Learn your students’ names

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Kristen Riello

One of the simplest ways to connect with another person is to learn his or her name. It’s an obvious sign of respect to learn and remember it. My whole life I’ve always been bothered if teachers do not know my name. If I’ve sat in your class for an entire semester, why wouldn’t you even bother trying to learn my name?

When professors don’t take the time to at least try to learn their students names it feels like they just don’t care enough about the class. If a professor doesn’t care, why are students expected to care?

We are so fortunate to go to a school that doesn’t have 300-person lecture halls, so why aren’t we taking full advantage of that? It also helps us get to know our classmates and forms a little community within the classroom.

If a student has a personal connection with a professor they want to try harder to impress him or her and do good work for the class. I know that I feel guilty if I don’t give an assignment my all for a class where I know the professor. It feels like you’re sort of letting them down. They become like this weird role model in your life and you feel the undying need to show them how amazing you can be.

As a camp counselor I had to remember hundreds of kid’s first and last names. It wasn’t easy but I did it, so I know it can be done. The kids respected me and liked me a lot more when I knew their names. It made them feel like I personally cared about each and every one of them because I took the time to get to know something as simple as their name. It’s the same thing in a classroom.

In large settings like camp and school, it’s easy to feel lost and like you’re just another face in the crowd. Some people tend to already feel a sense of alienation when it comes to a classroom setting. Knowing a person’s name makes them part of the group and gives them that sense of inclusion.

When people feel anonymous, they sometimes tend to act out. It’s the same thing in a classroom. When your professor doesn’t know who you are, you’re more tempted to skip class. I skipped my lecture-style history class a few more times than I care to admit simply because I was just another person in a seat, another face in the crowd, another name on an unused roster. Also because the class was in the morning, but let’s just blame it on the name thing for the sake of the opinion piece.

Whether it’s creating a seating chart, coming up with a pneumonic device, printing out the picture roster, writing out difficult names phonetically, asking students to say their name every time they speak, there are tons of different ways to remember students names. I think the “I’m bad with names,” excuse is overused.

I don’t expect a professor to remember everyone’s names for every single class, but it doesn’t hurt to at least try. If I see a professor trying hard, I try hard back.

Learning a person’s name is the most simple thing, and it can make all the difference in a classroom. Don’t make your students feel like just another grade in a grade book.