Knowing the names of the students you teach is so important that I cannot emphasize this enough. We show the respect that we have for our students by calling them by name. When my husband began coaching soccer, this was the one valuable piece of advice I could offer him…he could not be on the sidelines of the field yelling “Hey you, YOU!! The one in the blue!…”. Knowing the student’s names is essential to success in the classroom. I have heard that nothing is as pleasing to hear as the sound of your own name. Although, in my home, the constant “Mom, Mom, Mama, Mommy, Mom, Mama, Mama, Mommy, Mom, Mom, Muh-umm” gets a little old!!
So, easy advice to give, but it is difficult for a music educator to succeed in this area. For one thing, we see more students in the course of a week than some teachers see in twenty years of teaching! Our performance groups are large, and many of us see every student in several schools for general music as well.
Here are some ideas to help you as you learn to the names of your students. If one doesn’t work, then try another until you get a system in place that suits your style of learning.
ü Make it a game. I allowed my students to give me a “report card” and grade my abilities to remember their names. See Role Reversal: Grade the Teacher.
ü Let them know that you really want to know their names and that it is an important goal for you. They will forgive your mistakes when they know that you are sincerely trying.
ü Many teachers, especially on the secondary level, rely on seating charts. That could be a great system for them and anytime you have a system that works, use it! I don’t go the seating chart route for many reasons. One is that I like my students to choose their own seats as a good behavior incentive. Also, on a personal note, I think that I would become very reliant on the charts, and if I misplace the charts (very possible!) I would be LOST! Another concern is that if I come across a student in the halls or out in the community, I still don’t know their name.
ü Review often! If I find that I am mixing up or messing up names often, I take time for review. This can be as simple as greeting them by name at the door as they come into class or calling out names to line up at the end of the class.