In a previous post you saw the facts and statistics in regards to the failing rate of success in school for males compared to females; is it possible the school environment is a significant factor? Research has made it apparent that the typical school environment has not been conducive to a thriving and healthy development for modern-day boys.
Your child spends a significant portion of every day at school, so it is important to be aware of where they may be lacking in their development. If you have a deeper understanding of your child’s needs, you can have the tools to impact real change and evolution – not just in your son, but in the educational system as well.
Here are 4 important areas where schools are lacking:
1. Physical Activity
Recess and breaks have been cut drastically to leave more time for meeting academic standards. Yet more classroom time does not necessarily correlate with more academic knowledge. In fact, both boys and girls would benefit from movement, and the exercise would make them more focused and receptive to the lessons. By forcing them to sit all day, they are expending more energy and stress on discomfort and pent-up energy, rather than using their mental functions at their highest capacity. Physical activity is essential for clarity, nourishment, and growth.
According to a research summary by Science Daily, since the 1970s, schoolchildren have lost close to 50% of their unstructured outdoor playtime. Thirty-nine percent of first-graders today get 20 minutes of recess each day — or less. – Time
After being deprived of physical movement and forced to take in large amounts of information, it is not surprising that confidence and self-esteem would plunge.
Our demand for more and earlier skills, of exactly the type that boys are less able to master than girls, makes them feel like failures at an early age,” says Jane Katch. “The most tiring thing you can ask a boy to do is sit down. It’s appropriate to expect for kids to sit still for part of the day, but not all of the day.” – PBS, Joseph Tobin
If you feel your son may be lacking physical activity, do your best to make sure he gets it in the morning before school, or after school in the evening. Integrate daily walks for exercise as well as bonding and communication.
2. Hands-On Learning
Gone are the days of home economics, auto-shop, and even woodworking. Learning is almost entirely based on reading and writing, which generally resonates more strongly with females, while boys really need that balance of “doing” and participating.
There is evidence boys learn best when learning is hands-on. Boys may be disadvantaged when they don’t get to learn through their bodies, by touching and moving. PBS, Joseph Tobin
If your boy seems frustrated and stunted in his learning, make sure you are integrating hands-on learning experiences in his life. From baking a pie to helping with the family car, allowing your son to manipulate objects with his hands and to build, problem solve, and use his body will help empower him to grasp new ideas. and help him focus when it does come time to sit down and read.
Schools repress humor, creativity, and freedom of expression. “Doodling” is frowned upon, jokes in the classroom are taboo, and bizarre imaginative stories and concepts are discouraged in favor of personal narratives and poetry, when all of it should be embraced. There is certainly a time to be serious and a time to play, but forbidding playfulness and creative expression in the context of a classroom is damaging.
Since almost all teachers of young children are women, books they are most enthusiastic about are generally more feminine than masculine in taste. It’s not that boys aren’t interested in a good story, but their non-narrative interests are not always supported and female teachers are often uncomfortable with the narrative themes boys find more interesting, like science fiction, robots, machines, etc.
If you feel your son’s imagination is being stifled at school, encourage freedom of expression at home through art, music, and play. From acting out dramatic sword fights to doodling a strange comic strip. Anything that fuels the imagination is positive and healthy.
4. Role Models and Teachers
The majority of elementary school teachers are female. Male teachers tend to gravitate toward older kids, while females are often the primary teacher figure in the life of a young student. Many young male students do not have many male role models in their early education, and with the absence of a positive father figure, this could be even more detrimental to their development.
From an article “Why Men Don’t Teach Elementary School” from ABCNews:
“The gap and discrepancy between girls’ performance and boys’ performance is growing ever more marked,” said Massachusetts psychologist Michael Thompson, co-author of the groundbreaking 2000 book “Raising Cain,” which argues that society shortchanges boys.
“There are lots of explanations for it,” he said. “One is the nature of the elementary classroom. It’s more feminized and it does turn boys off, perhaps because they are in trouble more or because the teaching style is more geared to girls’ brains.
Try to involve him in extracurricular activities that may expose him to leaders and educators that will inspire him to learn and grow. Keep him surrounded with positive male influences.
“Prohibited from the physical activity they need, criticized for the content of their minds, and required to do work they cannot do as well as the little girls around them. It is not surprising that some of these boys get off to a bad start, giving up before they have begun.” – Jane Katch, M.S.T., Author, Under Deadman’s Skin: Discovering the Meaning of Children’s Violent Play.
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