This year, my school is focusing on raising the achievement of boys. I’ve learned that supporting boys goes beyond good teaching: we need to show boys more options for how to “be a man.”
Most boys have an idea of what it is to be a man. It’s often a child’s idea of being “hard” or “tough,” “independent.” A principal colleague of mine said he and his staff consciously teach their 9th graders to lose the “tough guy” attitude and just be kids; be students.
This week, I found myself in a conference with a student, Hassan,* and one of my teachers, Matt. Hassan had hit another student who had been calling him a “little boy” and making teasing gestures towards him.
In the past, we might have said, “The next time someone teases you, tell a teacher or administrator.” However, we saw that an 18-year-old boy who sees himself as a man may not want to run to a teacher to solve his problems.
Our school is a school for newcomer immigrant students who are learning English for the first time. Lots of students struggle at the beginning, and passing state exams can be daunting. Despite hard work, many students fail exams the first time.
On top of all of that, they are teenagers, and sometimes they fail because they’re distracted and despite our best efforts, take longer to be fully engaged in school. This was the case for one of our students, Stiven.
“Miss, can I leave at 1:30 to go to a job interview at McDonald’s?”
We have 370 students, and while that is small for a school, I normally can’t spend a lot of time with a single student. However, there was something so compelling about Alonso’s deep, resolute desire to go to this job interview that reminded me of what teenagers crave most: independence and responsibility. Continue reading
When I was sixteen, I got a job as a cashier at the local IGA supermarket. Every fruit had a code used for weighing it, and bananas were the first one I memorized: 4011. I was proud that I knew things like this. I liked being useful.
A few years ago I read a book called “The Case Against Adolescence” by Robert Epstein, which said until about 100 years ago, adolescence didn’t exist. People were children, who then became adults. After you stopped being a child, you were an adult with responsibility, whether that was getting married and having your own child, working, apprenticing, hunting, joining the army, helping your family with a farm or business or household. You went from being a child who learned how to be a useful older child, who then became a useful young adult. Which has recently got me thinking about students who have part-time jobs and what they get from it: Continue reading