Editor's comment

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Perhaps we should be wary of best-selling authors promoting their books

Perhaps we should be wary of best-selling authors promoting their books. But by any standards, parenting expert Celia Lashlie stirred things up recently by saying women teachers should talk less and listen more for the benefit of the boys in their class.

Can it really be true that women teachers talk too much? Well, yes it can. But so, of course, can their male colleagues and they frequently do. As a general principle, teachers do need to shut up and listen more to their pupils, including the girls. They also need to create the opportunities for children to do the talking, thinking and finding out for themselves.

This is especially true of teenagers, who are easily bored. Boys especially can quickly become disengaged from learning if teachers spend most of their time holding forth from the front of the class, without allowing time for questions and debate.

Ms Lashlie, whose views were shaped by her Good Man Project in New Zealand, also believes boys would benefit if schools employed more male staff and dealt with their fathers rather than their mothers.

One simple way to bring more men into teaching would be to increase salaries (unlikely in the current economic climate). Schools can also do many things to increase the presence of male role models through mentoring schemes, coaching and other extra-curricular activities. These might well involve fathers too. The more schools do to make fathers welcome, the better.

But blaming women for the success or failure of boys is ludicrous. There is no credible research to suggest that boys, or girls, do better according to whether their teacher is male or female. What matters is the attitude of, and relationship with, the teacher. Both male and female teachers have the ability to help both boys and girls if they use the right strategies. Listening is one of them.

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