"Strength lies in differences, not in similarities." - Stephen Covey
The very first time it happened was 8th grade.
I was a solid student. I tried hard to please my teachers. I participated in class and truly worked hard. For over eight years I felt that my teachers believed in me, liked me, and thought I was a good kid. One big part of my desire to please my teachers is that I never wanted to disappoint them, because I knew they believed in me.
Then I arrived in 8th grade.
I had one particular teacher that quite frankly was a mean person. He talked down to kids. He read the newspaper at his desk while we did worksheets. And if he did talk to you it was only to yell at you. I hated his class and because I hated his class I began to hate Science. But then I got in trouble and things really changed. I was finishing a pop quiz and the rule was to pass them to the people in front so they would end up in the front of the room (making it so the teacher didn't have to walk around). As I prepared to pass mine forward I noticed I forgot my name. I pulled the paper back and wrote my name. The teacher accused me of being a cheater and ripped my paper up right then and there. I remember wanting to cry but instead I just put my head down completely defeated. I knew that teacher didn't like me. I knew that teacher thought I was a trouble maker. I knew that teacher didn't believe in me as a person or a student. So what happened? I did the bare minimum for the first time in my life. There was no desire to do my best. My goal was to get by, and don't get noticed. I didn't participate, I didn't talk and I began to dislike school.
Simple Truth: Boys and Girls are VERY different.
What research says about boys is this:
I could keep going, but I think you get the point. There is a gender gap. So the question is, how do we improve this?
Here are two ways things can begin to improve. Let's go back to my beginning story. What I believe about the majority of boys is this, they want people to believe in them! This may seem simple, but it's not. Boys want to feel as though there teacher or coach or parent has complete belief in them. Boys sense doubt and often times this creates anxiety. The anxiety can manifest into anger, sadness, withdrawal, or avoidance. If you connect with a young man, develop trust and truly believe in the best of that young man you are significantly more likely to have that boy run through walls for you. Boys want to be believed in.
A perfect example, I have a fourteen year old son that right now he believes one of his teachers sees him as a trouble maker. His number one goal is to simply go unnoticed and get by. How sad! He's 14 and learning isn't the focus, it's simply survival and move on.
Second, it takes a true art in dealing with boys that make mistakes. My best advice is to deliver consequences out of honor rather than obedience. I would encourage adults to not make a list of rules, rather than a list, define 2-3 clear expectations. Let's be realistic, boys will make mistakes. When a mistake occurs the purpose must focus on restorative practices. For example, a boy defaces property or litters. Restorative practices are critical. It should begin with, the truth. Next comes an apology to show remorse. The third and final step is to make things right. In this situation the student should work with a custodian to see the problem from another persons point of view. This builds on honor, not obedience.
Years ago I watched a Ted Talk by Rita Pierson. Click on her name to watch it. This is still my absolute favorite Ted Talk to date. To quote Rita, "Kids don't learn from people they don't like." If we as a society are going to help boys succeed in school we must acknowledge that there is a problem. Then start doing something about it.
Think about your school or classroom. Is there a difference in behavior? test scores? attendance? suspensions?