Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Helping Boys Learn

Happy Teachers Day! Have you thanked a teacher yet?

Schools often get a bad rap, particularly where boys are concerned. In many places, school has become a sit-down-and-shut-up kind of place, a place where recess and gym are being phased out in favor of more...worksheets. Is it any wonder that so many boys are doing so poorly in school?

But this Teachers Day, I want to focus on the educators and authors who are working to make our schools a better place for our sons. People like:

  • Dr. Marcus Jackson. Dr. Jackson is the principal of Pointe South Elementary in Jonesboro, Georgia. He's also the author of "Because My Teacher Said I Can," a children's book that celebrates the power of encouragement. I've had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jackson a couple of times, and let me tell you this: He is determined to help his boys -- the students in his school -- succeed. His school is in one the poorest areas of the state, yet his students' reading and writing scores are among the highest in the state. Inspired by Dr. Jackson, the boys at his school read -- and Dr. Jackson doesn't care what they're reading. "When it comes to reading, we allow students to choose their books," he says. "My boys, if they want to read about Muhammad Ali or baseball and Babe Ruth, that's OK. We'll get to the novels, to To Kill a Mockingbird, later." 
  • Dr. Allison Carr-Chellman.  Dr. Carr-Chellman, a professor of education at PennState, is talking honestly about some of the ways today's classrooms are hindering our sons. Check out this video where she discusses how zero-tolerance policies can inhibit boys' writing, She also talks about ways schools can use video gaming to get boys excited about learning.
  • Richard Whitmire. Richard's book, Why Boys Fail: Saving Our Sons From an Educational System That's Leaving Them Behind, was just honored as one of the Top 5 Educational Books of 2012.
  • Michael Gurian. Some parents of boys are unimpressed with Michael Gurian; they think he focuses too much on unproven or questionable claims of brain-based differences between boys and girls. But as a mom of four boys, I'm convinced that boys are wired differently than girls. (Note: "different" does not mean "better" or "worse.") His book, The Minds of Boys, helped me understand my sons and the challenges they face in society, and for that, I am grateful. 
  • Leonard Sax. Leonard Sax is a medical doctor and PhD-level psychologist who write and speaks frequently about boys and education. His books include Why Gender Matters and Boys Adrift.
  • Peg Tyre. In 2008, Peg published The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School and What Parents & Educators Must Do. Her latest book, The Good School: How Smart Parents Can Help Their Kids Get the Education They Deserve, picks up where The Trouble with Boys left off.
Who else should we add to our Helping-Boys-Learn list?


  1. Awesome list of books for parents of boys, and educators of boys. I'm with you completely. Of course, I applaud that girls are doing equally well as (if not better than) boys but more and more we're seeing boys falling between the cracks in society and in education. It is for the betterment of all society that boys reach their full potential alongside girls. Thankfully, there are a number of champions out there - let's hope more people start listening.

  2. I agree - Awesome list! Boys are wired differently. Just read about how Alexander the Great was educated - with unit studies. He wanted to build a navy so he studied everything associated with that (math,history, literature, science etc) - and he had a desk built so he could stand up and work! I read my boys a list of classes at West Point Military Academy. They wanted to take those classes like battle strategies of the war of 1812. Imagine how suddenly geometry means something; the application is right there - and it explodes!

  3. @bluecottonmemory: That's part of what I like about homeschooling. You can come up with fun classes and unit studies -- like "Battle Strategies of the War of 1812." (The first thing my then-6-yr old son wanted to study when he came home to homeschool was American wars. So we did.)

  4. Ralph Fletcher, author of _Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices_

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Cheryl. I'll check it out.