Knowing Names

We’re a week into school and once again, somehow, I know almost every child’s name. If you teach in a self-contained classroom, that’s relatively easy. You see the same group of students all day. They get burned into your mind easily enough. But if, like me, you have multiple classes and almost 80 overall students, it gets a bit trickier at the start of the year to track who is who and who they are. That’s a lot of faces to quickly implant on your memory banks, which (if you are like me) are getting older and rustier, and have been lulled into relative inactivity by the end of the summer.

And each first day of school as I stare out into four classrooms of kids, I think: I am never going to remember all of these names.

But I do. And I try to do it as quickly as possible so that they feel like true members of the classroom, as part of the community. Names have power to them, and there is power in recognizing someone for who they are, too. I want them to connect with them early on, so that later on, any rough spots become smoother by our early connections. So, when they are writing in class these days, I am staring at their faces, mumbling their names, thinking of siblings I had, and coming up with memory tricks, if needed. (I have warned them that if I am saying their names while looking at them, don’t worry. I am not going to crazy.)

The first step to getting know and understand my new students as people is to get to know them by their names.

Peace (in the memory cells),


  1. I am in agreement with you, Kevin about the importance of learning kids’ names. Like you, I teach multiple classes, and on the first day of school I always kind of take a deep breath as I look out at all those kids whose names I don’t know. I have always made sure to know everyone’s name by the second day of school. As they do some early assignment, I am practicing. I think it helps if I shake their hands as they walk in and hear them say their names. I remember more easily their voices saying their names. I agree that it brings a sense of community much more quickly, the earlier I know them. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Hi Kevin,

    I am in full agreement. We have been in school for a month now and I recently heard teachers exclaiming with happiness that they have learned all of their students’ names. A month is much too long in my opinion. I commit to learning every name by the end of the second day of school. This is my 15th year teaching, I teach four classes and have about 150 students, but I tell them it is important to me that I know who they are because it is the first step in building our relationship and our classroom community. Thanks for letting me know I am not crazy for making this so important 🙂


  3. Yes, as soon as you learn their names, students know they can’t hide out anymore. I learned this first as a substitute teacher for fifth graders and I’ve discovered its no less true when teaching adults. In district mandated summer workshops I conducted for teachers I saw how participants responded differently once I learned their names. Unfortunately, its somehow a little harder learning adult names than children’s. However, I still find its not too hard to put them into short term memory. As time goes on I find my longer term retention of all the names of students I’ve ever known gets worse and worse. Have a great year!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *