An experiment in professional learning, collaboration and sharing of ideas.
Monday, April 13, 2009
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, www.boysforward.com). 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.