Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What it is to be a boy!

NZ artist Wayne Youle-'What little boys are made of'.  Some people don't like the gun but I think Wayne is just saying, many boys love running around playing games with sticks, water pistols etc playing 'cops and robbers'. (this fantasy play doesn't make encourage them to be aggressive)

                                                                What it is to be a boy!
We have to be careful not to put boys in the same ‘box’and assume they all fit the same learning profile because they don’t!  However, to try and understand these wonderful beings, I have attempted to provide a basic and generalised profile below. There are of course so many other factors that come into play. Underneath this profile is a wonderful and brief insight into the differences between boys’ and girls’ brain development by Nathan Mikaere-Wallis.

Boys are different from girls and have some different learning needs.
Traditionally it was assumed boys did sport and physical stuff and they were meant to be tough and stoic showing little emotion. This meant many boys strived to meet those expectations and thus never had opportunities to grow as a whole person.
Boys, like girls want to be loved, and to feel valued.
Many boys like and need physicality, rough and tumble, mudpies, bows and arrows but all this doesn't, have to be in a macho environment.
Boys are creative spirits so they need an environment and learning experiences that foster this.
Boys love being challenged and they love what we call hard fun, i.e. engaging tasks that engage their higher order thinking.
Boys need and enjoy a culture of high expectations as long as other conditions are in place to support them. E.g. Appropriate age and stage learning scaffolding.
Boys love humour and laughter.
Our fundamental philosophy is built around the phrase, be kind, be happy and be brave.
Boys love hands on stuff like science, constructing/building things.
Boys love the natural world and enjoy outdoor pursuits such as camping, tramping, sailing etc
At the end of the day it is not so much the ingredients of the mixture but the cook (teacher/parent) who makes the difference.
Boys like structure knowing where they stand, not in a shouting top down way but in a calm, orderly way. They relate well to core values and want to be good. They relate well to good manners teaching. They yearn for acknowledgement and praise and when things go wrong they need quietly bringing back into line.
They read you quickly and if you are uptight, they will reflect that. It is a fine line we walk.
They need good role models.
Boys are loyal and take great pride in being part of a team or group they respect. They thrive with this as they are like dogs, very loyal and willing to do what it takes to honour the value system.
Boys’ brains are wired differently to girls and often we don't see them fulfil their potential until their mid to late 20s.
The really successful teachers of boys know them well and connect with their individual spirit.
                                                                                                                                     Warren Owen
A brief insight into the differences between boys’ and girls’ brain development.

Females brains generally grow faster.  We can argue to the cows come home if this is because we talk to baby girls more, are more attentive and nurturing towards females, or if it is a genetic characteristic, an epigenetic feature or (more likely) some bizarre mix of all of those - the fact remains the same that generally female brains grow faster.  When we say the average age the brain reaches maturity or finishes adolescence and has an adult brain is 25, this is an average of both genders.  If we divide the genders, for females there is a broad range of about 18-24 yrs at which they reach maturity, and for boys this is an even broader range of 22-32.  So on average it is about 25.  This is an end result, I know, so let’s look at some biological differences we can measure and know for sure.
Females have a 30% larger hippocampus (memory) than males and it comes "on line" earlier for females than males.  This is clearly central to the learning process and could go a long way to explaining a physiological aspect of why girls seem to engage earlier with the curriculum.
The Amygdala (emotions -esp anger) is typically 20-30% larger in males.  This may make the male more prone to being reactive and overwhelmed by the HPA Axis or human stress response system for a longer time in development than females.  This is basically because the "alarm system" or Amygdala is larger in males. It goes off easier.  This leaves less hours for calm, centred and focussed learning.
It’s a complex system as the next biological difference between males and females is the bundle of fibres that joins your left and right brain called the Corpus Collosum.  The literature doesn’t agree how much larger a female’s corpus collosum is (it ranges from 30-300%) but it all agrees its larger!  The corpus collosum helps to integrate learning and "bring it all together", as well as playing a major role in helping to calm the amygdala, so clearly it has a role in children staying on task and focussing on learning.  It starts to paint a picture that a boy starts out with a hair-trigger alarm system (amygdala) and only a little circuit to control it with (corpus collosum).  Girls are the opposite.  A smaller emotional centre and a larger circuit to control it with - a brain much more able to focus on learning at an earlier age.
In addition there is a less known process called Lateralisation where the brain learns to effectively use one side of the brain more than the other.  This specialisation is needed for higher intelligence and some evidence suggests it happens earlier for girls (and first-borns typically!).
                                                                                    Nathan Mikaere Wallis (X Factor Education Ltd)