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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Name Game: Tips for Remembering Student Names

By now school is back in session for everyone. In the first few weeks, teachers are establishing their classroom routines and procedures, employing their classroom management plans, and going over class rules. The students are getting used to their new teacher and peers and possibly even a new school. Another thing teachers are doing is learning names. Teachers may have around 25 students, unless they switch classes (then it would be more). School counselors are responsible for their whole school, maybe even two schools if their time is split between more than one building. So how do we remember all of those names?

Edutopia released an article last week about remembering students' names for the start of the school year. The suggested typical tricks: practice names when passing back papers, use rhymes, greet students as they enter the classroom, and repeat names back to make sure you got it right. These tips are helpful for a classroom teacher who has a smaller number of students, but what about the specialists, lunch/ recess aides, school counselors, and administrators who are responsible for all students? I personally think you shouldn't stress yourself out over remembering every students' name. Depending on the size of your school, you probably won't be able to remember all of them. Often times, we remember the names we have to use most frequently. For teachers, these can be our kiddos with behavior challenges. You probably wish you had a dime for every time you had to use these student's names (i.e., "Johnny sit in your seat" or "Johnny keep your hands to yourself," etc.). Then there's the students who are kind, polite, and participate regularly. It may sometimes feel like this student is the only one listening to anything you say, making you want to call on them more often. Just make sure you call on the other students too! For school counselors, the names we probably remember most often are the students who come to us for individual counseling and small groups. We also probably remember the names of students that we are involved in behavior interventions for, i.e., Functional Behavior Assessments, Positive Behavior Support Plans, Observations, etc.). I also remembered the names of students I had written 504 plans for.

When I worked as a Teacher Assistant covering lunch and recess, I remembered the names of students that I covered their classes for indoor recess or teacher planning periods. I remembered the names of students who I had to speak to about their behavior and the ones who just liked to talk to me because they're genuinely nice kids. The school I worked at had a population of over 500. During a Leader in Me Training, the facilitator asked us to introduce ourselves using something we like that starts with the same letter as our first name. To this day I can't remember what I used for myself. However, I liked this idea and used it with students.

I had a student that was in fourth grade at the time, we'll call him "Joshua." Joshua* had a brother that was a few years older than him, we'll call him "Thomas." They looked exactly alike. Whenever I saw Joshua* I called him Thomas*. He would yell back to me that his name was Joshua* and we'd laugh about it. Finally I said to him, "tell me something that you like that starts with the letter J." We both laughed about how hard it is to come up with something you like that starts with the letter J. He finally said "jelly." Again we started to laugh. I said, "Okay, Joshua* Jelly it is." I never forgot his name again after that. Not only did it help me remember his name, it also helped me establish rapport with him and his friends. We all had an inside joke. Of course, his friends ended up with nicknames too. One in particular had nothing to do with the same letter as his first name. One day I was walking through the cafeteria, talking to students, when I came across Joshua's* friend, we'll call him Gavin*. Gavin* was enjoying his carrots in a way his mother had probably not intended... up his nose. I stood next to him quietly until he noticed me and I said to him, "from now on you are Carrots." We all laughed about it. It was even funnier when Gavin's mom started working at our school. I was like "Oh, you're Carrots' mom!" Carrots and Joshua* Jelly are in sixth grade now. I miss them and hope they're enjoying their first few weeks of middle school!

The first school I was a counselor at had 600 students and I didn't remember a lot of students' names. Of course, being part-time makes it even more difficult to remember names. So that's my favorite way to remember student names. How do you remember student names? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

* Indicates where names were changed to preserve student confidentiality.

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