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Confidence trick;Talkback

This is a true story. If it wasn't it would be pointless, because it's a kind of moral tale you could easily invent.

I used to teach a Tracy and a Tracey. One was quiet - too quiet, and wouldn't say boo to a goose. The other one, the one with an "e", was loud - too loud.

Come parent's evening I got them muddled. I told shy Tracy's seriously withdrawn father that she was fine, full of fun and contributed, sometimes a little too readily, to class discussion. I didn't have the heart to say she was noisy and disruptive because I felt sorry for her dad. He was pleased. She's got friends then? Oooh yes, loads. I realised I'd got them wrong but it was too late to confess. Anyway I didn't want to look a fool.

And just as well I didn't. Because - and this is where the fairy story starts - from then on Tracy had friends. She became happy and joined in discussion.

So now I white-lie deliberately. I tell parents their kid is contributive and confident. And it almost always works. Nothing, it seems, inspires underconfidence more than being told you're underconfident.

Dreadful. I know. I've been on the other side of the table, when teachers told me my daughter was quiet. She was - until I challenged the teachers. What are you doing to bring her out? If it's not a fault, don't mention it. If it is, do something about it.

Bit of a fairy story perhaps, but it worked for Tracy and my daughter. If only it had worked for Tracey. If only I'd told her parent she never spoke out of turn and never opened the classroom window to yell across the playground. It might have quietened her down. But I don't think so.

Tell every parent of a disruptive pupil their kid is fine and they will be - now that is a fairy tale.

Richard Daubney teaches in the south-east.

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