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Pupils I'll never forget

Brian's self-esteem was lifted by a flash of inspiration, recalls Richard Knights

When Brian arrived at our school, he'd been pushed from pillar to post.

He'd missed large chunks of education and his records were non-existent. We counted about half a dozen schools from his haphazard recall. His sister in Year 6 was one of nature's survivors, sassy and street-wise. Brian sat in our Year 3 class bewildered and confused. It took several days to persuade him to take off his coat and hang it in the cloakroom. The routine of school was a mystery; when everyone stood up he remained seated and vice versa. Brian could barely read, spell, write or count, but he'd concentrate for ages - tongue out - laboriously writing his name.

One of my strategies is to have a system of class monitors who help with daily tasks and guarantee that things run smoothly. The role empowers children. With a job to their name they can be relied on to remind me when I've forgotten to take the register or go to assembly.

It's strange how you remember certain individuals: Billy Jones the over-officious pencil monitor or Violet Smith, who began her life of crime as the milk monitor. To avoid problems I swap jobs every term and pair boys up with girls.

One day the children were doing an exercise on their likes and dislikes about school. In Brian's piece of work he wrote that he liked Mr Knights but didn't like not having a job in class. The next day we were lining up to go to assembly and the ever-helpful Jill said: "Shall I turn the light out?" A flash of inspiration. "We need a light monitor. That's an important job, it'll help save the school money. Brian, would you like to do it?"

His eyes sparkled and a smile as wide as the Runcorn Bridge crept across his face. From that moment, he was the world's best light monitor, glued to the spot by the switch, waiting for the signal.

I read about another boy, who was isolated and marginalised within a new class, who built his self-esteem by spitting the highest up the school wall. Thankfully Brian was happy being light monitor.

Richard Knights has been teaching for seven years and is currently a KS2 teacher at St Mary and St Paul's CE primary school, Prescot, Knowsley. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Writeto Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email

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