Social outcasts

8th October 2004 at 01:00
Liz Henning is associate adviser for Manchester local education authority.

A former head of maths in Rochdale, she is a troubleshooter, giving support in behaviour management and maths teaching strategies to teachers in the city "When teachers have a child in their class who doesn't look agreeable or act particularly pleasantly, they are often too ashamed to admit that they too find it difficult to like the child; that they can see the other children's point of view. Any child who stands out in this way is going to have a tough time.

"As a teacher you have to make it your business to know what's going on in that child's life, to know the realities of his or her circumstances. We sometimes don't have a clue about the pain and difficulty children have to endure away from school. That doesn't mean you have to be soft.

"In such cases you cannot let the child get away with being truculent, because no one will achieve in life being like that. You have to be firm, but let kids know you are on their side; that you are doing something because you want to help rather than dictating rules. Creating respect and trust and building self-esteem are paramount in the modern classroom. The teacher's job is to try to give the child aspirations and choices, to try to make the pupil's lot better. Building up moments when that child can shine is the real gift, creating room for development."

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