Let’s face it, I am at a HUGE disadvantage when it comes to names.
First off, there are about a ba-zillion new ones I need to learn. This always takes a lot of effort and a few weeks. Kids, they have about 6-10 new names they must learn at school at the start of a new year — the names of their new teachers. Me, I have scores and scores and scores of them I must learn.
It’s a challenge every year… learn all the names as fast as you can. However, at least I learn them!!
See, I just realized I used the word “must” above. However, as other teachers often prove to me, what I find to be a “must” is not really a “must” when it comes to public education. I mean how many teachers are there out in our school systems this year that will just never even bother to learn all their students’ first names? (More than you think, that’s for sure.)
They just simply put kids into alphabetical seating order and spend the rest of the year looking at their charts to see who is who — but they don’t really know the kids. Wouldn’t know what to call them if they saw them at lunch or in the halls or what not. And let’s face it — the kids know when you do not know their names.
This is why I view learning the names of my students as a must — because how in the world can you expect to be an effective educator if you do not even know your students’ names?
Even if there are 43 kids in your 2nd period class (with only 36 desks)?
(Those are rhetorical questions, BTW… you really can’t, IMHO.)
So I learn names. All of them.
However, I still haven’t figured out a way to handle remembering the names of all my former students. I mean, I teach teenagers and these kids change and grow and lose their braces and cut their hair and pierce their faces and color their hair and gain weight and lose weight and on and on an on.
So when a semi-quiet kid I had 2 years ago in 4rth period who has become taller by 2 inches, grown a mini-mohawk, gotten contact lenses and is now deeply into goth comes up to me and says, “Hi Mr. Alan,” a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look sometimes crosses my face. I mean I know I remember the kid… I just don’t quite remember their name.
It’s that tip-of-the-tongue thing that never comes.
And they sense it. And they take it personally. And I feel bad. But I am struggling with names in the month of September. Struggling badly. My focus is more on learning new ones than recalling old ones anyway and the fact is, I think the memory card between my ears has storage space limitations that inhibit me from remembering any more than I already do.
I mean how many names can a teacher possibly be expected to recall?
For example, I betchya that last year in the month of June I knew the first names of 500 people on campus. Kids, teachers, administrators… yep, 500 seems like a solid guess. And yet, there were probably at least 1,000 people that new my name if not more. (We were over 4,000 at our high school in enrollment, or thereabouts.)
But do I get any credit for the ones I remember? Nope… but I feel terrible for the ones I forget.
Never mind the fact that I have 4 Juans, 5 Marias and two students named Jesus this year (one’s a boy and one’s a girl — go figure). It’ll all make a person bonkers.
So what do I do when I get hit with a former student saying, “Hi, Mr. Alan”?
I play the “Uhm, Hey… Dude” Name Game.
But if there’s a better way, I’d love to hear about it.