A workshop for teachers / a presentation for parents / a conversation with students
Presenter: Leonard Sax, MD, PhD
Author of Boys Adrift
School leaders report seeing more and more boys who are simply not working as hard or as consistently as they should be. In the workshop for teachers, I explain the factors driving this phenomenon, with an emphasis on what teachers can do and have done, to re-engage boys in academics; to make it cool for a teenage boy to be a gentleman; to motivate the athlete to be more scholarly, and the scholar to participate in athletics.
When I meet with teachers, I share strategies which I have learned from schools across North America as well as from boys’ schools in England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand, to motivate every boy, so that the same boy who loves video games will also love Jane Eyre; so that the same boy who loves football and basketball will also love Emily Dickinson. These strategies are based firmly in what has actually worked in the classroom to engage boys in English literature, creative writing, and expository writing; in history and social studies; in mathematics (specifically in arithmetic, in algebra, and in number theory); and in the sciences. In addition, I share school-wide strategies and policies which, when combined, create the feeling of one school community in which every boy participates, regardless of the size of the school. These strategies facilitate boys becoming well-rounded gentlemen who are equally comfortable and equally enthusiastic in the classroom and on the playing field. You can get a taste of these strategies in chapters 2 and 8 of my second book Boys Adrift.
Jason was disappointed when he received a B-minus on his class project; he was expecting an A. He complained to his parents, alleging that the teacher was biased and unfair. His father called the school to complain about the low mark.
When I meet with parents, I explain why we parents must work with and support the teachers at the school our children attend, rather than viewing teachers as adversaries. When a parent picks up the phone to complain about a grade given by a teacher, the parent is undermining both the teacher’s authority and also the boy’s ability to learn some lesson from the low mark received. Regardless of the outcome of the phone call, the parent has confirmed the son’s assessment that the teacher is unfair and/or incompetent, and that the son is a victim. Why is such behavior by parents so common today? That’s one of the questions which I answer in the presentation for parents.
The problem is even more severe when a boy commits some misdeed which warrants disciplinary action. Thirty years ago, if a boy were disrespectful to a teacher, or if he were caught cheating on an exam, he would face disciplinary action from the school; and he would likely face more severe disciplinary measures at home. Today, when a boy commits the same offense, it is common to hear of a parent jumping in to defend the boy and to oppose the school’s action. The parent adopts the role of attorney, trying to disprove the school’s case. Such action by the parent sends a message of entitlement to the boy, profoundly undermining the school’s mission of helping the boy to make the transition to authentic manhood. The first step is to give parents some perspective, to see the bigger picture. The first mission of school is not to ensure that your son has the highest possible GPA. We review recent longitudinal studies showing that the best long-term predictor of success, on multiple parameters, is not GPA but character: Are you responsible? Are you honest? Do you exhibit self-control? Those parameters are, empirically, much better predictors of income, health, and happiness at age 32 than any measure of cognitive achievement. The first mission of school therefore is to help form and improve your son’s character; which means, above other things, teaching him what it means to be a gentleman.
For two weeks after the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in November 2012, Brett devoted every available minute to completing every mission, staying up past midnight night after night to play the game. His school work suffered. He was visibly fatigued in class, once even nodding off to sleep. He’s 16 years old, but he didn’t seem to understand, or to care, that the time he was devoting to the game was time that he should have spent studying – or sleeping.
I welcome the opportunity to meet with students. These meetings are structured not as lectures or sermons, but as conversations. I begin the conversation with students by asking, “What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time, when you’re by yourself with no one watching?” – a variation on Alfred North Whitehead’s comment about religion and solitude. No student is required to answer; I call only on those students who raise their hands. There is usually one or two pranksters, sometimes more, who try to derail the conversation with comments about pornography or other illicit activities. I’ve gotten pretty good at handling the clowns.
The next question I ask the boys is, “What is meant by the term ‘gentleman’?” We consider a quote from John Locke: “Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company, and reflection must finish him.” I then ask the students: “Who are some of your favorite athletes, or singers? Would you consider any of them to be ‘gentlemen’? Is that term still meaningful or useful today, if we agree that the word ‘gentleman’ no longer denotes a member of the landed aristocracy? Do you aspire to be a ‘gentleman’, however you define that term? What would a gentleman do in his spare time?” One objective in this conversation is to help teenage boys to recognize that the single most consequential decision they make, every day, is how they spend their time.
More information about me – my background, my education, my experience, the previous schools where I have led workshops, and other training workshops I offer – is available at www.leonardsax.com.
I hope to hear from you! Please call 610 296 2821 between 9 AM and 4 PM Eastern Time, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy please to email@example.com. If you don’t get a prompt reply to your email (within 48 hours), please call – not all emails get through.
Leonard Sax MD PhD
64 East Uwchlan Ave, #259
Exton PA 19341
Telephone: 610 296 2821
Comments from attendees at my presentations
“Everybody at Merchiston commented favourably on Dr. Sax’s sessions yesterday. He is impressive and knowledgeable across so many fields. Every assertion was backed up with evidence. We would love to have him back at Merchiston for seven to ten days. I learned a huge amount and so did everybody else. Of all the presentations we have had in my years at Merchiston, Dr. Sax’s was by far and away the most impressive.”
Andrew Hunter, Headmaster, Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, Scotland
“A great day. Wonderful presentations. . . the parents and staff were overwhelmingly enthusiastic.”
Christine Jenkins, Principal, Korowa Anglican Girls’ School, Melbourne, Australia
“Dr. Sax is the Al Gore of the gender crisis. He has EDUCATED us about the nature and scope of the problem. He has WARNED us about the consequences of doing nothing. And he has INSPIRED us to take action in our schools and in our communities.”
Michael Halfin, Huron Heights Secondary School, Newmarket, Ontario
“Of all the sessions I attended, Dr. Sax’s was the only one which gave me concrete information I could use in the classroom.”
Daren Starnes, Chair, Department of Mathematics, Lawrenceville Academy, New Jersey
“What an impressive evening! We have never before been to an event where 600 folks sat, spellbound for two and a half hours, laughing every 3 minutes and uttering ‘Wow’ every 5.”
Steven Masters, Saltus School, Hamilton, Bermuda
“I stayed up past midnight talking with my colleagues about what I heard at Dr. Sax’s presentation earlier that day. His talk was brilliant and inspiring. I confess to feeling a poverty of words in trying to convey how much I enjoyed hearing Dr. Sax and how much I appreciate what he is doing.”
Gerald Grossman, Head, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, Lake Forest, Illinois
“Dr. Sax gave a fabulous presentation at the Niagara Principals’ conference. My colleagues are still all aglow with what they heard and have purchased more than 200 of his books through a local provider – I know, because I arranged the sale. We would very much like to have him back.”
Gary King, vice principal, Lakeview Public School, Grimsby, Ontario
“I have been providing professional development programs for educators in St. Louis for nine years and no one comes close to Dr. Sax in style or content. I can’t tell you how informative Dr. Sax’s session was for me. I hope I will have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Sax again.”
Genie Newport, Director, Independent Schools of St. Louis
“I am usually pessimistic about learning anything useful at the workshops required by our school district. It was a stroke of luck that I attended Dr. Sax’s session. What was so rewarding in his presentation was that it helped me to understand why some things have worked well for me in the classroom while others have not. I now see the behavior of my students in a new way.”
Jonathan Lind, Sudley Elementary School, Manassas, Virginia
“Dr. Sax gave a fabulous presentation to our parents last evening. Awesome. This was the biggest crowd we’ve ever been able to attract for a speaker, and Dr. Sax graciously stayed well beyond his contracted time to accommodate all. His insights, all thoroughly supported by research, were at times mind-blowing, and his sense of humor just added to a totally enjoyable night.”
Linda D’Orlando, West Windsor – Plainsboro Public Schools, New Jersey
“I was profoundly impressed by the information which Dr. Sax shared with us. I also appreciated his style of presentation: a logical sequence of ideas supported by compelling evidence.
An excellent presentation.”
Don Comeau, Clear Water Academy, Calgary, Alberta
“The thing I find so gratifying in listening to Dr. Sax is that he provides evidence, hard science, to support the points he’s making. That’s rare in my experience, when speakers talk about gender.”
David Lloyd, The Webb Schools, Claremont, California
My three books Why Gender Matters, Boys Adrift, and Girls on the Edge:
Why Gender Matters “. . . is a lucid guide to male and female brain differences.”
New York Times
Boys Adrift “. . . is powerfully and persuasively presented. . . Excellent and informative references and information are provided.”
Journal of the American Medical Association
Boys Adrift: “A must-read for any parent of boys. This is real science, and Dr. Sax thoroughly uncovers the important health issues that parents of boys need to be tuned into.”
Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show”
Boys Adrift: “I know someone who knows what to do [about bullying and cyberbullying]. His name is Dr. Leonard Sax. . . [Boys Adrift] is informative and eminently readable. . .I strongly recommend that you read Boys Adrift.”
Girls on the Edge: “This is essential reading for parents and teachers, and one of the most thought-provoking books on teen development available.”
“Packed with concrete suggestions for parents, Girls on the Edge is a treasure trove of rarely-seen research on girls. Dr. Sax’s commitment to girls’ success comes through on every page.”
Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out and The Curse of the Good Girl
Girls on the Edge: “The best book about the current state of girls and young women. . . offers astonishing and troubling new insight . . .”
“Until recently, there have been two groups of people: those who argue sex differences are innate and should be embraced and those who insist that they are learned and should be eliminated. Sax is one of the few in the middle -- convinced that boys and girls are innately different and that we must change the environment so differences don't become limitations."