Pupils I'll never forget

18th February 2005 at 00:00
John was so shy he couldn't make eye contact. Then Tom Frame feigned partial deafness

When I came into guidance (a post unique to Scotland) it covered three areas: curricular, vocational and personal development. In John's case, all the strands worked. Everyone in the school fulfilled their role in catering for his educational needs, so he got a completely rounded service. And it transformed him.

When he arrived he was a desperately shy and introverted boy who wouldn't make eye contact and mumbled when he spoke. He was the sort of lad who would see a tiny mistake in a hugely detailed map, such as a road spelt wrong, or didn't see what was wrong with pointing out a small stain on your tie. He found it difficult to forge relationships so he was isolated and, if permitted, he would always have been picked last for a football team.

I encouraged John to come to my office, but I had to overcome his bowed head and mumbling. So I told him I was hard of hearing and I'd frequently point at my ears to remind him. Gradually he got used to making eye contact and speaking clearly.

But I wasn't the only one who helped him. There were nine of us in the guidance team and we all worked together. We gave him responsibilities and encouraged him to go to join clubs. Gradually he gained in confidence and even made friends. His development was incredible.

Sustained efforts from different sources meant he did brilliantly in his exams, getting all 1s and 2s for his standard grades and As and Bs in his highers. He's in his fourth year at university now and lives away from home. I told him that our door would always be open to him and, during his first year at university, whenever he came home he would drop in to see us.

We planned to play golf some time, but now his visits have become less frequent. That's ok. John still needed us during the transition; now he doesn't. He's settled and enjoying a great social life with "a motley crew of student friends". A few weeks ago one of my colleagues saw him at the station and when they spoke John made clear and constant eye contact.


Tom Frame has taught at Larbert high, Falkirk, Scotland for 32 years, and was principal teacher of guidance for 25. He 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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