Boys just wanna ...

"Boys are beyond the range of anybody's sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years." (James Thurber)

Boys are a bit of a foreign species for me; growing up with no brothers, attending an all-girls’ school, and working in a female dominated environment means I’ve had limited contact with the little darlings.

An intermediate principal recently told me that the kids who are underachieving in his school – regardless of ethnic or socio-economic background – are the boys.

So ... boy-fact or boy-myth?

“Boys don’t read.” As I tuck into my latest novel, my hubby will be reading either a comic book (sorry, ‘graphic novel’) about zombies, or a war hero bio. At least he’s reading, but "research shows that boys are having trouble reading, and ... are getting worse at reading," according to, a website whose mission is to help boys become self-motivated, lifelong readers.

They go on, “But the good news is that research also shows that boys will read — if they are given reading that interests them.” How are you getting your male students - or sons - to engage in reading for pleasure?

And if you want to do some reading about boys in education here are some great titles: Boys Stir Us (‘boisterous’, geddit? I didn't ....) by Mike Nagel, Teaching Boys who Struggle in School, Reaching Boys, Teaching Boys and Raising Boys' Achievement.

“Girls are better at learning than boys.” According to LNNZ friend Dr. Mike Nagel, “the female brain is a better learning brain in educational contexts because: it matures and develops sooner; it’s less likely to be hindered by some measure of learning disorder; and it engages with and utilises language sooner and with greater efficiency.” Do you agree? What are you doing to engage boys’ brains in learning?

“We need more male teachers.” Men account for around 18% of primary school teachers in NZ. We’ve heard the reasoning – unsatisfactory salaries for breadwinners, low prestige, fear of accusations. My feeling is that we definitely need more male teachers, especially with so many kids lacking male role models at home. How do you think we can attract more men into teaching – or do you think we need to?

“We’re running feminised classrooms.” I had a chuckle at Celia Lashlie's comments in a Times Educational Supplement interview. She said that “female teachers should pipe down and give boys time to think rather than talking incessantly during lessons” and that female teachers gave her earache. A bit extreme but maybe she has a point about the teaching and learning styles of different genders. Want to find out more? Local boys in education expert Warwick Pudney explores working with boys on 19 August.

“Men don’t read to the end, or engage with blogs about education”. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. And that means you too, menfolk!

PS 14/7/11 - some heated discussion around this post has been happening here. This post was only intended to pose questions and generate discussion - which it's clearly done - but I certainly didn't intend to suggest that I believe or endorse the statements above - which is why I used the 'fact/myth' heading and quotation marks around the statements. I clearly need to hone my blogging skills!

Some recent feedback told me this blog was a bit anonymous so I should come clean and introduce myself as Sue Maloney, Learning Network NZ’s Marketing & Events Manager. Nice to (virtually) meet you! It won't always be me posting blogs - we're hoping to entice some of our very knowledgeable facilitators to contribute too.

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