My little boy is teaching me everyday. Before I had Carter, I was a very different teacher. I misunderstood boys. A lot. I know I’m not alone because I hear it all the time. ‘He doesn’t sit still, if only he would listen’, the list goes on and on. I’ll never forget the days when I would go to mothers group and the kids were beginning to interact. Carter was the only boy with eight little girls and I was amazed at how the girls would focus and play with one toy for what seemed like forever whilst he crawled all over them to get to every single toy and play with it for 20 seconds before moving onto the next one. It was during those play sessions I realized just how different boys and girls are from their attention spans right down to how they learn. If they are so different no wonder the traditional school setting often doesn’t suit the needs of both genders and the way in which a lot of them learn.
So here is me the mother talking to me the teacher about what I’ve learnt about boys.
- They focus differently. Quite often they won’t look at you when you are teaching them something, they will be looking around the room at whatever has caught their eye at that moment. They could be mistaken as being disengaged. But ask them a question about what you’ve been talking about and nine times out of ten I guarantee they will answer it correctly. Or later when you’re doing something completely different they will bring up the previous topic again. Because they are still thinking about it, and in fact they have thought of more questions and want more answers. Which brings me to my next point…
- They think differently. Girls will raise their hands and ask questions. They will call out answers when the teacher asks them to. They aim to please. Boys are different. Many won’t raise their hand to answer a question. The majority of them know the answer but some would prefer to whisper it to a friend, keep it to themselves or just move on. Why? Who knows. But we as teachers and parents can’t assume they don’t know it, maybe we are just not providing the right environment for them to shine in. Many boys prefer hands on settings, learning through discovery, small group settings. We need to learn how they think and work best and give them that opportunity whilst at the same time teaching them to have the confidence and ability to contribute in a variety of settings.
- They need to be moving. Boys find it hard to sit still. There’s a lot of positive things to be said about contemporary learning classrooms that are moving away from tables and chairs and allowing children to stand whilst they work or sit on the floor, beanbags, fit balls etc. Boys need this. Many struggle to maintain focus if they are being forced to sit still. And if they are working better whilst standing, why not let them? It’s about them learning not how they are positioned whilst learning isn’t it?
- They like to know what’s happening in the quickest way possible. They want to know who is in charge, they want answers to their questions and quick, short, sharp teaching. In other words get to the point or you will often lose their attention.
So the teacher in me has learnt a little bit more about teaching boys from the mum in me, mostly though it’s been a little boy who has been teaching me what he needs to learn best. There’s a lot to be said about learning from little ones, they are after all the experts in their field. 😉