Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Confession time

I have a confession to make. It's a terrible confession for a teacher. I don't know how I've managed all these years. I'm just so bad at it. And it seems to get harder every year. This year it seems particularly difficult. I'm really struggling with it this term.

What is it?

Memorising children's names.

There, I've said it.

I find it very difficult to learn my new pupils' names.

If I was a primary school teacher I would only have 30 names to learn and I would see those 30 children every day. But no, I chose to be a secondary school teacher, don't ask my why. I teach about 130 pupils and see about 75 of them each day and then only for an hour at a time. By the time the first Parents' Evening comes round I may have only seen a child for a total of 8 hours.

I do all the things you are supposed to. I do seating plans. I print off their photos from the database and stare at them. I try to attach attributes to each child (Lily with the red glasses, Hamzah is the tallest, Sarah has a pony tail, etc). I try so hard.

I think it is getting harder because I've learned so many. In sixteen years of teaching I've put just over 2000 names to faces. And it's when the same names keep recurring that the problems begin.

You see it's not so bad with the unusual names ("Merlin" was one I remember vividly!), but then I get 3 Sams, 4 James and 5 Kate/Katy/Katherines in one class and I've already taught over 50 Sams, 70 James and 120 Kate/Katy/Katherines, so they all start to blur. I once taught a class with 5 Hannahs in it, but at least they were all called Hannah, what about the year I had Laura, Lara, Lauren and Lorna in one class?! Heaven help me!

The thing is, I very quickly know their personalities. I know if a child is confident or shy, produces messy or immaculate work, understands immediately or needs some one to one help, volunteers in class or needs a little push, is enthusiastic or just coasting. I know the child. Show me a photo of a child and I can tell you all about them. But putting a name to a face ..........

So the next time you are at a Parents' Evening and you say your child's name and the teacher looks blank, don't be offended if they look at a photo. Please. We do know your child, we just may not have memorised their name, yet.

14 comments:

Ladybird World Mother said...

Had AWFUL time at my first parents' evening my first term as teacher... couldnt remember any names and had to MAKE UP STUFF as was panicking so much. Truly BAD. Never again. Made sure I knew who the hell everyone was after that... not that I could always put those damned names they have to the right face! so you are not alone... bet loads of us teachers do the same. xx

Maggie May said...

Oh WM, you have the same problem as me. There are over a hundred children to learn each school year & I am often with all of them as well as last years & the year before.
I am OK when there are some very unusual children or children who are very naughty or very good. However put together 20 little brown haired boys or fair haired girls who seem to be very ordinary types who look alike & I am done for.
Some of the names are getting very difficult to pronounce let alone remember (from overseas)
At the after school club, I have to remember which of any set of carers belongs to which child. Many families have several regular people who might pick up. It is a nightmare.
Now if the brown haired girl with the ordinary face always dressed in green, I would remember who she is, but tomorrow she will be in blue!
Sometimes I bluff my way by standing with paper & pencil & saying *how do you spell your name again?*

Mummy Cow said...

I agree Ladybird! Now in my 26th year and it's getting harder. You're not alone WM!
xx

Pippa said...

My teachers were always lucky then all they had to do was look at my Mum and they would know who they were to talk about! My sister has an unusual name so they had her down.

Top Ender I am guessing is going to have the same benefit as me. The teachers will take one look at me and know who my daughter is!

We'll work on Baby Boy...

Suburbia said...

I bet you learn the names of the naughty ones first!!

Insomniac Mummy said...

I've found I'm worse with names since I had children.

I never forget a face though.

:)

Iota said...

That's a tough one.

Brighton Mum-Teenage Angst said...

Oh dear!! From the other side, as a parent, I was always quite apprehensive meeting teachers on parents evenings. Hoping they would have insightful and informative knowledge about my 4 children. Now, I think I understand. I have a David, Sam, Joe & Lily, and they were actually just trying to figure out who they were!! I did wonder x
Love the blog....

scrappysue said...

fair enough - i don't know how principals do it and once your brain starts to go - sorry, 'one's' brain (ie mine) - it can only get harder!!!

Tawny said...

Don't worry about it, I have Guides who have been in my unit 3 years and I still get confused about their names!

Expat mum said...

Lily with the Red Glasses? - I'm not surprised you don't remember names. Aren't you supposed to use alliteration to help? How about Lily with the lisp, or Lily with the limp?

Kelloggsville said...

This was useful to know actually. So if the teacher looks a little blankly at me, is it ok to say "do you want to check the photo on your records?"

Sass E-mum said...

It's a good reminder. Because I still go into the nursery fully expecting them to thank me for the privilege of having Peaches in their school...

The Woman who Can said...

I might try taking a photo to parents evening. Or maybe it will be better to get feedback on someone else's child...