The game begins with debate. The players huddle together in conversation. Whom should the team choose to call? For a team to be successful, they must understand the design of the game. In the same way, for a school to be successful, it must understand the design of its students.
Parents making decisions about schools are going to experience feelings of uncertainty. In fact, they might feel caught in a game of Red Rover. Coed vs. single-sex? All involved, including psychologists, have various opinions, and most are more than willing to share their thoughts or engage in debate. In the book Why Gender Matters, Dr. Leonard Sax discusses gender differences and explains that girls and boys enter the classroom with different needs, abilities, and goals. Most experts, including Dr. Sax, agree that boys are in crisis. The trouble is that most schools are not designed with boys in mind. Instead, they celebrate students who can sit still, listen carefully, respond verbally, and multitask — and girls are usually the ones who fit that description. It should be no surprise then that females now surpass males in college enrollment. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 11.7 million females will attend college in fall 2016, compared with 8.8 million males. Many advocates of single-sex education feel that brain-based differences should not only be acknowledged and accepted, but also used to enhance student success among both genders.
The trouble is that most schools are not designed with boys in mind. Instead, they celebrate students who can sit still, listen carefully, respond verbally, and multitask — and girls are usually the ones who fit that description.
Abigail James, author of Teaching the Male Brain, cautions that boys might give up on school if they cannot find ways to be successful. In a coed setting, it can be overwhelming for boys to compete with girls’ early acquisition of verbal skills. Girls will read earlier, and often that advantage continues through high school. As a result, boys struggling to keep up can begin to think that reading is not for them. It is important for us to push back on this mindset by helping our boys experience an adventurous reading life.
PDS teachers encourage boys to choose high-interest books within a comfortable reading range. We intentionally teach reading in small-group settings and introduce our students to books featuring strong male characters. Although boys often prefer nonfiction, we encourage them to engage with all types of reading genres. A quick glance at a PDS boy’s reading log might reveal time spent reading the sports section of the newspaper, a fantasy book by J.R.R. Tolkien, or a historical graphic novel. Our reading workshop approach accepts that boys develop on a different timetable than girls and allows them to build an authentic reading life.
There is no debate that the single-sex environment at PDS provides unique learning opportunities that are specifically geared to meet boys’ needs. While we spend time studying effective pedagogical strategies, we also know that the relationships we develop with our students are often the backbone of their school experience. Michael Reichert and Richard Hawley explore the importance of relational teaching in their recent book, I Can Learn from You: Boys as Relational Learners. Reichert and Hawley share several studies that indicate relationship as one of the most important aspects of a boy’s educational experience. Boys appreciate teachers who get to know them, and they will often find motivation to overcome academic challenges when engaged in a positive teacher-student relationship. PDS boys are lucky to be impacted not only by teachers but also by coaches, mentors, and administrators.
Each step in the journey at PDS is a strategic decision to bring out the best in our boys. We invite all boys to join us in the journey — Red Rover, Red Rover, send ALL the boys over!
Presbyterian Day School (PDS) is a private, Christian preschool and elementary school serving 500 boys from 2-years-old through 6th grade.
With our mission of striving to glorify God by developing boys in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man, we take a holistic approach to education, nurturing the heart, soul, mind, and body of each boy.