Confidence trick;Talkback

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
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 I told shy Tracy's seriously withdrawn father that she was fine, full of fun and contributed, sometimes a little too readily, to class discussion.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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today