Remembering Students’ Names

At the golf course last weekend a tall, clear-eyed young man walked up and shook my hand.  It was an old student of mine – not that old, just a couple of years – who I didn’t remember. I had to ask his name.  He told me he got the highest grade in my class.  I still didn’t remember him – not until he told me his name, John.

I make a real effort and am usually successful at memorizing students’ names by the end of the first week of classes.  I use names constantly in class during our ten weeks together, but many names don’t stick beyond the end of the term.  I was used to seeing John sitting down so never noted his tallness and more importantly he just quietly went about his business – no muss, no fuss.  I really didn’t need to attend to his learning needs very often.  I don’t remember ever discussing outside matters.  If I had known he was a golfer (Did I?), we could have exchanged a lot of stories.

This is a case of focusing on the center.  When I teach I pitch my lectures to the middle student.  Hopefully they will get what they need.  The better students will proceed without too much effort and I can give extra help to the struggling students.  Later I will probably recall the middle and lower level students easier that the better students who needed and got less attention.  I don’t completely ignore the higher students’ learning needs since I give all students challenging writing assignments.

I am sorry I didn’t remember John’s name – personally sorry.  I still recall, some 47 years ago, needing a signature from my physical chemistry instructor a semester after I had taken his course.  I had gotten the second highest grade on his final in a class that included first year graduate students and I had asked questions virtually everyday and yet he didn’t know who I was.  It still rankles.  I wish I had remembered John’s name.  Hopefully I will see him again on the course and we can talk golf.

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About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
This entry was posted in Classroom Happenings, Teaching, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Remembering Students’ Names

  1. Anonymous says:

    does this math trip work the same for mixed fractions ex 1 3/5 + 2 4/25

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