During a recent PD trip to Kota Kinabalu, I attended Michael Thompson’s presentation, “Coming to Grips with Boys Underachievement.” As I listened to his presentation, I became  particularly  interested in the information regarding boy disengagement in the classroom.  More precisely, I made a mental list of students who possibly fit the description offered up by Dr. Thompson.  Additionally, I reviewed the, “Twelve Suggestions for Teaching Boys“(Betts/Thompson, 2009) and found all suggestions helpful.  One in particular stood out to me:

12.  Let boys read and write about (and draw!)  what they love.

There is often a collision between boys and teachers when it comes to reading.  Teachers tend to like fiction, character development, journals, and emotional openness.  Boys, in general, like non-fiction, science fiction, graphic novels, and stories of emotional toughness such as sports biographies. They especially value stories of espionage, combat and death.

This concept not only holds true for what boys read, but it is equally applicable in the way boys present their understanding and their interpretation of what they read.  I am constantly amazed by some of the boys in class and how they want to apply the “gross factor” (You know – the, “How gruesome of a photo will Mr. J let me insert into my story?” factor)  While I try to maintain a certain amount of content control, there always seems to be the student who presents the interesting dilemma of what is acceptable or unacceptable.  In the days of Clipart, the issue was not as significant because students had a limited collection of images.  However, today’s digital society provides limitless access to whomever has a keyboard. I find myself constantly struggling with nurturing a student’s creativity and self-expression, while clearly articulating what is acceptable or unacceptable to publish.