The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers. ~Marshall McLuhan
I will be the first to admit…I am not great with names. I am extremely successful at recognizing people and realizing I should know them, but less than efficient at actually being able to produce their name. However, over the past several years, I have made a concerted effort to improve at remembering names, particularly those of my students (I am an administrator, so I have over 900 of them).
In education, we frequently talk about the importance of developing connections and meaningful relationships with students. This may sound like an obvious statement, but the ability to recognize and speak to a student using their first name is significant in terms of making students feel like they are accepted and part of a school community. All of us appreciate being personally recognized, but this is especially true of adolescents–students who frequently feel like a face in the crowd.
To this end, at the beginning of each school year, I briefly visit every class on our campus to issue a challenge. I ask students to introduce themselves when they see me out on campus–before school, between classes, at lunch, after school, etc. In addition, I let them know that I will be introducing myself as opportunities arise. The students are forewarned that it may take me a few introductions, but I make it clear that I want to know their name and get to know something about them and their interests. I find myself carrying a stack of notecards, making notes about students and clues to help me remember their names…as well as other pertinent information. I approach this process with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, because I believe it is that important. I have found that for many of our students, having their name used by an administrator is not only surprising, but a confidence builder. Once they realize I know their name, they are much more likely to approach me and visit about things that are going on at school and in their personal lives.
It is a simple idea. It takes a lot of practice. It makes a big difference.