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Disorganised boys

Mike Kent is a Friday columnist and head of Comber Grove primary school in the south London borough of Southwark

"Good teachers always look at children as individuals; that's one of the fascinations of the job. Children can tell if you like them and enjoy their company. And if the teacher is interesting and really cares for the children, problems at primary age should be relatively minor.

"Nevertheless, every school, probably every class, has its Vaughan. I had one in my first term of teaching. Steven was a thorough nuisance, always making his classmates giggle and distracting those who wanted to work. Then I offered to play guitar for the school concert and as soon as Steven saw my shining red electric guitar he was hooked. He'd stay long after school, listening to me rehearse, and was thrilled when I offered to teach him a few tunes. Soon after that I learned that his dad, whom he loved, had walked out. There's always a reason.

"There's always something positive about the Vaughans, too. The important thing is to find it quickly, build on it and use it constructively. Find an important job for them, show that you need to rely on them, and you're halfway there. I have a Vaughan in my Year 5 at the moment. Harsh words are like water off a duck's back. But I recently discovered he loves, and is good at, my favourite sport, table tennis. If he doesn't work, he doesn't get to play me, and he just loves trying to beat me."

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