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Every Kind Of Child You’ll Ever Teach From The Space Cadet To The Church Mouse

“In diversity there is beauty and there is strength,” said the sublime Maya Angelou. Then again, she didn’t have to teach them all day…

  • Every Kind Of Child You’ll Ever Teach From The Space Cadet To The Church Mouse

From the student you barely know is there, to the one who you couldn’t miss if you tried, every year your classroom seems to be filled with perennial reincarnations of last year’s lot.

Here Jon Brunskill takes a tongue-in-cheek look at every student that’s ever set foot in your school, and ever will.

1 | The Space Cadet

And no, I don’t mean that they’re destined for a career with NASA. Although physically in the room, the space cadet’s mind is on a wacky planet far away. At any given moment they could be rocking with a glazed stare, or silently dancing to a tune only they can hear. Their stories in literacy provide particular entertainment, creating what would have been the result of Salvador Dali taking up children’s fiction.

If encountered:
Patiently explain that you, too, are concerned about whether fairies are lonely, then steer them back onto their long division.


2 | The Prodigy

‘Growth mindset’ has its place, but doesn’t negate the fact that every class contains a child so brilliant that you can’t help but feel like everyone else should just give up. You can only imagine their boredom as you baby step the class through fractions.

If encountered:
Thank them for their insights on your last batch of reports, then ask them to explain last night’s Horizon. Again.


3 | The Alpha


The ability to dominate any room with brute social presence is something that we should probably be teaching. It’s an immensely practical skill, and will ensure that its possessor goes far. But, if you’re stuck in a room with a child who’s mastered this fine art, its breakdown-inducingly exhausting. Probably doesn’t help that they remind you of every kid who didn’t invite you to a party when you were at school.

If encountered:
Challenge them to a game of who-can-stay-quietest-the-longest, scoffing that you “bet the other kids will beat you easily”.


4 | The Church Mouse


If this child’s personality had a Dulux colour, it would be ‘mild beige’. Their sole mission seems to be creeping through each day saying the fewest amount of words possible – they’re masters at blending into any background. Even though you’re a caring, emotionally available teacher, it’s perfectly possible to make it to lunchtime before realising they’re not actually in today.

If encountered:
Try desperately to evoke a reaction that isn’t just an apologetic shrug. “There’s a dinosaur in the playground!”. Nope, nothing.


5 | The Teacher PA

During training they tell you that teaching is relentless. What they don’t say is that the vast majority of your tasks can be delegated to the super organised, industrious child who inhabits every class. The PA is happy to sacrifice their playtime to audit stationery and make a decent pot of coffee (additional training required, but they can do it, trust me).

If encountered:
Offer them money? You shouldn’t give them money. But it does sort of feel like they should be getting paid.


6 | The Snowflake


This pampered prince arrives with Olbas infused handkerchiefs tucked into his wool lined gilet, parents carrying his bags lest his precious shoulders suffer from the hard labour of carrying his own stuff. Any work you’ve done in building resilience and independence is swiftly shattered by the revelation that “daddy normally brushes my teeth for me.”

If encountered:
Explain that you understand his father is ‘on the board’, but he’s still going to have to complete his handwriting practice like everyone else.


Jon Brunskill is the head of Year Two at Reach Academy Feltham. He tweets at @jon_brunskill and you can find him at pedfed.wordpress.com.

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