Boys and School

Howard Hiton, a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice, specializes in working with boys, as well as lecturing about about boys and school.  He is the author of  "Bam! Boys Advocacy and Mentoring."

Here are some ways to make school work for boys:

  1.  See boys as something other than problems.  Too often we identify typical boy behavior as a problem in schools.  “Many aspects of American schools are not sympathetic to boys.  Their robust behavior, physicality and translation of anxiety into inattention is frequently pathologized and demonized,"  says Eli Newberger.  Try to build on boys' strengths. 
  2. Create opportunities for physical movement.  Create learning activities where boys use their bodies. "Boys learn best when learning is 'hands-on.' They learn by touching, moving, climbing on, and building things. They solve problems physically — so if kids are handling real things, they will learn more effectively. This applies to kindergarten and throughout their school experience," says Joseph Tobin.
  3. Let boys read (and listen to) books that appeal to their interests. "Know your boys, know their passions, and know what books can speak to those passions. Boys are open to reading — if they can make their own choices. We read to connect to interests we have — and literacy piggybacks on those interests," says Thomas Newkirk. "I tell my prospective teachers that they should have at least a thousand books in their heads — possibilities for students to read. Unless we can build a base in reading thousands and thousands of words our students will never be able to read the classics. And by reading, I think we need to look at all kinds of reading — magazines, graphic novels, humor, etc. — and not just classical literature."  The same applies to boys and writing.
  4. Allow boys to express humor in appropriate ways and at appropriate times. "Include satire, parody, and humor in the curriculum, and don't be too hard on boys who are class clowns. Instead, acknowledge the boy's skill at being humorous. If the boy gets credit for this quality, he may not repeat the behavior. If you treat a clown as your biggest problem you are creating a conflict. Treat that boy with respect and respectfully ask him to make jokes at another time, if they get out of control," advises Joseph Tobin. "Sometimes, you just have to have a sense of humor about the boy's sense of humor. Most teachers I know admit that as annoying as boy humor can be, it can also brighten up the day," adds Michael Thompson.
  5. Have many ways that allow boys to feel connected to schools.  Support teachers to learn about the best ways to build and maintain relationships with boys.  Use BAM! groups, sports, rock and roll bands, skateboard clubs,   ping pong, engaging PE classes, recess, boys only times.  

To find out more information about his book or a full day BAM! boys group leader workshop at Lewis and Clark College on October 30, 2008, visit this website.  To find out more about Howard Hiton, click here. 


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