Boys won’t be boys, “Boys will be Brilliant”
By Elizabeth Cummings
I have recently attended the Big Ofsted Conversation, this is a conference that happens around the country twice a year, it is where teachers, practitioners and managers come together to discuss issues in the Early Years, to help improve outcomes for children across the country.
The conference is on a Saturday morning, and it was a wet Saturday morning at that, up in the hills of Bolton. Beautiful surroundings, so with my cup of tea and umbrella because yes it was raining! I went to join the 600 people that had all arrived to listen to Ofsted, Leading Nursery Managers and a guest speaker named Mr Gary Wilson. Wow!
Gary Wilson has worked in the Education Sector most of his life, he was a teacher and decided that male students get quite a bad rap, instead of joining the “boys will be boys” cliché, he would set about working to change people’s perception and help to make people see that actually “Boys will be Brilliant” all they need is a little guidance and people to have faith in them.
Gary says that boys have natural leadership skills, not all boys but most of them, he believes that there’s a group of boys in Year 10 of every high school that act as the “Peer Police”, individuals that have a leading ability and find power in telling others how to act, he believes that when boys enter year 8, there will be a group that will become the “Peer Cadets” these are individuals that look up to the Year 10 boys and want to be “in with the crowd”.
He believes that taken them at year 8 and giving them responsibility like being a mentor to those younger than themselves, reading to primary school children and doing activities with them like cooking etc. turns their natural leadership tendencies into a positive and helps them to help others.
I remember from my own days at school that this did happen, I think the girls also have their groups to, however boys who are not challenged can become bored and that’s when they become mischievous. He was telling the group that he saw t-shirts in shops that said slogans like “I’m lazy and I’m proud” “troubles here” “boys will be boys”, these slogans are then stereotyped to label a boy’s behaviour when actually if you were to use the leadership skills and offer responsibility then you could easily change the behaviour from negative to positive when you change the attitude of the adult.
Gary was saying that teachers would automatically but a boy at the back of the class because he’s disruptive, when speaking to the boys in question they said things like “what’s the point in joining in, they don’t think I’m clever enough”, “the teachers are always angry”
“The heart of the issue is the day to day relationship between teacher and pupil. The essential theme is that teachers must rethink the language they use when communicating with boys inside and outside the classroom”
(Peter Downes, 2017 Cited Gary Wilson 2017)
It is important that in Early Years we understand that boys are more sensitive to stress, the quality of interactions that boys receive in their first year has a huge determination on success. There is a direct link between the quality of parents’ relationships and a child’s neurology and toxic environments are more damaging to boys than they are to girls.
Girls seem to be more open about their emotions as boys tend to be told “man up” “you’re a boy, you need to toughen up” whereas they need to be able to express their feelings and their emotions the same way you would allow a girl to.
In curriculum at the moment girls continue to perform better than boys in all areas, the gender gap for the percentage achieving at least the expected level is largest in writing, reading, exploring and using media and materials and being imaginative. The subject with the smallest gap is technology.
For parents the best thing they could do for their boys is treat them the same as your girls, use positive images and slogans, believe they that are amazing and they will achieve great things. Allow them to have emotions and to express them freely. Allow them to explore and take risks and listen to them.
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