What causes boys to disconnect from school? What can make them lose their passion for learning? During his Parent Education talk on October 25, psychologist Dr. Michael Reichert pondered these questions, many which are answered in his new book, How to Raise a Boy: The Power of Connection to Build Good Men. Through extensive research and clinical experience, he has learned that masculine socialization and broken student-teacher relationships can have profound effects on boys, and identified relational learning as the keystone to positive student-teacher relationships.
Dr. Reichert encourages parents to support their sons as relational learners, knowing that positive relationships with educators will produce better outcomes. “You can be an advocate for him, rather than rescuing him or bad mouthing a teacher,” he shared. “Help him understand who he is, and don’t let him conclude that one can give up and check out.” Parents should encourage their sons to recognize when a boy’s connection with a teacher has been lost or damaged, and help him understand what has happened and how to repair that connection. Boys benefit from this learning process and positive outcome, which empowers them to problem solve for themselves if they find themselves faced with similar challenges in the future.
Parents can also nurture their own healthy connections with their sons by sharing “special time” on a regular basis. By letting their son dictate how they spend their time together and putting aside their own tasks, parents can show that he is the priority. Alongside this strategy, Dr. Reichert encourages “deep listening” so that the son can feel the validating presence of his parents. They should show interest in him and willingness to hear what he is thinking and feeling. “Boys have to have a connection to themselves,” he says. “If we want them to hold onto their hearts, we have to hold onto them, ourselves.”
Dr. Reichert praised Crescent teachers, who are trained in a relational learning framework which recognizes and respects each student as an individual. It is a fundamental component of Crescent’s pedagogy that is checked regularly, ensuring all faculty and staff are aligned toward it. And when it is done well, it ignites a passion for learning and a desire to participate in positive relationships: “Like a plant to light, he will lean in,” says Dr. Reichert.