Last month I made the decision to follow my principal to startup a new school. I’ve spent my entire eleven-year career at one amazing year-round middle school, so this will obviously be a huge change. There are bound to be significant challenges and rewarding surprises, which is just the right fodder for blog posts. As a result, you should expect to see lots more about the change in this space over the next year.
One of the most interesting challenges that comes with this new school is that it represents a bit of an experiment by our superintendent. The new school will be a single-sex leadership academy dedicated to educating sixth- through twelfth-grade boys in an environment that promotes scholarship and service.
Although the single-sex environment wasn’t the biggest factor that affected my decision, it is the one that I find myself thinking about the most right now. I’ve taken to carrying around a small red notebook in which I jot down ideas related to the new school. When I think of a club or extra-curricular activity that would appeal to the boys in this new school, I write it down. When an idea for how I might teach science in a new way for this unique setting occurs to me, I write it down. I’ve found this sort of “analog capture” method to work well for this particular task since I never know when I’ll think of something I need to remember later.
As part of my preparation for the new position, I’ve been reading Leonard Sax’s “Boys Adrift“. Dr. Sax has written this boy-specific follow-up to “Why Gender Matters” to build on the idea that boys and girls learn differently. He uses the book to make a provocative point: many American boys are becoming isolated and neglected by a series of factors that include ADHD medications and video game playing.
While my optimistic side cringes at the depressing tone of much of the book, the good doctor also provides some advice. He announces early on that he sees this tome as a clarion call to educators and parents about the growing problem of lost motivation. I find his warning to be a bit overstated, but not so much that it can be ignored.
We are dropping the ball when it comes to educating adolescent boys. But, focusing on intelligent unmotivated boys while simultaneously closing the achievement gap between boys from wealthy and poor homes, and pushing 21st century learning is a significant challenge. Some may say that this is just the “wheel of priorities” spinning again and that if you wait long enough the focus will be elsewhere.
This may be true, but the bigger issue is that we must continue to innovate in the way we educate boys and girls. It is essential that we create more unique learning environments so that each child can find a successful educational experience.
What do you think of single-sex education? Is it unnecessary or long overdue?