I went wrong. I wonder if this is how the kids feel when they hand in work?! 

Anyway.. here we go.

Boys sometimes get a raw deal in our education system. Research shows that boys and girls brains work and learn differently (Gurian, 2001) and that mainstream schooling better suits the learning style of girls. 

If we think about our own schools, who are the most disruptive kids in the class? Do more boys or girls get sent to the office for behaviour problems? suspension? exclusion? Boys perform more poorly than girls in ALL curriculum areas with the exception of Maths and Science. Do we just accept that this is the case, or do we need to be critical about our teaching practices and consider that what we are doing just isn't working?

We need to find ways to engage boys in learning by tapping into their dominant learning styles. 'Brain breaks', using movement, giving a real life purpose for learning and, of course, using ICTs are just a few techniques that can be used for this but the one area that is most important when teaching boys is RELATIONSHIP.

In schools, girls learn subjects and boys learn teachers (Lillico, More often than not, girls will still succeed in school if they don't have an ideal relationship with their teacher. For boys, relationship is the key and it takes time and patience to establish this. Building a strong classroom team is a must and success will be unlikely if this doesn't happen. The relationship between the students and the relationship between student and teacher are equally as important. Taking the time to establish your team at the beginning of the school year is vitally important. 

I am the teacher of an all boys class in a (co-ed school) and we are currently in our second year together. I can say that taking the time to establish 'real' relationships with my students has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We really do operate as a team in our class and the learning has been really exciting. Boys that were labeled as 'bullies' are now showing their ability to nurture and support their classmates. Students who were not achieving are starting to make gains in their learning by accepting support and encouragement from their team. Placing 'team' expectations on the boys and expecting them to be answerable to their team mates has created a DRASTIC drop in behaviours requiring detention and suspension. Building a REAL relationship is worth the time and effort. Don't try and fake it! The boys will know and they will attempt to eat you alive. It isn't always easy, but you need to find something to connect with for each child in your class. If you can pull this off, you will find a whole new world of learning opportunities available in your classroom.

Having an all boys class was a scary idea at first. 2 years in, I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing. 

Jarrod Lamshed


Pam Thompson said...

I agree wholehearedly Jarrod. Although I don't teach an all boys class like you, I have had the experience of some "difficult" boys. I had a big turnaround with one of my Year 7 boys last year and both he, and his mum, put it down to the positive relationship we had built during the year. It was extremely hard work at first, but so worth it in the end.

MrsW'sBlog said...

Absolutely. If there isn't an authentic connection you are quite limited with their willingness to learn and you stay on just a basic level with them.

Bronwen Eady said...

Congrats on a great first post! It is indeed a scary thing to "put yourself out there" but truly worth it, because you are right, we all have something to teach others.

I found your topic very interesting because it puts into words something many of us know instinctively - that if you can make a connection with your students, especially boys, you can really teach them. It's why boys tend to be more disruptive for new and casual teachers for example. It reminds me of the saying "Children don't care what you know until they know that you care".

Interestingly, I know of a school that initiated single sex classes in a co-ed school, and found the outcomes great for the boys, but terrible for the girls - so much so that they have abandoned the idea. Grouping the girls together brought out all of their nasty competitive behaviours and verbal bullying.

Incorporating strategies to address all learning styles is important, for example I often get my students to act out concepts such as sound waves or molecule movement because it is very effective, especially for boys. And incorporating fun, hands on activities into your teaching is a great way to build rapport with your students. On the whole though, I think focusing on the relationship, regardless of the gender of our students, is the key.

Looking forward to reading your next post.


Michelle TG said...

I've thought about the advantages of separating the boys & girls before. Glad to hear you are finding success.
My only question would be, don't you feel like you could still create the "team" atmosphere in a co-ed classroom?

Nice work on your blog! I wrote about that feeling of sympathizing with your kiddos in one of my own posts. (see ) Blogging really helps you understand what those kids go through when they put their writing "out there" for all to see!

Best wishes,
Michelle TG

Jarrod Lamshed said...

@ Bronwen Eady

Thanks for you comment! Last year was the first year of having single sex classes at our school. We started with 1 boys and 1 girls class at the same year level and both classes have continued this year with the same teachers. Thankfully, we haven't seen the issues you described with out girls. We have been very happy with how everything is going. This year we have started a second boys class in the junior primary (grade 1/2).


Jarrod Lamshed said...

@ Michelle TG

I definitely think you can create a team atmosphere in a co-ed class, and I'm not saying that single sex classes are necessarily the way to go for every situation or school community. This is the way WE chose to go to address the issues around boys not achieving as well as girls, and we are seeing some great improvements.

Having said that, I think there are definitely some benifits in having ALL boys when it comes to my planning as I can plan with the specific learning styles and topics of interest for boys. The boys also seem to be more willing to 'have a go' and talk about different issues from a more personal angle when they are away from the girls. We've found the same advantages in the girls class.


Bronwen Eady said...

Glad to hear the single-sex classes are going well. It is important to give these things a good try in different situations, in case it was something unexpected that caused it to fail in one situation.

Perhaps the teacher of your all girls class could be enticed to write a guest post about his/her experience?

NZWaikato said...

Having taught at low decile (poor) schools in inner-city neighbourhoods my entire teaching career what a positive move to take an all Boys class it is. I have also been impressed by your use of the students culture to enable them to engage in the learning process. Fantastic that we can get such a feel for your classroom by watching your classroom blog progress.