“To weave the magic of a thing, you see, one must find its true name. In my lands we keep our true names hidden all our lives long, from all but those we trust utterly; for there is great power, and great peril, in a name.”
-Ged, the wizard, The Tombs of Atuan
Do we have a more important job as educators early in the year than learning our students’ names? It’s one way we show connection and begin to build positive relationships.
In What We Say and How We Say It Matter, I encourage teachers to consider a few key points about learning and using students names:
- Use students’ real and/or preferred names. Avoid terms of endearment (sweetie, honey, etc.) or proxies such as “ma’am” and “sir” which make it easy to not learn students’ names.
- Use students’ names positively. Some children only seem to hear their names when they’re being redirected or reprimanded. Make sure students hear their names in lots of positive contexts.
- Learn students’ names as quickly as possible. When students know they’re known, they can form stronger bonds with us and with school in general.
- Pronounce students’ names correctly. They might say, “That’s close enough,” but don’t settle for “close enough.” It’s more than common courtesy. Pronouncing names correctly shows you really care about your students.
15 Strategies for Learning Students' Names
If you’re an elementary classroom teacher, learning names probably isn’t too hard. You can probably have all 25 (or so) names down by the end of the first day of school. If you’re a teacher who works with multiple classes of students, it can be a lot harder. You might teach middle or high school and have 5-7 classes of students to learn. Or, you might be a unified arts teacher and have an entire school of names to master!
I recently had the privilege of working with educators from Greenfield, WI, and together, we came up with a bunch of ideas to try. As you read this list, try picking one or two you might use in your setting!
These are just a few ideas. What are other strategies you use? Add an idea in the comments section of this post to share with other educators!