This is a knotty one, are there different strategies for the gender gap, or is great teaching great teaching? Neil and Sophia presented on strategies that they use with great effect to different genders at School. These strategies really do work in the classroom, and nothing can be more important than closing the gap, be it gender, ethnicity or FSM. Underlying it is the primacy of building relationships – with all our classes, knowing them and setting our end goals in place for each lesson.
First up, here come the Girls.
Treat them as adults:
- Be respectful and treat students as responsible, mature individuals. This seems a bit cliché, but it really works.
- Assume that your students will cooperate and treat them according to this assumption. They will pick up on your view of them and will likely behave in accordance with it.
- Use the phrase ‘young adults’ (even if they are only 11) to make them feel like they need to assume this role of responsibility and thus behave with maturity.
- Similar to most adult women and men, these girls are dealing with:
- Managing relationships
- Body Image issues
- Learning to manage stress, family and friendships
- Social Media difficulties (life comparisons!)
But sometimes… treat them a children
- These girls are still developing into emotionally mature women – so empathise with the dramas in a 13 year-old girls’ life!
- Go to the level – roll your eyes at their drama, take the mick with them once you’ve built those positive relationships, remember what it felt like to be 14 in school focusing on “which friend is bitching about which and which horrid boy you were going out with who has hugged your best friend and sent an ‘xoxo’ text. THE CHEEK OF HIM!”
Show your Human side
- Relate your life experiences to theirs: “Ohmygosh, girls – I went through this exact situation when I was 13. It may feel intense and full of drama now, but it will pass! I promise! Why not try x, y or z?”
- They might act badly to get your attention. Try to get to know them personally. Ask about their life and discuss yours!
- Listen wholeheartedly
- Really listen. Most girls will mask their true issues.
- Tell them again and again you are there to listen, to hear and to be there for them. Eventually, the masks will come down and they will open up.
- Have time for them. Whatever else you are doing, give them time, or suggest a time in the day they can come and discuss with you.
Praise, praise, praise!
- Praise every positive thing anyone demonstrates in the class.
- Remember to praise any naughty girl for any good thing they do in front of all the other children. Try not to go overboard to avoid eye–rolling. After a few weeks they will crave your praise, so then feel free to use that. Make little ‘naughty-no-more’ kids your helpers. Let them distribute the worksheets.
- Communicate the behaviour you are expecting rather than seeing: “Excellent, Chloe is opening up her book and getting her title, date and challenge question into her book” (Chloe wasn’t – but she is now!) ”Excellent, underlining Sharya!” (Sharya’s ruler was still in her pencil case!) Then smile knowingly and try to be positive and optimistic.
- Non-verbal cues like extended eyebrow-raising helps remind a student when they are not doing what you expect. As soon as they do something positive (opened up book!) PRAISE!
- List names as positives on the board as a visual reminder of how well they are doing.
- Add double positives for a certain task/ behaviour you want to have communicated at the start of the lesson that you wish to see.
Be inventive to get their attention
- Bring some fun into the classroom! Making yourself look silly and normal will ensure girls feel like you are not threatening, but instead real and relatable.
- Make faces, use body language to gesticulate and to include histrionics into learning and use your voice for silly accents!
- Don’t be afraid to be a clown.
- Use humour – sarcasm works a treat!
Neil has worked with young men for many years now, both academically and pastorally, and shared some strategies as well.
- Lessons that end in a product – a specific task, with an end-point, such as a project. This should include addressing unsolved problems and working things out.
- Make it competitive in their learning, using single-gender groups in the classroom.
- Motor activity – move them around the classroom. this helps boys’ engagement, and give them brain breaks. Howvere, show them how, and your expectations of this – primary school do this very well, but they forget when they get to us.
4. Show them how… be it homework, how to apologise, following instructions, and above all, how to succeed (simple creatures)
Further strategies can build support around them – talk and mentor relationships (the original Mentor looked after Odysseus’ son) that can address fear of failure.
70% of SEN students are boys, and 20% of boys are termed ‘sensitive boys’, so find strategies to support, nurture and build skills. It is not all rough and tumble games.
Who could sharpen the tools the best? It worked for them!
Could these strategies cross-over? I think so, as they are all part of great teaching, specifically building relationships and trust from which learning can come. It is up to us to develop an armoury to deploy with the students that we work with. And if a strategy works, that’s great!