Working with parents–mostly moms, actually–who are concerned about their son’s school performance, it has become increasingly clear to me that one of the biggest hurdles that parents face when trying to improve their son’s grades comes in communicating with teachers and school officials. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t bad teachers or apathetic principals out there, but the vast majority of teachers and education professionals that I’ve met have been dedicated and concerned about helping their struggling students. Now, there’s probably a bit of a reporting bias at work here, since teachers who contact me or come to one of our presentations are probably inclined to be concerned about boys issues. And yes, my own sister is a teacher, and having seen her try to balance her concern for at-risk kids and her many responsibilities to the school, so I like to give most educators the benefit of the doubt–that they are usually concerned but overwhelmed and not necessarily in possession of the tools or flexibility to change their classroom.
So one of the first questions I always ask when people come to us for help is what happened when the talked to their school. Unfortunately, had the early conversations with the school gone well, there wouldn’t have been much need to contact us. That’s why I have to stress that when you go to speak with the school about your son’s educational difficulties, it pays to be prepared. Take examples of ways that they can help make their classroom more boy-friendly. (For example, ask about opportunities for your sons to release restless energy or what kind of reading content they’re working on.)
And, if your complaints aren’t getting through, remember that there is power in numbers. Unite with other parents who have similar concerns and go to the administrators with the changes you’d like to see, whether it be an improved mentoring program, the introduction of some single-sex classes or programs, etc. (As a side note, it helps if you’re willing to support and help the school in these objectives.) It’s a lot harder to ignore a coalition of local parents than just one.
But remember, the point here is to ally with the educators in helping boys do better, not treat them as obstacles. Unless you get one of the few bad apples, of course. Incidentally, we’ve been getting so many requests for help with this situation that I’m attempting to put together an introductory “help kit” for parents with suggestions on how to approach educators and tips on creating boy-friendly classrooms. As always, we can use your help, and a donation to assist in the creation of these kits (as well as any pointers or advice from educators or experienced parents), would be greatly appreciated.