When I describe Gamers, I mostly mean boys. I don’t worry about boys and their games. I expect that they’ll grow up and broaden their interests, or not, and they’ll end up living in their parents’ basement. This is the threat we hold over our boys when gaming becomes a singular focus for them. Boys can unplug though, and go and play some other kind of game outside. As long as they’re playing something, they’re happy. But girls, now that’s where I find challenge in teaching. I find most of my female students to be simply delightful. They love to talk to me, as an adult girl. I really enjoy teaching girls because we speak the same language. Actually, we don’t even have to speak to understand each other. I usually find that the girls in my classes can see the bigger picture, and they know what it takes to learn. My concern for many girls though is their lack of self confidence. I see so many girls who are really great kids-they’re clever, ambitious, creative, and yet they see themselves in comparison to others, often sure that these “others” are better/more skilled than they are.
My greatest success with girls whose confidence is impairing their progress, is with one-on-one or partner work. While boys seem to thrive (in general) in the team approach to group work, I have found that girls who are vulnerable to self-inflicted criticism are most successful in a supportive setting. I once taught a math course for students who had weaker math skills. After a lot of experimentation with group dynamics, I found that I could set the boys up with working teams of 4-6 boys at a table. Some girls chose to join in, but most of them were happier working with one buddy. I reserved my individual attention for the girls (and a few boys) who had nearly given up on math. Two to three minutes of uninterrupted individual instruction with these girls went much further than any group instruction. Then I would leave them to work alone , solving problems on their own, and returning to check in (while keeping order with the big tables who were racing each other to be the first done.) None of these boy or girl-only boundaries were fixed in this class, but I left the option open for students to choose. The majority of students who both chose and succeeded with individual or partner work, were girls.
There are, of course, so many factors affecting self esteem in students. I consider the knowledge and skills I have to offer all of my students to be far less important than helping them to develop confidence. I wish that lack of confidence weren’t an issue for any child, but I know its root is beyond a teacher’s control . The best thing that schools can do is to avoid reinforcing self-doubt. For now, I’ll just continue to share my ideas and successes here. I think the best place for educational reform to begin, is in the classroom.