Pupils I'll never forget

14th January 2005 at 00:00
Joyce Hepher remembers a boy whose struggles convinced her to change her own course.

From the moment Kenny started at our school, aged seven, he struggled. It was heartbreaking because he was such a lovely boy, so giving and kind. You just wanted him to do well, but he didn't understand anything.

He had problems with maths, English, science, everything. With each new topic, I'd carefully explain things to the whole class, then finish off by asking if anyone had any questions. All the children, including Kenny, would say no. They'd all pick up their pencils and start working on their own. Heads down, only the occasional murmur. But as I walked round the class, Kenny would be staring hopelessly at the blank page in front of him.

I'd ask him gently if he'd understood, and with a lovely smile, he'd say no. So I'd have to explain it all again, usually more than once.

It took up a lot of my time, with Kenny and I spending many lunchtimes together going over things again and again. But knowing Kenny inspired me.

Teaching him for a year, and coming to terms with all the extra work, having to work so closely with him and his parents, I realised I wanted to do more for children who struggled. I retrained, specialising in teaching those with dyslexia. That was more than seven years ago, and I've been working with dyslexic children since.

After a year, Kenny left my class. But I was very fond of him by then and always kept an eye on him. Sadly, he continued to struggle through junior school. His other teachers were also worried about what would happen to him, and we often discussed him in the staffroom. We knew he wouldn't get into the upper school.

When he was in my class, he didn't appear to have any sporting prowess, but as he moved up the school he improved. At 12 he won a sporting scholarship, I think for cricket, to a top school outside of London, so our worries proved unfounded. I've lost sight of him now, but last thing I heard was he was doing OK. Not brilliantly, but definitely much better than we ever expected him to do.

Joyce Hepher has been a primary teacher for 14 years and now specialises in support for dyslexic children at Dulwich College prep school, south London.

She was talking to Su Clark. 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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