I had a disturbing experience at the mall today.
As I was wandering about the mall I noticed one of my recently-former students in line with his mother at the Cinnabon. Deciding to be a smart-aleck, I went and stood right next to this student to see how long it would take him to notice me.
I waited. They ordered. I waited. They got their food. I waited. They started walking away. "What, you don't say 'hey' anymore?"
At that point he realized who I was and the three of us chatted for several minutes. He noted that I was wearing an orange shirt and (non-orange) shorts--a disguise more than enough to camouflage myself amongst the masses. I also noted that I was wearing flip-flops and hadn't shaven this morning--this was me in my true form, a scrub. All that shaving and dressing up I do during the school year, well, that isn't the real me! And we started on a several-minute-long conversation. But here's where it gets disturbing. I can't be the only teacher who experiences this next part.
You see, I couldn't remember this student's name.
It's not that he wasn't someone I really interacted with much. On the contrary, I genuinely enjoyed working with him this past year. And school got out less than a month ago. Try as I might, I couldn't remember his name.
It happens each year. As soon as that last bell rings in early June, I do a total brain dump. Maybe I need to make room for the 170+ names I'll have to memorize with faces in late August, or maybe the Alzheimers that ravaged the memories of both my grandmothers is stalking me entirely too soon. Whatever the reason, the problem exists--I forget students' names very quickly.
And here was the boy standing right in front of me, carrying on a conversation.
Even when his mother dropped his first name, I still couldn't remember his last name. As much as I enjoyed talking to them, I stood in abject fear of being found out--I didn't know the name of the person I was talking to. I've always been bad with names; that's not an excuse, just an observation. I'm not proud of it, but neither do I have any conscious control over it.
It wasn't until about 10 minutes after our conversation ended that his last name, and hence his total identity, came to me. And what's really weird is the route that realization took in my brain. You see, I could see his writing in my mind. I could see his assignments in my mind--not his actual assignments, as I obviously don't have a photographic memory, but assignments that he could have done. And as I scrolled up the paper in my mind, then his name came into view. It took his first name and visualizations of his writing before I could unlock his last name from the secret storage places of my own mind.
No doubt some psychologist could have a field day with that information. For my part, I'm just glad that I finally, even if belatedly, was able to remember the information I so desperately sought.