Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It’s All Because of Football

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the problems that boys are having in school these days, and thinking about the ever growing challenge of keeping them in high school long enough to prepare them to get a college degree. Even in my nice middle class neighborhood, I know that many parents are struggling with their sons, and their lack of academic engagement. That’s why it was such a thrill to learn that the boy next door, who has for many years seemed uninterested in school, has just been accepted into a teacher education program at the University of Redlands.

I barely had time to offer my congratulations to his proud mom when she burst out … “it’s because of football you know.” For this young man, his heartfelt desire to play college football, and the academic requirements he needed to fulfill in order to play in high school resulted in a commitment to his schoolwork, a college acceptance, and, according to his parents, a completely changed attitude, at school and at home. It took a lot of work, and cooperation between home and school, but the outcome is what we all hope for.

A number of the things that worked for my neighbor can be integrated seamlessly into the lists of suggestions in this blog and lots of other resources, about how to create a “boy-friendly school.” In my opinion, the key to making a difference is encouraging boys to read. To do this, it certainly helps to provide them with access to books, articles and stories that provide masculine themes and role models and topics that interest them – starting with sports.

To encourage more reading (and all the good things that results from that) make sure that all your students have easy access to sports magazines, adventure stories and biographies of sports figures. Whether it’s a story of conquering Everest, or winning the Super Bowl, research shows that boys like stories about overcoming a challenge.

So do I; stories about boys getting through high school and into college are just the kind of challenge I’d like to read more about.