This past week, we welcomed the Executive Director of The National Center for the Development of Boys and the Assistant Headmaster of McCallie School, an all-boys school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to campus. They visited faculty and parents and brought a message that was full of research, understanding, and hope for a generation of boys who have been written about and studied extensively.
At Maclay, we value all of our students equally, whether male or female. However, our experience has taught us that the brain chemistry is different, social pressures are experienced differently, developmental stages come at different times and engaging a “typical” boy and a “typical” girl take different strategies. Plus, let’s face it, the definition of the word “typical” can be debated. We believe differentiation is the key to making sure we fulfill our mission of reaching each student. To do that, our understanding of our students' languages and how they see the world and interact with it is important, if not vital, to unlocking the potential in all students and finding the right balance in their lives. Nelson Mandela taught, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
In brief, Troy Kemp and Kenny Sholl’s message revolved around research on the developmental stages, brain chemistry, and interactions boys have. They shared that these traits are very strong and consistent in 80% of all boys. It was noted that nationally, boys double the number of out of school suspensions as girls, almost three boys for one girl diagnosed with a learning disability, anxiety medication for boys is rising at an alarming rate, and the suicide rate for boys is over 4:1 of that of girls. All of these was to highlight the challenge we have with rearing boys these days.
They walked us through six focus areas that help boys develop into highly functioning members of society:
WHAT BOYS NEED
* An environment where it is okay to fail.
* To be surrounded by multiple mentors.
* To make commitments to something larger, to be counted on by his peers.
* Allowed to be Warrior Poets.
* To Communicate their feelings in comfortable ways.
* Clear, but flexible boundaries – Rigid Flexibility.
I found great insight and clarity in the message and as a parent of three sons. It helped Angie and I think about how we are parenting our own boys. So many of these lessons enlightened us on how we, as a school, can differentiate based on traits of boys and girls – knowing that there are crossover traits with many. What we know is that each child is different and it is our high calling to reach each one and help them develop their inherent abilities to their fullest.