Prepping good boys

Summit + The St. Andrew's Schools

Oahu K-12 Schools
Place Downtown
Text Summit Staff
Art Ikaika Hussey
Thread School of the Future

The St. Andrew’s Schools looks to the leadership of Queen Emma for inspiration as the schools improve and extend academic opportunities to the widest possible range of O‘ahu’s youth. Since 1867, The Priory has earned a reputation as one of Hawai‘i’s premier college preparatory programs for girls, graduating confident and articulate young women who go on to achieve greatness—in Hawaiʻi and around the world. The Queen Emma Pre School prepares preschool boys and girls to love learning. Now, with the establishment of St. Andrew’s Preparatory School for Boys, The St. Andrew’s Schools opens a new chapter on academic excellence for Hawai‘i and the nation. This bold new initiative brings the Schools' years of leadership in individualized learning to bear on one of the most urgent challenges facing America today: the education of boys.

St. Andrew’s Priory School has been educating young girls to become leaders since 1867. In 2014, the school undertook a major expansion, launching The Prep, a program for young boys, and rebranding their girls program as The Priory. Summit spoke with Paul Burgess, director of The Prep, and Sophie Halliday, director of studies, to learn more about the new program.

Summit (S): What are the specific learning and developmental needs of young boys that The Prep addresses?

Paul Burgess (PB): Understanding how to cope with one’s emotions and impulses is a challenge for most boys. A young boy who can understand and manage his inner world can respond more appropriately to the always unpredictable outer world. These social and emotional skills are crucial, on the playground as well as inside the classroom.

Evolutionarily speaking, boys are active learners. Early on, boys develop to be spatially aware and curious about their surrounding environment. They also typically exhibit a high amount of energy and need lots of activity to develop in a healthy way. We’ve designed classrooms, lessons and schedules to support this innate behavior.

Social and emotional skills are the foundation of academic success. To be successful in the classroom, one must be present and engaged. To be present and engaged, one must be able to regulate one's attention and behavior. The tools and habits of mind we instill in the boys makes this happen.

Sophie Halliday (SH): From a neurological and developmental perspective, different regions of boys’ and girls’ brains develop at different times and at different rates. The left side of the brain, especially areas devoted to language, develops first in girls; and the right side of the brain, areas devoted to spatial skills, develops first in boys. This has really important implications for how to teach boys, and how they learn. Rather than emphasizing sitting still and working on pencils-to-paper type of learning, boys need a very rich sensory experience: they need to touch, take apart and build things, and move their bodies to learn.

S: Can you highlight a success story about a specific student, and how they’ve flourished at The Prep?

SH: My son, Ronan, has grown so much since he’s been at The Prep under the loving guidance of his teachers and Paul as director. Just recently, when one of his classmates was praised for his good behavior (“Soaring” on the behavioral chart), Ronan said he gave him a double-fi st bump because he was proud of his friend. That’s a great example of the values that are being taught to the boys—that we should celebrate each other’s successes and be happy and supportive of each other.

S: The “coordinate” nature of The Prep and The Priory is fascinating. What synergies do you see arising from this novel setup?

PB: The ability to focus on academics in a manner that is specific to gender, while at the same time bringing genders together to socially interact and understand each other, has created a culture I’ve never experienced before—at St. Andrew’s or any other school. Single gender classrooms have advantages that are visible. Dialogue is shared amongst teachers across divisions on how they can see the research in action. This only leads to further questions on how to go beyond gender and differentiate to the individual child. These kind of philosophical discussions and questions lead to a rich and interesting environment to work in.

SH: Older girls have really stepped up to the plate to embrace and nurture our younger boys. We’ve had fourth grade girls becoming Reading Buddies for our Kindergarten boys, and we have our high school girls playing and taking care of our boys during all-school events and during after school care. They’ve been such a crucial element, in my mind, of developing our boys’ social-emotional lives—they are surrounded by adults and older kids who model the love and empathy that we want our boys to develop.


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