Our school, Ronald C Wornick Jewish Day School, is part of Common Ground - an association of 24 private Bay Area schools that brings in luminary speakers on education and parenting. I was thrilled that my first Common Ground event was a conversation with Michael Gurian - author of 25 books on the minds of boys and girls and the requisite learning needs of each. He discussed the challenge facing teachers and schools to train and teach to the distinct needs of male and female brains.
The Minds of Boys is one of the more insightful and provocative books I've read about educating children - boys and girls. Through it, Mr. Gurian documents the extensive research on what he calls "brain science" to demonstrate that the male and female brain are different and optimized for different purposes. Logically, these brains respond to different learning modalities.
His visual aids of pet scans and other brain scans as well as videos of various experiments confirmed what's obvious to most parents - boys and girls are different. Here are my take-aways of what we can do to help boys and girls succeed in school.
- Boys often need visual stimulation - if my boys get writer's block again, I'll ask them to storyboard - drawing pictures with colored pencils to provoke his visual brain. Once he storyboards, he can write.
- Girls need verbal stimulation - if my daughter is struggling with a problem, I'll encourage her to talk it out and interact with her as she does it.
- Boys start to tap and fidget when their brains need a short break before they can focus again. It's easier to let them walk, jump, run or space for 60 seconds than to discipline them for fidgeting. This will be a hard habit for me to break.
- Girls need to understand that the only time a boy (or man) has as much of the cuddle/emotional connection hormone coursing through their bodies is right after sex. Anything they say...not going to be the same the next day unless there is a mature emotional bond. I hope not to be dealing with this one for quite some time, but it's an important point.
- Some boys will be able to focus on their homework better if they have music or a sports game playing.
In listening to Mr. Gurian, I was impressed in thinking about my children's school. The classrooms are very visual. The teaching modalities are both verbal and spatial. I'm not sure how they would feel about the storyboarding approach - but I am sure they'd be open to the conversation. Gurian is clear that neither single-sex nor co-ed education is THE ANSWER but rather teaching to the learning needs of each child is the key.
What techniques have you developed to adapt the lesson to the learning style of your children? How has your school responded to your insights?