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Pupils I'll never forget

Claire Stack and Peter learned to climb together

Peter had been to school in reception and Year 1, but he was kept away after that and was nine years old when he came to my class. There had been problems with bullying neighbours and his dad literally kept him behind doors. He had been inside for two years and was skinny and terrified. His skin was almost transparent.

We always started off the day with some independent reading and I remember him sitting down with a book and not knowing what to do. After three minutes he said: "Can I go now? This is boring." He didn't know how a classroom worked.

I sat with him and went through the alphabet, asking him to sound the letters. He made noises, like a monkey, and that scared me. He had no recollection of anything he had done in school before.

It was hard work. He would ask constantly when it was time to eat, but when lunchtime came he would never like the food and would cry. He also kept asking when playtime was, but when he got to the playground he didn't know what to do and would just watch.

But very quickly he made progress. The most memorable time was when we had been writing a class poem about being in the jungle and he asked to read it in assembly. I desperately didn't want him to be humiliated, but he was determined. He took the poem home and learnt it with his dad, who also couldn't read very well, and then he stood up in front of the juniors and read it. It brought a lump to my throat.

I took him on a gifted and talented weekend to Cumbria. He had never walked up a hill, never walked further than the supermarket near home, and he found it hard. But he didn't give up. He wanted to get to the top - and he did.

Having Peter in my class made me think about the way I teach. Because he found it hard sitting still, I had to make the learning more active and give pupils breaks. Peter made me feel that if it's possible for him to get there in the end, it is possible to do so much for any child.

Peter is a pseudonym. Claire Stack was talking to Elaine Williams. She teaches at The Willows primary school in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Do you have special memories of a pupil? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email

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