Boys make up a disproportionate number of those who receive discipline referrals, they are over presented in Special Education classes, and their dropping rates of college graduation are cause for concern. Historically our approach to boys has been to tell them what not to do, who not to become. We have done a poor job at holding up images for boys of what it means to be a good man. Too often we lose contact with boys out of fear and misunderstanding.
My approach to understanding and supporting boys is rooted in years of research on the topic. Some of that research is summarized in the document Building On Strengths: Helping Boys Succeed in Portland Public Schools. Biological and social forces interact to create unique challenges for parents, teachers, and counselors. My advocacy work for boys is based on looking at their strengths and being strategic about the messages we send boys regarding what it means to be a man. I work to help people understand boys’ developmental issues so that they may gain a deeper understanding of what boys need.
In addition to writing on the topic and working with boys in a therapy setting, I offer public presentations to parents, school personnel, and youth organizations. I address the importance of men in boys’ lives and advice about styles of communication that work best to maintain contact with boys.
When speaking with school staff I highlight strategies such as incorporating movement into classrooms, literacy techniques that work for boys, handling humor and violence in boys’ writing, involving more men in schools, modifying lessons to help boys develop relational skills, and creating school climates where boys are engaged. I teach a graduate course called Challenging Indifference: Creating Schools Where Boys Thrive for those who want college credit and the opportunity for an in-depth look at boys in educational settings. I am also available to speak to schools’ staff on-site.