Paint the Whole Picture

Wouldn’t it be odd to see a painting that was only half done and had two artists’ signatures on it? Yes, to some peoples’ dissatisfaction, it would probably win a modern art award, and there might be some fantastic art on the completed side. But the questions would still remain – Why did the artists leave the other half empty, and who did the real work? Obviously, the artists would be doing this purposely to make you pose the question, but I sometimes see that painting in teaching. As teachers, we need to paint the whole picture.

_MG_2502We tend to think that boys are cut and dry. They only want the facts to take the test and then move on to the next task. While we can teach that way without any hesitation, it would be a disservice to our boys. I know for a fact that our boys have a thirst for knowledge, and they truly do want to excel in the academic realm. This is where they receive the first part of the painting. It looks great! Go ahead, sign your name to it! However, the second half of the painting is still unfinished, and we still need another signature. Where we need to set ourselves apart is where we decide to get to know the boys. Better yet, our boys get to know us. This is the second half of the painting that makes the artwork truly amazing.

Our boys want nothing more than to know you are more than a person standing in front of the room. When we reach out and take a moment to let them know who we are, the world opens up for both you and them. I love to see classrooms that have personality, even if it is only one poster of Elvis. Show them that your favorite team is the San Diego Padres, or you had the opportunity to dive on the USS Monitor. You never know when that can be the hook that will have them come back to your room at 7:30 for extra history help. I have heard a lot of professors and researchers say that displayed student work is the most important thing in a classroom, but I beg to differ there. While their work is important, boys need to know that you do exist beyond the role of your subject. I firmly believe if you don’t show your hand, they won’t be willing to show theirs. When that barrier is in place, no real connection can happen, and our boys unfortunately only get one good half of the picture. Our teachers obviously know their subjects, and they pass that onto the students. The first half of the painting is complete. However, boys want the full picture. Moreover, they want to be the second artist.

As teachers, we know that not every boy will go on to be a career academic. While the academic piece is at the heart of our vocation, shouldn’t we also enlighten them on how to be a well-rounded individual? One who might enjoy art or have the ability to stand up and sing in front of a crowd without hesitation, or one who might enjoy restoring old cars or have a green thumb. These are the moments that make teaching our boys a pleasure. When they get interested in something you’re doing, the second half of the painting starts to fill in. But perhaps the coolest part of it is, while the first half of the painting is generally the same, the second half is always different. Show the boys what you enjoy. Be both interested and interesting. Let them paint their second half with your guidance. Most importantly, they want to sign their name with yours. Allow them to do so. We’ve got a lot of painting to do…get to work!

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  • Kim Menges says:

    Will… I loved this article! Thank you. The human connection between teacher and student is paramount. Bravo!


  • Donna says:

    I certainly enjoyed reading this, and it is so, so true. We must let these boys know who we are, not just a teacher teaching “something”. We are all in this together.


    My name is Dr. Pauline Washington. I am interested in your research on boys and St. Christopher’s School for two reasons. First, I plan to open a charter school for boys grades K – Grade 5 in Montgomery County, MD in 2017. Second, I am interested in my son, Grade 9, attending your school. I would like to visit your school.