Pupils I'll never forget

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Michael Mills remembers a young boy with a larger-than-life attitude who was difficult to ignore

Sam was eight when I met him. He had a statement of special educational needs, uncombed black hair, a lop-sided grin, no front teeth, and glasses held together, Jack Duckworth-style, by a piece of plaster.

"Are you Mr Mills?" he called out cheerily from the back of the classroom as I tried to make an unobtrusive entrance at the front. Although there to see him, my intention was to work with other children too so that he was not embarrassingly singled out. He wasn't fussed about that - indeed, he made a point of singling himself out - and he didn't do "embarrassed".

"Me mam said you were coming to see me. She said you were right nice," Sam told me in what he took to be a whisper but which was making us centre stage. I motioned to him to be quiet while his teacher explained the activity they were to do. Sam managed 30 seconds. "Is it about me readin'?"

he bellowed into my left ear. "Me readin's rubbish. So's me spellin'." I tried some tactical ignoring but he was having none of it and changed tack, venturing into small talk. "I like yer tie. Where'd yer get it?"

We moved to the quiet room where we could talk without interrupting anyone.

I explained I was there to see how he was getting on with his reading and writing. "I can't 'elp it, see," he said. "Me mam says I'm backward, just like me Auntie Cheryl."

I'd taken along some pre-prepared word cards and showed Sam the first. "I bet you can't read that," I challenged. "The," he roared, backside lifting off his seat in glee. "What about this one?". "Easy-peasy," he howled, "that's 'and'."

"How about this?" I showed him "into". Sam looked hard and then, triumphantly, "inof". I made "Well done" noises and showed him the next card. "Can you tell me what that says?" "Don't know yet," he said, "but while I'm working it out, you forgot to purra tick for that last un."

Sam, backward? Not in my book.

Michael Mills is an educational psychologist for the city of York. Do you have special memories of unforgettable pupils? Write to Sarah Bayliss at the address on page 3 or email sarah. bayliss@tes. co.uk

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