Send the message, “I want to hear the story you want to tell.”
OK, here are some final highlights from the Leonard Sax seminar:
1) Many more girls than boys graduate from university. This is true for Canada, the UK, and the US. Sax says boys have given up on school and on marks – they been given the unintentional message that “school is for girls.” His theory is that boys have been marked according to girl-based systems. When boys get low marks because they haven’t put enough colour in a drawing, or because the drawing is violent, they give up; they figure they just can’t do it. Then they say, “school is for girls.”
2) The same applies to reading. When they’re faced with a book like Jane Eyre, which doesn’t immediately appeal to the “boy brain” they say, “reading is for girls.”
3) And writing: When a boy writes a story that contains action (and/or violence) and limited character development, they get marked down for it. So they say, “Writing is for girls.”
4) It’s our job – as parents and educators – to find a way to make boys find reading, writing and studying relevant to them. Sax says, “want to hear the story your boy wants to tell.” They want to tell a story that has action, excitement, car crashes! Why do we insist they tell stories the “girl way”?
5) The top three factors at age 15 that determine who will graduate:
-grades at age 15
Gender in ability isn’t a factor! So boys can do it – they’ve just become demotivated to do it. (See 1-3, above.) They think that “school is for girls.”
6) This isn’t to say that girls don’t have problems. They do. They’re more likely to have an eating disorder, be clinically anxious or depressed and become moody.
7) Boys understand boundaries. Instead of saying, “no throwing snowballs,” make some boundaries. “Snowball throwing within this area only.” Boys get “inbounds vs. out-of-bounds.” And they’re good with it.
8) Boys like action and that includes violence. Give them boundaries, says Sax. “generic and classic violence (wars, car crashes) is allowed; personal/threatening (specific to a person) violence is not allowed.”
9) 40-year-old men and women can sit still for the same amount of time. But a six-year-old girl can sit still and pay attention about twice as long as the average six-year-old boy.
10) There are boy-oriented teachers, and girl-oriented teachers. Sax says very few teachers are both – nearly all teachers prefer to teach one gender over the other. And it has nothing to do with the gender of the teacher.
11) Boys learn better when they’re standing. It’s been researched. (At our school, one grade-six teacher offers exercise balls rather than chairs if kids want to use them. Great idea.)
12) When girls have a personal bond with a teacher, they’ll work harder for them, so as not to disappoint them.
13) Girls’ eyes and brains process colour and texture earlier than boys. Boys’ brains process movement. It explains why girls use 10+ crayons in drawings, while boys use one or two. It explains why boys’ drawings have scribbles (it’s hard to draw action!) and car crashes. It explains why girls like dolls and boys like trucks.
I talked to my son about colour. Without prompting, he said, “Mom, when I draw at home I use one colour. But if I’m at school and I want to get a good mark, I use lots of colours.” That could have come right from Sax’s lecture. Boys prefer to use one colour, but are graded on using many colours. (Having said that, my son’s teachers are awesome – and very empathetic to boys, so I’m definitely not dissing anyone here. But he definitely has gotten the message that more colour is better.)