How a Male Teacher Could Help Boys Succeed


Years ago, when I was just starting out as a tutor, I got a very strange phone call.

The lady on the other end of the phone was a mum looking for tutoring. Nothing out of the ordinary there - it's what she said next that caught me off guard.

She said, "Do you teach maths too as I'd rather a woman teach my son English?"

She continued, "I think women are better at reading and writing so he'll learn more from a woman." Instead of listing the host of male literary greats like Dickens, Shakespeare, and Roald Dahl, I bit my tongue.

Was she right?

Well, yes and no (mostly no). It's true that boys are falling behind girls in English at schools. But not all boys; I loved English and I was pretty good at it!

It's true that there are far fewer male teachers in schools. And it's true that English is the subject that men are least likely to teach. Surely then, the answer is to have more male English teachers - more male role-models with first-hand experience of how boys learn best?

Lots of boys are being labelled "naughty", "restless" or "ADHD" and that's because schools work best for girls. I see boys' learning skyrocket when I make time for them to get up and moving around. One student likes bouncing a football while planning his writing, another loves bending his body into letter shapes (reminiscent of a YMCA dance!) while practicing his spellings.

So are students better taught English by a man? Of course not. Children learn best when they have a mixture of male and female teachers. But it is unusual that men teach English, and that's all the more reason I do.

I was inspired to write this after watching Richard Reeves' TED Talk this morning.