In the past few years, we’ve made a great deal of progress when it comes to understanding how different minds work, and how children learn in different ways. One thing, though, has remained a constant, and that is, the importance of relationships.
In “Reaching Boys/ Teaching Boys,” authors Reichert and Hawley argue that having an engaging and supportive relationship with a teacher isn’t just a nice thing to have; it is a requirement for boys. They see it as, “If I don’t believe in you, why should I believe in (or care about) what you say about biology or French?”
Early in my career, I spent a year working in a boarding school’s admissions office and because the school wasn’t terribly competitive, the Admissions Director gave each member of the admissions committee a “silver bullet.” Each of us could accept a student, no matter what his transcript, recommendations, or standardized test scores said about him – on one condition. If we accepted the student, we had to agree to be his advisor for the next four years.
Like every member of the committee, I was drawn to the students with unusual backgrounds, and often it meant spending a lot of time with kids who “learn differently.” One boy, in particular, stays with me. Matt was a bright, itchy, and impulsive 14 year old who was so easily distracted that he ended up doing his homework in my and my wife’s apartment five nights a week for a couple of years. We had classes on Saturday, so Friday was a regular school night. (It was a practice that would be discouraged today, but such is the price we pay for “professional boundaries.”)
I don’t think I was any different from anyone else who worked with his “magic bullet” boys. I wasn’t terribly progressive; I couldn’t offer much beyond basic organizational skills and a little proofreading in English. But Matt knew I was “his guy,” and maybe that was magic enough.