On the first day of school, I memorize each of my new students’ names by the time they exit my classroom. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Let me reiterate: Mrs. Ram Jam, a walking disaster who can’t even remember her own telephone number or her husband’s real name 80 percent of the time (In my defense, he goes by his nickname. If you know my husband, do you even know his real name????), matches every single kid’s countenance to their name correctly within a 75 minute class period on the first day, retaining a 98 percent accuracy the next day–and I teach 90 kids, every day.
You might be flabbergasted, flummoxed, or impressed by my powers of memorization, but here are three reasons why I make committing their names to mind a priority:
- I’m trying to build relationships. It shows the students I care–from day one. It says I don’t know YOU as a person, but I value YOU, even though I don’t know YOU yet. It says I’m here for YOU and I see YOU and I recognize how YOU are an individual, separate from the sea of other faces in this classroom.
- It makes me look like a badass. (Just kidding!)
- I lied. There are no other reasons. See bullet one.
Now for the how I do it:
- I handwrite all students’ names, emblazing them on my mush-for-brain, and tape their names to their assigned desks.
- On the first day, I stand outside my door, student roster clipped to a clipboard, and look at students’ faces while saying their names out loud, confirming their pronunciation.
- I call students by name anytime I address them in class.
- While students do an icebreaker that requires them to meet everyone, I’m up and talking to them, ensuring I match each name to each face several times.
- Right before class’s end and without looking at their names, I stand in front of the class, go around the room, and say every student’s name correctly–like a badass.
- During my off period, I click through our online grading/attendance program, looking at their names and their pictures to reinforce name-to-brain imprinting.
(Sidebar: THIS ONLY APPLIES TO STUDENTS’ FIRST NAMES. LAST NAMES TAKE ME WEEKS. BABY STEPS, Y’ALL. BABY. STEPS.)
While memorizing students’ names on the first day might not be how you start building relationships, I’d love to hear your beginning of the year methods that make you look like the badass teacher that you are.
And for those of you who struggle with memorizing students’ names, here’s an oldie but a goodie that I wrote last year: A Poem (Plus Stage Directions): Why Teachers Can’t Remember Names at the Beginning of the Year.
Happy new school year!