Tuesday, 6 October 2015

National Boys Education Conference (Australia) Live Blog--Day Three

Glen Poole, Director of Helping Men (UK), is in Australia to deliver a series of talks, trainings and workshop.

His first stop is the National Boys' Education Conference at Kings School in Parramatta, Sydney.

The conference brings together internationally and nationally acclaimed speakers on the top of boys' welling, character education, and the importance of relationships towards boys' engagement and success as learners.

The conference theme is Inspiring Boys to Learn, you can find out more at the event website here.

Check out our live blog from Day Two here.

Check this page for updates  from Day Three throughout the day.........


The final plenary session is presented by the inspirational head of Kings School, Dr Tim Hawkes.

We need patron saints for boys.

Boys do not always lend themselves to being supported

Men and boys don’t have a great rap and we need a patron saint.

The media is often portraying men and maleness in an unflattering light

We’re getting moodles (man poodles), not masculine, purely for decoration, the man-child refusing to grow up;

Only 1 in 3 millennial men in the USA are heading up their own home. We’re finding too many boys who are refusing to grow up and leave home and be independent. 

Any weakness in boys is usually neutralised by saying girls have weaknesses too. I think that is totally unacceptable says Dr Hawkes.

Only 38% of university enrolments in Australia are male. 

We need patrons for boys. 

When we highlight the need to focus on boys, people say girls have weaknesses too

People say girls underperformance in numeracy is cancelled out by boys underperformance in numeracy.  But the impact of poor literacy skills is underestimated, because it affects all subjects.

People are more interested in equity between people of different social economic statuses, but not gender (when men and boys are unequal)/ 

We are told that men dominate in society and that therefore boys must be dominated. That corollary is an appalling corollary says Dr Hawkes. 

"Castrataion anxieties" is a term being lobbed at anyone who is wanting to advance and be a patron of boys.

We need to understand  what being a male means and to celebrate maleness as a part of the yin and yang  of creation.

Don’t get bound by gender stereotypes, we need to go beyond the macho stereotype and allow psop

With one murder of a woman in a relationship every five days, we need to do something about that.

We need to respect and honour the opposite sex.


Time for the last set of break out workshops. I've decided to spend this with Blair Dravitsk, principal at Ohakune Primary in New Zealand, who is telling us about his Elite Rugby Institute project.

It was established because a particular cohort of Maori boys were under achieving academically. Attendance of some boys was as low as 50%.

A process of investigation revealed that the only two things these boys really valued is Whakapapa (family) and rugby.

The school introduced a new ABC Policy:

Attendance---every learner has attendance of 85% an above (up from a baseline of 50% to 60%)

Behaviour---every learner must display positive behaviour at school, at home and in the community

Commitment---every learner is committed to academic progress and learning in class

Playing rugby gave the boys an opportunity to succeed and fell like a success. Attendance rose to over 90% in the first year of the programme and educational performance across the group of boys rose in line with the national standard.

The rugby also brought the dads into the school.


Had a great conversation with a Sydney teacher over lunch who told me about a "Man Day" he arranged for the boys at his school---sounds great, looking forward to finding out more.

12.09pm: Classroom Demonstrations

There are a load of classroom demonstrations running concurrently. My playful side really, really, REALLY, wanted to go to the session in the drama studio on stage fighting. However, wearing my researcher hat I've come to a Year Five session on empathy.

Here the teacher has been actively working to develop the boys' empathy and emotional intelligence. One of the resources she has drawn upon is an initiative called Start Empathy.

The boys have been doing a listening exercise in pairs and now they are reporting back to the group trying to name to emotions their partner was feeling. The emotions the boys name include: envy, jealousy, fear, worry, sadness, annoyance, confusion, hurt, surprise, nervousness, frustration, happiness and disappointment.

11.30 am: Character Education 

Just finished presenting my own "Lightning Session" on "Evolving Masculinity" in the "Mental Wellbeing" stream and nipped over to the sessions themed "Character Wellbeing".

I only caught the end of Peter Nolan's talk on character building at his school, but here's a link to an article about that programme here.

Next up is Dianne Laycock---you can read a little about her here---and she's representing the International Boys' School Alliance.

Just found Dianne's website here.

She's talking about "maker learning" today.

Last speaker in this sessions is Melissa Abu-Gazaleh, CEO and founder of the Top Blokes Foundation which delivers programmes to boys and young men in schools.

10.45 am

Lightning Sessions

As with yesterday, there are three separate “Lightning Sessions” on the following themes:
  • Relational Learning
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Character Education

Each session comprises around five talks of about 10-12 minutes each. I’ll be presenting in one of these sessions so expect the blogging to slow down a little (and possibly all together).

My session is called “Evolving Masculinity” and is designed to provide a space for delegates to consider how they can support the boys they work with to grow and evolved as individuals who are proud of their own unique expression of masculinity, whatever that is.

10.00 am

Dr Ed Dixon is joined on the stage by 12 school boys for a panel discussion where we hear from the boys what subjects they enjoy and what approaches to teaching work for them. This mostly confirms the key themes of Dr Ed Dixon's keynote.

8.45 am

Today's morning keynote is delivered by Dr Ed Dixon from Canada.

You can find out about his work at the website Helping Boys Learn.

Some initial thoughts:

20% of girls have “male mind” approach to learning

What makes a good learning relationship with boys is he must succeed in your presence.

Boys who value learning improve classroom dynamics

Focus on helping girls in maths in 90s paid off, focus on boys education can may off too. 

Boys of all economic backgrounds are in the lowest quartile of performers.

Boys seem to have this thing about movement from the earliest stages, they are kinaesthetic learners. 

Dr Dixon references an experiment with 10 week old babies given an option to look at a mobile and their mother's face. He says 80% of girls look at mum's face, 80% of boys look at the moving object, the mobile.

One research study into street kids in Brazil showed they were better at working out the weight and cost of scrap metal on the streets, where it mattered but not in classroom settings when the tests had no meaning.

The Six Secrets of Boys Learning

The following six things help boys learn: 
  • Movement
  • Humour
  • Games
  • Challenge
  • Mastery
  • Meaning
Movement---when you put boys into a position where they embody the concept you’re talking about, they are better able to understand what they are talking about.

Games---when boys set and achieve goals they get a testosterone jolt. Boys need wins in a classroom. Games are a great way to engage boys and give them a chance to win. Males

Humour---for boys humour is unbelievably important. When they do surveys on which teachers boys like, humour rates very highly. Humour helps to focus attention, particularly in the moment.  Males use humour as a way to bond with others, it’s coded affection. Humour helps male confront the chaos of the universe.  Humour can take something that’s really large and make it small.

Challenge---Challenges give boys little bursts of testosterone. A good example is to beat the clock, you can get a man to do almost everything if you time it.

Mastery---males want to be coached into a mastery (as Clark Wight discussed in his session on the Obi Wan Kenobi theory. 

Meaning ---  One of the most important questions we need to help boys ask is “what am I good for?”. Every boy has a hero complex, every boy wants to be a hero in some way.

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