Almost 600 students are enrolled in my classes this semester, and an additional 250 next semester. I will not be able to learn every single student’s name, at least not very well. But I try! And I suspect by the end of the term (end of the year for Psyc 100 — which goes until April), I’ll know a decent proportion of that large number. To do this, I constantly test myself, guessing and then asking students again (and sometimes again) until names stick. After answering a student’s question after class yesterday, she turned to go and I said, “…and it’s [her correct name!], right?” She turned and said yes, but with a puzzled look on her face. She said to me something like, “there are so many students, why do you bother trying to learn our names?”
Why do I bother trying to learn names??? The question caught me off guard. Startled, I stuttered, “well, because I care. I guess that’s what it comes down to.” It may sound trite, but I do care. I wish I could personally know every one of my students. I think that would enrich our classroom experience greatly. Indeed, the more students I get to know the more fascinating life stories I hear, and the more insight I get into what it means to be a student now, today — not more than a decade ago when I started my undergrad degree. I’ve felt the change in the classroom environment that happens when students realize I know who they are and remember them and notice when they’re not there that day. It motivates me in my teaching and lesson planning when I can think of the individuals who will be there, looking to me for guidance about what and how to learn. Of course, I can’t remember everyone. But I won’t stop trying. Because I care.