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The Unique Challange of Teaching Boys

There is no doubt in my mind that teaching boys is a more difficult proposition than teaching girls. It is also clear to me that boys have suffered from a traditional classroom setup which has proven far less successful in engaging them than it has for girls.

Currently in Australia, local television station ABC1 is showing a brilliant series entitled, Gareth Malone’s Extraordinary School For Boys. Gareth is a choir master and isn’t qualified to teach, but takes on an 8 week trial with a group of underperforming boys in an attempt to improve their literacy skills.

Mr. Malone draws on his three rules for teaching boys:

1. Make the work feel like play.

2. Have a real sense of competition

3. Have a real sense of risk.

I have just finished watching the first episode and fell in love with his unique and creative style. I also enjoyed watching his colleagues putting down his methods, clearly a byproduct of feeling threatened by this novice.

Below is episode 1 in its entirety. All episodes are available on YouTube.

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4 Responses to “The Unique Challange of Teaching Boys”

  1. John Tapscott Says:

    More boys are referred for behaviour problems than girls. More boys are diagnosed with ADHD. More boys are referred for learning difficulties. Then there are the quiet little girls who don’t give the teacher an ounce of trouble but who miss out on attention because their behaviour is so demure. I taught a class of indigenous boys who had behaviour problems in the mainstream. In my class they were no more trouble than students in the mainstream. On the other hand I remember a young girl (13 yrs) in my woodwork class who was considered “dumb” by the other teachers; a very well behaved child. I had a series of core jobs that my students had to make in order to learn basic woodworking skills. In addition when they had completed the core jobs there were elective jobs to be completed from which they were allowed to choose. This girl chose to make a shoeshine stool with a hinged seat in the form of a box where the brushes and polish were kept. She asked me if she could make it with an upholstered seat, which was not in the plan. We sat down with the plan and worked out the extra materials needed and how it would all go together. This was the first time I had ever given a student a perfect score. The child was not “dumb”. All she needed was an opportunity to excel. This experience prompted me later to include woodwork in the program for a class of children with intellectual “disability”. At the end of the year each child was able to take home a coffee table as a Christmas present for their family, besides having learned a number of useful woodworking skills.

    What’s my point? Isn’t it time teachers were set free from the rigidity that has crept into the system in order to inspire children to learn in a way the current syllabuses only serve to stifle?! Some of my best results as a teacher have been with students with behaviour problems and intellectual “disability” where the normal syllabuses do not apply.

    I have seen excellent, creative teachers, crushed by the system because they didn’t fit the mould; some who were put on improvement programs because dimwitted principals didn’t know what they were looking at and whose main management strategy was bullying.

    • Michael G. Says:

      There is no doubt about that John. The treament of energetic, passionate and creative teachers by a rigid and uncompromising school system and syllabus, is truly upsetting to witness.

  2. Darlena Says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing! I wish there was a similar series in the U.S., as we have the same problems here with our boys. Part of the problem, I think, is that a boy’s need for physical activity during a lesson may be at odds with what some teachers want to do.

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