On September 19, 2017, I celebrated my 11th year as CEO of Males and Mentoring (M&M) where I have mentored thousands of boys ages 8-18. Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to interview, listen to their discussions with their peers, and engage in panel discussions about school and life and how they feel about the two. Every week, I would simply write notes on the discussions. While reviewing the notes, I noticed several conversations between boys that ended with a “man I wish my teacher knew that.” Therefore, I decided to share the top five thing boys wish their teacher knew.
First, boys wish their teacher knew that they are viewed as their mom or father they never had. Time requirements in school typically do not vary dramatically from state to state. Most require between 175 and 180 days of school and/or between 900 and 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level. According to my male students, “My teacher reminds me of my mom. She’s nice, she’s tough on you, but that’s because she loves you, and most teachers have your back and forgive you when you make mistakes. They just need a few minutes when you make them mad then they’ll love you again.” Additionally, as it relates to their male teachers they are viewed as that dad they’ve never had. The male students stated, “Very cool, funny, tells me stuff I need to know to be a man, and they really dress nice.”
Secondly, boys wish teachers knew their feelings are easily hurt. Unfortunately, in our society, we’ve dismissed men feelings as less gender and that’s so far from the truth. Due to the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions have been systematically undermined. According to the boys of M&M, “Just because we aren’t telling everyone how we are feeling, doesn’t mean that we are not sad. When our teachers yell at us, get mad at us for not understanding something, those are the two things that hurt us the most.”
Third, boys are easily embarrassed. While reviewing my notes one boy actually stated, “Our feelings are hurt easier than the girls sometimes.” According to 90% of boys the most embarrassing time for them is when a teacher asks them to read aloud. Additionally, majority of the boys stated, “When we don’t know an answer and some of the girls laugh, it really crushes us.”
Next, teachers need to remember that boys are kinesthetic learners. According to the boys in M&M, “Teachers talk way too much and they make us sit for long periods of time. Every day is the same, they review the standards, review the objectives, review the vocabulary words, and by the time they give us the work there’s not enough time to finish it. Also, they give us too much stuff to do when we have not finished the first thing yet.”
Studies utilizing PET scans and MRIs show that boys learn very differently than girls. One of the pioneers studying gender learning-style differences, Michael Gurian, reports several key factors differentiating girl/boy learning:
- Boys show more areas in the brain dedicated to spatial-mechanical strengths, whereas girls generally demonstrate a focus on verbal-emotive processing.
- Girls are generally hardwired to be less impulsive, enabling them to sit still, focus, read, and write at an earlier age than boys.
- Boys are often misdiagnosed with learning disabilities and attention-deficit issues when educators are not aware of the delicate neurology of the male developing brain.
- Boys’ brains need more rest times during a day of learning. When bored, boys tend to “zone out” more than girls and require rest periods before reengaging in learning.
- Boys are hardwired to be single-task focused, whereas girls’ hardwiring demonstrates strength in multitasking. Transitions are more difficult for boys due to this lateralization of the brain versus typical female cross communication of brain hemispheres.
Finally, boys want their teacher to know that all of them are not interested in running, throwing, or catching a ball. If you were to line up 100 boys and ask them what they would like to be when they grow up about, 75-85 of them will answer: a basketball player, a football player, a baseball player, or a rapper. However, according to the panels and the dialogue with the boys, boys are very interested in dirt, bugs, animals, cars, putting stuff together, and exploring things in the woods.” Therefore, when it’s time for recess we just want more stuff than balls and our teachers to not freak out when we show them a new bug that we found, especially the science teachers.”
I’m sure that many teachers already knew of these five things. However, hopefully the direct quotes from the boys will serve as a reminder as to how boys feel about their teacher and the five things they wish their teacher knew.
Gurian, M. & Stevens, K. (2005). The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gurian, M. (2006). The Wonder of Boys. New York: Tarcher-Putnam.
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