Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Teaching Boys

For the last five years, I've taught mostly boys. I'm also the only woman in the house at home. Here's a few things I've learned about the male species during youth, how they learn, and what helps them thrive. These tips can work great for girls, too. I may be stereotyping a little, but I do see differences between the two genders, so forgive me.

Drink water. When girls are upset, we cry. Boys are told that's not ok (which I totally disagree with), but they still need the release. A big glass of water can go a long way with a boy who is frustrated or emotional.

Time. Another thing boys need when they are upset is a cooling off period. We women can't expect boys/sons/students or grown men/husbands to be ready to talk about it right away. They need time and we need to back off.

Different perceptions. This is tough, but in the real world, boys are judged harshly. I teach my boys that even if a girl gets in your face and yells at you, if you yell back, you're more likely to be the one to get in trouble. It isn't right, but boys are judged more harshly for things like this. They are more likely to get in trouble, drop out, get arrested, etc. They need to know that they will be seen through this societal lens that presumes male guilt and be careful to avoid trouble.

Stay calm. When they mess up, stay calm. Let them know you care about what they are feeling. Yelling at them will only make them react with more frustration. This is easier said than done and goes for boys and girls.

Listen. The stereotype may be that girls talk more, but that doesn't mean boys don't need someone to listen, too. The difference here is that boys especially need to know they will not be judged before the vent and they often don't want to do it in front of a crowd. Allowing for a little one-on-one time between classes or pulling a boy aside can help them open up a lot. Also, validating their feelings by saying things like "no wonder you're frustrated with all that going on" makes them feel more comfortable.

Be up front. This goes with listening. Boys want to know what's going to happen. Will you tell my mom if...? Tell them right away what you have to report and what you don't so they can decide what they would like to share.

Move around. Teenage boys have a lot of energy. We all know that. We teachers need to remember that a 2 minute break is not going to wreck our curriculum calendar. If they look restless or bored, get them to move around. I like this video for a dance break (yes, boys will dance) and my husband does yoga brain breaks.

Action! In addition to moving around, boys like to hear about action. In history, play up the battle scenes. In reading, choose books with action. They love it!

Non-Fiction. In my experience, boys tend to like realistic fiction, historical fiction, or non-fiction texts. Learning about how to do something (build a robot) or how to something works (hurricanes, maybe) is fun and relevant.

Laughter. All kids need to laugh. Let them. Plan for it as part of your class time. It softens the tension, puts people at ease, helps us build relationships. Again, this is not a waste of time. It makes life and learning fun.

What would you add to this list? Are there any tricks that help teachers relate to female students in a unique way? Please comment below!

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