How to Make Classes Work, Step Three

Figure out everyone’s name immediately.

This can be much more difficult and awkward than you’d think it would be.

For whatever reason, a lot of students are cagey about sharing their names, and a surprising number of them tell me something to the effect of, “You can call me whatever you want.” I couldn’t care less what name someone uses or what their pronouns are, but it’s embarrassing when a student won’t tell you what they prefer to be called and then doesn’t respond when you call them by the name that’s listed on the course roster.

It’s also embarrassing when a student won’t give you a straight answer about how to pronounce their name. This applies to every gender, race, and ethnicity, so don’t @ me.

It usually takes me about a month to learn everyone’s name – in other words, I learn people’s names once I’ve had the opportunity to read, comment on, and return a few weeks’ worth of assignments. Once I learn someone’s name, I make a point of using it as often as I can so that the other students pick up on it as well. This process is usually natural and painless, and the students usually get to know each other at some point, but sometimes this just doesn’t work.

What I’m therefore going to do during the spring semester is to devote at least five minutes of every class period during the first three weeks to self-introductions and name memorization games so that everyone learns everyone else’s name from the start whether they want to or not.

The students don’t have to be friends, but I need them to all be emotionally invested in the class and each other, and this has to start with me not being such a coward about misidentifying people and mispronouncing their names.