Remembering the Names

I spend a lot of time in classrooms these days. Part of my work is “coaching,” which is edubabble for watching teachers teach, thinking about what they’re doing and how it relates to Critical Skills or Differentiated Instruction or whatever, and then asking questions designed to help deepen their understanding of what they’re trying to do. The goal is to improve classroom practice, (which it does) but I’m always struck by how much I learn when I’m not trying to do something and I allow myself to just sit there.

Today, I’m struck by the simple, elegant power of a name. When I sat down, the student next to me introduced himself (His name is Max, by the way) and asked me my name. The teacher I’m observing is using kids’ names over and over and over. It’s not so much about whether or not he knows them (which of course he does) but that he uses them. From the moment kids started walking into this room, he’s called them each by name in tones of voice ranging from teasing to commanding to correcting.

Names are obviously a big deal here.

It makes sense though, when you think of it. What we most want, all of us, is to be known and recognized. We want to know that, should we fail to appear one day, someone will come to look for us- will call for us until we emerge. What greater gift can we give to our students, in this day of digital over-disclosure and false intimacy, than to look into their faces and use their names, letting them know that we see them, that we know them, that we’d miss them should they not arrive.

This is the essence of community building, isn’t it? It all begins with knowledge, with knowing one another well, as the foundation for shared academic risk-taking. And that, my friends, begins with just one thing: Remembering the names.


3 responses to “Remembering the Names

  1. Great insight. One of the things I took away from my experience with the CSI was the “morning greeting.” It was a powerful tool for building community in my summer school classroom, where the only thing the 14 kids had in common was that they had all failed English. 

    I wish, though, that your opening wasn’t so dismissive of coaching. It isn’t edubabble and doesn’t deserve quotation marks. It strikes me as the same needless self-deprication many in our profession indulge in when they say they are “just a teacher.” Both teachers and coaches of teachers give so much of themselves and yet are so undervalued–often by those they serve so well. 

    So hold your head high, teacher and coach–you are among those who have made my own journey in education so much richer!

  2. Completely agree about the importance of names. We talk about it a lot and many are shocked when we ask them to go back to classes and see if they all know each others names…there is an assumption that students know the names of every member of the class (especially in Elementary/Primary Schools). However this is not always the case. And many children/students only ever hear their name in anger. For these children, the value of someone knowing their name gives them an identity, a valued place in the community.
    I was reading a blog from one school and have copied the link here. It is from a student who is asking why teachers always forget the names of their students.

  3. Pingback: Beyond the Ice Breaker « The Critical Skills Classroom

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