Monday, May 2, 2011

Tomorrow's Men

Millie writes:

Since Sassy and I are practically drowning in testosterone over here, it's not surprising that I spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to motivate young males.

(I should tell you right now that I still haven't discovered the secret, so don't hold your breath.)

Without exception, our boys were lackluster students in middle and high school. This isn't because they aren't smart – they're all above average in intelligence. What it boils down to is this: They didn't (or in the case of the current high-school boy, don't) do well because they really didn't care about school.

I've read all the literature, believe me. From kindergarten up they've all had the full support system: a quiet spot for homework and reading, help and tutoring if needed, organizational help, the whole nine yards. We've tried the carrot-and-stick approach, the no-extracurriculars-until-your-grades-improve approach, the you-control-your-own-life approach and the I'm-controlling-every-move-you-make approach.

Here I am, hacking through yet another Junior Year with the sixth kid (and fourth boy), and I'm just as lost as I was with the oldest one. Yes, he could pass all his classes with A's and B's – if I spend hours every day emailing his teachers, going over his papers, and sitting on top of him to make sure he does his homework. I do a little of this, albeit grudgingly; I think it is completely inappropriate for a parent to have to be in this loop at all by the time a kid is a Junior. This “cleaning out the backpack to find the permission slip” stuff was outmoded by the second grade.

The girls had/have their challenges too, don't get me wrong. They both got pretty good grades and (more importantly, in my opinion) they actually learned in class. Sassy has a tendency to take on too much and then get slammed into an overwhelmed, deer-in-the-headlights mode as the term ends, but all in all she's doing a great job of deciding where she wants to go and figuring out how to get herself there.

Which, when I stop and think about it, is where the boys fall flat even in the college years. None of them seem to be able to see beyond the immediate moment. The high school kid doesn't believe that it's important to get into college – doesn't he see his big brothers just fooling around there, after all? - and the college kid figures he can coast just like he did in high school. Unless a person (boy or girl) has a goal in mind, he is pretty much just marking time in school. My being motivated doesn't help him in the least – for one thing I already passed high school chemistry, and for another you can't make somebody care.

At least, I can't.

Has anybody out there successfully turned around a completely disinterested student? If so, pass some advice my way – help a sister out.

I'm motivated, I tell ya.

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