126: Helping Teachers Understand Boys



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A listener asked us, “How do you gently encourage/educate your boy’s teacher on what boys need and how to help them, rather than shame them, when they have gone into anger?”

The short answer: It ain’t easy, but it’s so, so worth it!

Many teachers know very little about the specific developmental trajectory and needs of boys; teacher training often does not include a course that delves into gender-related differences in learning and communication.

Some teachers naturally “get” boys; others are easily overwhelmed by boys’ energy.

Most teachers, however, sincerely want to help children. They’re eager to learn, and usually quite open to partnering with students’ parents. After all, parents have had years to figure out their child’s trigger points and preferred calming strategies; teachers only get a few months.

Also: the research has consistently shown that what’s good for boys is good for learning. Increasing recess time actually improves student focus, decreases off-task behavior (by as much as 25%, according to at least one study!) and increases academic achievement.

But how do you share information about boys’ needs with your sons’ teachers?

Very carefully.

According to Janet & Jen, timing is everything; don’t approach a teacher at the end of a busy day or during morning drop-off, and definitely DO NOT fire off an email or text to your son’s teacher when you are angry. Share specific information about your boy before gently segueing to a more general discussion of boys’ needs. Try framing your comments in a way that shows empathy. Saying something like, “Before I had Caleb, I didn’t realize…” is one way to acknowledge the fact that you yourself had a lot to learn about boys– and may inspire your son’s teacher to reflect on her own knowledge of boys.

If your son’s teacher is interested in learning more, consider sharing a book or articles with her. (Some of our favorites are listed in the show notes below.)

A school or community-wide book study is a great way to increase awareness of boys’ needs too — and may be the way to increase boys’ engagement and academic achievement.

Janet and Jen are available to speak at your school and bring a wealth of wisdom, humor, and empathy to both parents and teachers.

In this episode, Jen & Janet discuss:
  • The right time to talk “boy” with your son’s teacher
  • When — and how — to involve administration
  • How to use the school’s discipline referral data to identify opportunities for improvement
  • How parents can work together to make a school more boy-friendly
Links we mentioned (or should have) in Episode 126:

BOKS Kids– Reebok-sponsored, parent-inspired before & after school activity program

7 Ways Teachers Can Make School Better for Boys — BuildingBoys blog post

BuildingBoys Resource List

Writing the Playbook: A Practitioner’s Guide to Creating a Boy-Friendly School, by Kelley King

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James & David S. Thomas

The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School & in Life, by Michael Gurian

US! We can come to your school, library or community & educate parents & teachers about boys. Click on the picture below to send us a message. We’ll be in touch as soon as possible!


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