As an educator for 20 years in the urban areas of Atlanta, I have always possessed an unrelenting belief that my students could and would achieve academic excellence under my guidance. My confidence in this belief is rock solid. While serving as a classroom teacher, I knew deep in my soul that my students would be successful because I was their teacher. Not because I held some magic spell that no one else possessed, but because I possessed this belief—if I was going to be an effective teacher, I had to keep my students motivated and inspired about learning. That was my mission and I worked relentlessly to achieve this.
Energy, excitement, respect and enthusiasm were the tools I utilized on a daily basis to achieve the desired result. I knew that if my delivery was boring, I was going to have a hard time keeping students not just focused, but motivated to learn. This was especially true for my male students. Studies have shown that boys possess higher levels of testosterone than girls and as a result, they tend to be more active. Consequently, more physical engagement in the classroom is needed to keep them engaged than most of their female classmates. Recognizing this, I always incorporated opportunities in my daily assignments which would allow my male students, as well as my female students, to partake in some type of hands-on, group or project based learning activity.
Please allow me to share a few tips that teachers and parents may use to keep their boys fully engaged in school:
• Build a strong relationship with your students. As obvious and rudimentary as it sounds, your students must actually like you if they are going to be successful in class. In order for them to be to like you, you must show that you like them.
• Understand the learning style of male students. Most boys are kinesthetic learners. The days of students sitting in class while their teacher lectures for an hour are gone. Lecturing only appeals to auditory learners. This spring, our Leadership team interviewed over 300 male students. We asked, “What can teachers do to make learning more fun?” One hundred percent of the boys responded “less lecturing and more group work and projects.”
• Make real life connections to the classroom and student interests. Most boys when asked what would they like to be when they grow? Most would answer some type of professional ball player. What an excellent opportunity to incorporate the importance of math in sports! For example, The Falcons gained 200 rushing yards against the Giants. Wide receiver Julio Jones gained ¼ of those running the ball. How many yards did Julio gain running the ball? Matt Ryan throws a 15-yard reception to receiver Julio Jones. How many feet did this pass completion entail? These are two examples where a math teacher can really make math exciting for her male students. Additionally, notice the word entail in the second example. This will immediately spark a child’s interest in this word, thus enriching his vocabulary.
• Establish a relationship with your child’s teacher. While I was growing up, my mother took on three jobs to make ends meet. Her schedule did not permit her to attend PTA meetings or conferences, but I always knew she had respect, trust, and appreciation for all of my teachers. A healthy relationship between the parent, teacher, and administration forms a powerful triangle. This is a formula for success
* Place a high value on independence and responsibility. These two skills are essential to academic success, and parents can teach them at home. For example, if emptying the trash is one of your son’s chores, please allow him to complete the chore by replacing the trash bag. It is important for parents to give their son more independence and responsibility based on their growing needs. This is a very important requirement for academic success, and this is one that many boys struggle with in school.
• Engage, engage, and engage! This goes especially for moms. Society rarely questions close relationships between mothers and daughters, even fathers and daughter; however, close relationships between mothers and sons come under scrutiny. The boys are characterized as soft, weak, or a “mama’s boy”. But when a mom steps out of her comfort zone to connect with her son, she is teaching him the importance of building relationships and connection with others. Playing chase, relay races, swinging, exploring, collecting rocks, monopoly, sports, art, wrestling, digging for worms, or climbing are some of the many activities sons enjoy sharing with their mothers.
As an educational leader, I realize that teachers have the most important job of all professions. They have chosen to take the responsibility of preparing our young for future success. If teachers and parents will review, internalize, and implement these strategies on a regular basis, the probability for student success for our male students will increase exponentially.