Book Review

Educator Review: Helping Boys Learn

Helping Boys Learn
Six Secrets for Teaching Boys in the Classroom
Written and Published by Dr. Edmond J. Dixon
Category: Professional Development Resource

Reviewed by David Mount, Vice Principal,
Toronto Catholic District School Board


Much of the talk in and around education nowadays relates to levels of equity and imbalance. However, within the context of this ongoing debate and particularly within the historic precedent ‘affirmative action’, Dr. Edmond Dixon’s new book “Helping Boys Learn”, highlights the fact that there is a rather large elephant in the classroom. In an age where we are constantly reassessing our practice, is it possible, as Dr. Dixon suggests, that we missed one…an issue that is staring us all in the face, but that we are either unable or unwilling to resolve? Like every elephant, he isn’t really all that difficult to see if you know what you’re looking for. Think about that young boy who sits in the front row of your class, (probably because you put him there). He can’t stop moving and focus is an issue, particularly when the instructions he is given are verbal in nature. He is smart, but he can engage in rambunctious behaviour and encourages others to do the same. That boy, according to Dr. Dixon, is telling you things.

The problem, as his book spells out in detail, is that in many cases, not only are we not listening to this boy, we are showing him explicitly that his mode of thinking is wrong. By our approach to his behaviour we are showing him that his approach to interactions is negative and that ultimately he is not suited for the classroom. As Dr. Dixon maintains, ultimately, unless we learn value his love of movement and make it part of our day to day teaching practice, success may be elusive for him. But knowing the “what” one thing is; it is the “how” and “why” that intrigues and which the author finds is at the root of the problem. The book then goes on to explore in detail how we can put practical interventions into the classroom to redress the balance.

Teachers, Principals and parents take note: perhaps one of the strongest messages in Dr. Dixon’s book is that we ignore this at our peril. The reward for our failure to act will surely be large numbers of ‘angry and frustrated’ young males filtering unchecked through the system. Perhaps it is time to turn our attention back to the boys, and work to ensure that in helping girls become achievers, we do not unintentionally lock our boys into a cycle of underachievement.

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