On Teaching Boys to be Men…

Day One…

I’ve taught classes of boys (ages 17–20), sans les femmes only on a couple of occasions, but both times, it was well above my expectations, and made me rethink my beliefs about coed education, and even adult relationships among the sexes.

On the first day of class, we settle in, casually sizing each other up. Warm smiles are exchanged, but on some, traces of pre-evolutionary wiring and seventeen to twenty years of prior experience, and media brainwashing begin to provoke a biased assessment of me. Therefore, I say, ‘I am not your mother, sister, girlfriend, ex-girlfriend, or pin-up you may have hanging in your room. I am your teacher. My experience of well over a decade of teaching thousands of adolescents, my formal education, and eventual knowledge of you, will provide me with the ability to give you what you need to pass this test, and succeed in the outside world.’

Major tone change.

In a classroom full of female students, I might hesitate with such a disclaimer, knowing I’d be met with a large handful of eye-rolls and disinterested sighs. By contrast, these boys are somehow relieved by what I’ve said, and their attention grows razor sharp. Ironically, I do not feel like I’m in a room full of hungry wolves ready to tear into me, the way I would with a room full of distrustful adolescent girls.

I then say the thing I always say to all classes, ‘We are a team. You must support each other, in the same fashion as I will support you.’ Boys always get motivated by this, because they understand that games are won through great teamwork. By contrast, with females, I will most certainly get more eye-rolls, irritated under-the-breath murmurs [Oh God, here we go], and/or a looks of utter bewilderment. Instead, with boys, I get a team who is ready to succeed.

Alas! I’ve become a somewhat gender neutral, enigmatic, lipstick-wearing Alpha. My sweet perfume doesn’t distract them from what I am there to do; Teach. Game on.

By the end of the day, they’ve exchanged numbers, and are already helping one another, laughing and chatting it up.without my encouragement.

By contrast, it often takes a lot more time to foster these bonds with and between female students. While not impossible, it involves much more strategizing, patience, and understanding to create the peaceful classroom community environment, essential for the best learning outcomes.

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