Ciaran teaches in a primary school in Ireland. He qualified three years ago. He tells the story of one of his pupils whose behaviour is particularly challenging:
“Last year I had a class of nine and ten year olds. One of the boys, Niall, had cerebral palsy. That was tricky enough to deal with, as I had never really come across anyone with that before, and we had learnt nothing about it during my teacher training. There just wasn’t time as I did a one year postgrad course. Anyway, I quickly learnt that Niall was very bright but was also very cheeky and manipulative.
He was very quick to make nasty comments to his peers and even tripped up one of the other boys in his class as he went past. I found this really hard to deal with. I think I expected Niall to be the victim of bullying in the class, but in this case he was actually the perpetrator. I felt that I was tiptoeing aroung Niall a lot at the start because I didn’t want to be accused of picking on him. That would have been taken very badly. So for the first few weeks of the year, I did very little to tackle his behaviour, to be honest with you. After half-term, though, there was an incident when Niall said some pretty nasty things to one of the boys who would be very weak academically. You know, calling him “stupid” and “thick” and so on. I knew I needed to act, and so I did…”
Questions for reflection:
- What makes Ciaran’s experience particularly challenging?
- What insight does this give into the nature of bullying in schools, especially in relation to special educational needs/disabilities?
- What would you have done in Ciaran’s situation? Why?