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Championing the Trickier to Teach

We all have it; the child who is that little bit trickier to teach. The child that all your family members know by name. The child whose name is bellowed down the corridor by another member of staff, whilst you’re warming your soup in the staff room wondering what they’ve been up to now.  But as Rita Pierson explains it, it’s a well known educational phenomenon that these children; these tricky and often patient testing children, are never, ever off sick. They show up. Every single day. Why is that? Maybe they have a mighty immune system, or possibly an inbuilt radar drawing them to the school gates. Or maybe it’s because they are the children that need championing the most. They show up to be taught, to be loved. They are relentless in wanting something from us, often not knowing what it is that they’re wanting, often fighting it, resisting it, but they show up anyway.

How do we champion these children? The children asking for love in unloving ways, repeatedly demanding our time and our patience. How do we inspire and engage them, nurture and root for them, and prove to them tirelessly that we believe they can achieve great things? 

Three Simple Ways to Champion the Trickier to Teach

Dream Share

When did you last ask your champion what they want for their future? What they aspire to do, or to be? What university might they want to go to? How will they change the world? Simply asking these questions sparks thought. It plants seeds of belief that these things are within their grasp. It tells them that because you asked it, you believe they can achieve it. Championing their future allows them to be champions of the present. Reaffirm their dreams and encourage them to start each day with their end goal in sight. 

Be Consistent

It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve just had wet play, the lesson plan has gone out the window and the end of the day can not come quick enough. This is the time to be as consistently ‘you’ as possible. To keep the same boundaries, and engage with them in the same way you usually would.  This consistency makes you predictable, helping your champion feel safe and secure; something that may be lacking in their lives. 


Paula Spencer explains that labelling a child as ‘bad’ (whether this be directly, or implied) puts the expectation on the child to behave in this way. Although they may never be told directly – if you asked, could other children in your class tell you who the ‘naughty’ child is? Or which is the ‘bottom table’ despite your creative table names? This is why it is important that your champion, and peers and staff alike, hear you champion their successes. Try to ‘catch them’ being good. Find out how your champion likes to be praised, whether that be a touch on the shoulder, a verbal ‘well done,’ or a knowing look, and praise. Allow them to feel success, and allow other members of the community to hear it too.

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The author

Ella is a senior leader from Nottingham and founder of Education Tree; an organisation providing 1:1 counselling and nurture group sessions to schools. Ella is passionate about well-being and mental health in primary schools and the importance of early intervention.

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