“Future Husbands, Fathers and Leaders” - An All-Boys School Profile

Today's conversation is with Mr. Jim Taylor, director of admissions at Cistercian Preparatory School, a small, private, all-boys school in Irving, Texas. Read more about what makes a boy's school unique...

By Momentous Institute | Apr 09, 2018
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Today’s conversation is with Mr. Jim Taylor, director of admissions at Cistercian Preparatory School, a small, private, all-boys school in Irving, Texas. The school has about 350 students from 5th through 12th grades.

Mr. Taylor, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today about Cistercian. As part of our series on gender, I’m hoping to feature single-gender schools. I’m particularly interested in what makes them unique and what you see as the advantages to an all-boys school. My first question is about your background with single-gender education. Did you go to an all-boys school yourself?

I actually didn’t. I attended co-ed public school. Teaching at an all-boys school has been interesting. In addition to being the admissions director, I also teach science and am an assistant coach of the football and baseball teams.

What do you think the advantages are to having an all-boys school?

I think the biggest advantage to having an all-boys school is that we can focus on things that are unique to boys in a way that might get lost in a co-ed school. We try to teach them how to be positive men and how to be respectful towards their peers, their families and towards females. Of course, they come to school to learn academics, and we’re known for that, but more important than academics is formation. For us that means forming future husbands, fathers and leaders. Starting in fifth grade, we work with these boys to start molding them into virtuous people who may have families of their own someday, or may even become priests themselves.

In today’s day and age with social media, we often have to take a step back and talk about what it means to be a hero. We’re not talking about superheroes that they see in books and movies, but real life heroes. We talk about how to treat others with respect, how to have manners. For example, when a boy asks a girl to go to a homecoming dance, we tell them, “You are going to pick up this girl and take her away from her parents for the night. In what ways can you be respectful to her and her family? How can you be courteous? What does it mean to be a good date?” These are things that I think don’t get taught at every school, and an all-boys school allows us to talk about some of these issues as well as other things that bubble up in the boys’ lives.

A big theme for us as Cistercian is humility. We want our students to work hard and be proud of their hard work. But no one wants to be around the people who pound their chest about all of their accomplishments. Humility is woven into everything we do. I think this is an important lesson that boys need to learn, and our all-boys setting allows us to talk about that openly and often.

Tell me about what you think the biggest differences are between boys and girls. Why do you think it makes sense to separate them?

Boys and girls learn differently and at different times. Girls mature faster than boys do, and at earlier ages, girls can excel academically faster than boys do. I think there’s an advantage to splitting up boys and girls because the students can be more comfortable with their peer group. In middle school, things are changing so much. So many things are different than they were in elementary school. If students are able to talk about those things openly in class, conversations can be honest and very productive.

Our students – like most kids this age – are extremely social. It’s hard to keep teenage boys and girls away from each other. They have plenty of opportunities to interact with girls, but during the day they are focused on their studies.

In what ways do you see stereotypes about boys played out at Cistercian? In what ways do you see these stereotypes challenged?

One common stereotype that we get about our school in particular is that we’re a bunch of nerds who don’t do much besides study. When people visit our school, they expect to see boys walking in a single file line. The truth is, they’re still boys. They smell and jump around and they’re goofy.

In a broader sense, stereotypes about boys in general are both true and challenged here. Some stereotypes about boys are that they’re aggressive or they’re unable to show their emotions. We see these stereotypes in our school, and we also see examples of students who break these stereotypes. Our faculty gives them the opportunity to debunk some of these stereotypes. They’re able to see older individuals display emotion, and they learn that you don’t always have to be alpha-male, that you can cry and show emotion and that being masculine doesn’t mean that you can’t wear your emotions on your sleeve.

I’ll give you an example. I am an assistant coach of the football team. Before each game, the head coach asks each coach to give a little speech, a devotional on a certain topic. At a recent game, I was talking about a former student and thinking about him and his struggles. I started to get emotional in front of the boys. They supported me. And what they saw is that Coach Taylor is a football coach and he’s loud, but it’s cool that he can show this side of himself, too.

Students here get the full realm of what it means to be a boy and a young man. There are many sides to an individual. We can debunk the myth that an all-boys school means one must be aggressive. Of course, some of them are. We’re a small school so we see all kinds of personalities. But I think that at another school you might find that the jocks can’t hang out with the theater kids. Here, it is embraced. In fact, the jock might be a theater kid. One of our linebackers is a theater guy who also plays the cello. Here we embrace a diversity of boys and a diversity of interests, and this is well respected among students. (And if it’s not immediately, that attitude is put out pretty quickly by peers.)

What would you say are some of the concerns that potential families might have prior to enrolling their son in your school?

I think the biggest concern that families have is the social piece. They want to know whether they’ll be able to interact with girls. We do have female teachers at Cistercian, and we do work to make sure the boys have opportunities to interact with girls (though that doesn’t take much work on our part.) The school is a Catholic school, so some families who are not Catholic are concerned about that piece. I myself am not Catholic and we continue to work hard to diversify our staff and student body, both religiously, racially and socioeconomically.

What are you most proud of about Cistercian?

Of course, we are proud of our academics. We have 100% of our boys going to college, in all different schools. We have a strong curriculum and many students are taking college credits by their senior year.

But it goes so far beyond academics. It’s about how you think, speak, and learn in an appropriate way. It’s about discussing all of the messages that boys are receiving from society. It’s about challenging these messages and asking them how they see other people, other cultures, women and girls. When we talk about these things early on in a comfortable environment, they grow up thinking in a positive way about how to treat other people no matter their gender or race. They learn to treat everyone as a human with love.

I love being around teenagers. They’re so moldable. They’re young enough that they have so much to learn, and yet they have the minds of young adults. It’s really an amazing age to work with these young men and send them on a path to respecting others and growing up to be kind, humble adults.

Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss this topic with us! We really appreciate your insight.