It’s week three, and I don’t know all my students’ names, Friday kudos, wine for your weekend

It’s week three of the school year, and if you put all my students in a room together away from the kids they’re normally in class with and in no semblance of their seating chart, I’d probably only know half of their names.

name cartoonThis is not from lack of effort. I genuinely try every single day to recall the one hundred and twenty-one face and name combinations that are my responsibility this year, and in some cases I surprise myself with who I remember. Other times I embarrass myself on who I can’t. I can look at a student, tell you that he was gone for the State Fair last week, won a grand champion prize, told me his favorite food was tater tots with horseradish, and that he cheers for the Kansas City Chiefs, and if you ask me his name, will go slightly cross-eyed trying to remember if it’s Matt, Mark, Max, or Mack. I can have a conversation with a girl in the hallway for the three minutes before class about her volleyball team, boy troubles, what stresses her out about high school, and then have her walk into the classroom leaving me wondering if that was Katie, Kaitlyn, or Cassie.

It’s not just in school that I’m relatively terrible at the name game, and I try to be really honest with my students about this at the beginning of the year. I practice their names in front of them so that they know I’m trying. I always apologize if I can’t remember their name when they come to ask a question or need a pass for something. For the most part my students are very very patient about this. But there are still moments when I feel like this makes me a pretty bad teacher. We’re well into the school year now; I should know their names! I want to know their names!

I don’t know if I need some new, great strategy for mastering the name game more quickly. If you have one, let me know in the comments because I’d be willing to try it. Maybe I just need to have a little patience and give myself a break. A quick Google search reveals that I’m not alone in the struggle. If you’re a teacher also trying to learn names, take heart! The University of Nebraska Office of Graduate Studies, Ohio State’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and Carnegie Mellon have all studied the challenge of memorizing names, and it’s a really common issue. If you’re not a teacher and just find yourself unable to put faces with names in social situations, firstly, I know that the struggle is real, and secondly, maybe try one of the following strategies that I’ve found to be useful.

***Try re-introducing yourself as a natural part of the conversation. If I know I’ve seen someone maybe once or twice before, I sometimes try to fit an introduction into the first part of the conversation. If I lead off with, “Hi, I’m Kate, it’s good to see you again,” 9 times out of 10 the other person follows up with their name in the introduction as well. If it’s as common of a problem as study suggests, the chance that you’re meeting someone again who might not remember your name either is pretty high!

***Try associating a name with a feature of the person or the context in which you met them. I have a few acquaintances that I know I’ll run into once or twice a year in certain contexts. To help remember names, I associate them with the context like, “Joyce from the state office” or “Mark from Strand Lighting.” This year with my students, I asked them to each share a passion with me that I put next to their name in my gradebook. Now instead of just trying to remember how to tell the 4 Paul’s apart on face alone, I have 4 different memory tags, like “Paul who loves fishing” vs. “Paul who loves gardening.” 

***Try throwing out a name that you do remember. There’s a potential embarrassment factor you have to be willing to face with this one, but it might be worth it. If you’re not 100% sure on someone’s name, or you think it’s something like Anna, but that’s not quite it, just go for it. Worst case scenario you say, “Hey Anna!” and they tell you it’s actually “Ava.” Actually, worse case scenario they tell you it’s something like “Michelle” which is nowhere near Anna, but you can still apologize and laugh it off that you’re not sure what you were thinking. 

***Try faking it until you make it. To be honest, this is what I do 90% of the time. Pretend like everything is normal and you totally know who the person is, and then as soon as it’s appropriate to do so, ask someone around you what the person’s name is! You already know this strategy though! Everyone does this! 

Friday kudos to…

The really amazing people I work with, who have been mentioned before, but again stepped up for me in a big way this week after a challenging situation, and reminded me that I am not alone!

Those who brought the gINKgo project to me for my birthday. I love what I imagine the gINKgo project does for other people, and to find a gINKgo note myself was an awesome thrill. Double thanks to the ink. reader who surprised me with a gINKgo leaf necklace, which I’ve worn all week-long and is a new favorite piece. My girl Kim also joined the gINKgo project this week, and wrote her first notes! Love and hope are being spread! Join the project or share a note you’ve found! Use #ginkgoproject on social media and check out the gINKgo project page!

Ryan the Tech Guy turns 40 tomorrow. He’s thrilled I’m sure! Happy Birthday.

Wine for your weekend…

This is going to be a bit of a weird and funny review, but as I wrote earlier this week about some of my favorite podcasts, I have to follow-up with a podcast reviewed wine! On my recommended episode of “Off the Vine with Kaitlyn Bristowe” Kaitlyn and Arielle were drinking Whispering Angel. Admittedly, I have never had it, but after listening to the episode and looking it up, I’m in the market to track down a bottle! Whispering Angel is widely credited with starting the international rose wine trend. It’s ranked as the number one imported French wine, and was the first major rose brand to be sold on the American market. Over 3 million bottles of Whispering Angel are produced a year, and it makes up over 20% of the rose market. The vineyards strategy, go where millennials go! And wow did it work! According to the winemaker’s notes, it’s fruity and aromatic, yet bone dry all the way through the finish. At a reasonable $20 price point, this on trend pick is a bottle I’ll be looking to scoop up, and one I’d recommend you search for as well!


Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She recently completed her master's degree in learning design and technology, and continues to study and advocate for arts integration in the classroom. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate is working to innovate and expand theater opportunities for the students at PIHS. An avid distance runner, concert pianist, and want-to-be wine aficionado, Kate's blog "ink." is a passion project, embodying all the best parts of life: friends, food, wine, thoughtful conversation, style, and sass!

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