Podcasts

Unlikable Children

“I have never been able to understand why small children are so disgusting. They’re the bane of my life. They’re like insects: they should be got rid of as soon as possible.” Miss Trunchbull, Matilda, Roald Dahl

The end-of-break bell echoes through the comforting bowels of the staffroom and, clutching your luke-warm coffee close to your chest, you begin to feel that familiar sense of dread. It’s that class… It would be ok if X pupil wasn’t in there. Maybe he’s ill? Hopefully he’s truanting? That shameful hope that despite every child mattering, perhaps for this particular one you could make an exception.

There are inevitably children in our classes who we find incredibly hard to like: the mini dictator, the self-referential one, the one who talks over others, who doesn’t listen, wants to be centre stage, the archetypal teacher’s pet, the bully, the provocative, attention seeking one, who you wish would just “pipe down”. And, to your shame, you have found yourself embroiled in a destructive cycle that highlights not only the child’s faults, but also your own.

In Tish’s podcast, she explains factors behind this “dislikability” and suggests ways in which we as classroom teachers can release the likable spirit of these pupils. 

Take Aways for the classroom

  • Demonstrating care and concern rather than solely discipline and control.
  • Park the problem: move the attention away from the cause for drama, create a time to return to it later.
  • Find new skills or new activities that put the child outside what they are used to: could they be book monitor? Could they be a secret teacher (identifying the most well behaved pupils in the class)? Could they be responsible for feeding the school hamster? 
  • Relentless positivity: frame each encounter with the positive conviction that you can grow to like this child and that they will grow to like themselves better.
  • Time and space: choose not to engage, and walk away rather than running the gauntlet they have laid out for you or chose an alternative point of contact.
  • Respect the child is trying as best as they know how: “I can see that you feel upset/angry/etc… and I’d like to support you…” “I can see your feelings are valid but I feel right now your need to distance people is getting in the way of you being seen at your best.”
  • Meet with the person and not the behavior.
  • Constant fresh starts: “live without memory or desire” to enable situations for you to be pleasantly surprised. 

Relevant Teacher Standards

TS1:  Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
TS7: Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learningenvironment

Further reading: