Friday, July 07, 2006

Ran Into A Student At The Mall Today

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.


Mamacita said...

Sometimes, I can picture the classroom in my mind, and see the kid in his assigned seat. I'll remember incredible minute details, everything but the NAME.

You're not alone. Heck, I've already forgotten my summer school students' names, and I've still got them in class. (We didn't meeet on the fourth; that's my excuse. It's a poor excuse but it's all I have.)

Bird said...

whew - what a relief! this same thing happens to me - the name-forgetting - in fact - i forget names during the semester. have a difficult time keeping names and faces connected during the semester - though i've come up with a variety of tricks to remedy the problem and keep a grip. regardless, it all disappears at the end. i see students the next semester on campus and say hello - i can remember their writing, their class participation, the little quirky things about them, but not their names.

Nick Lopez said...

I already forgot whose blog this is.

Darren said...

Don't worry, Nick. It wasn't you I ran into at the mall.

Snakes On A Plane, dude.

Andrew Pass Educational Services, LLC said...

Darren, I'm with you. I have the hardest time remembering names. But I'm also bad with faces, not so much of my students but definitely of their parents. I could talk to somebody for ten or fifteen minutes see them a few hours later in a different context and not know for sure how I know them. People have only figured me out a few times but its still embarrassing.

Andrew Pass

Andrew Pass Educational Services, LLC said...

Darren, Can you please email me. I can't find your email address. Mine is ap at pass-ed dot com.


EllenK said...

Don't blame it on age, you are a VISUAL LEARNER. You probably are a very good reader and as shown by this blog, a good writer. I do this all the time, the worst case being someone who I knew in high school and who obviously knew way too much of my history and whose name was totally out of my grasp. This is when social conventions take over..."how are YOU doing? I bet YOU are having a great time this summer? And are YOU in school?..." It covers alot of territory. With class loads of over 120 per semester, I can barely remember my own name.

Thespis said...


This has happened to me many times, sometimes even during the course of year when I am overloaded with production responsibilities. I always feel terrible, and I know that the kid knows!

How embarrassing.

Just relax and enjoy summer.How many weeks do you have left?

Mark Maney
Thespis Journal

Darren said...

Like so many other things about me, I'm probably half-and-half: part visual, part auditory.

As for how much more "summer" I have left, it's around 6 weeks. We go back on August 18th, I think.

Loni said...

actually, alzheimers is shown to start doing its thing as early as age thirty. It just doesn't become noticeable until much later...did I mention I got a 5 on the AP Psych test? :)

Nick Lopez said...

M. Miller:

I thought it was August 21st. I could be wrong. Whatev, Snakes On A Plane, right!

I may be wrong.

Don't worrry about it.

Nick Lopez
(I'm not from a journal :[ )

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

...and I thought it was just because I was getting old. I can usually remember every sort of trivia about the student or his/her reading level, etc., but names go right out the window, I actually tell my students before they leave me in May that one day when they see me they may need to jog my memory with theit name.

rightwingprof said...

Yeah, I always feel bad when this happens to me, even though having over a thousand students per semester is a good excuse.

Darren said...

Loni who? :-)

Darren said...

On the wrong post Nick posted, in reference to this post:

"hahaha, how could you forget his last name? It was written all over school for weeks."

Where?? When??

Nick Lopez said...

He ran for school president and created an uproar among the then-current Student Council thing. You don't remember this?

Darren said...

Ronnie isn't the person I ran into at the mall.

Anonymous said...

A good memory is over rated! Twenty years after graduating, I ran into a professor I had taken a class from. It was the only class I ever took from this man, and it was not even in my major field of study.

This was a piddly little throw-away literature class (on science fiction and fantasy) that I took to satisfy a requirement for electives. I had argued with him about a book that he had categorized as science fiction - it belonged more in the fantasy column, in my opinion.

To my horror, this man not only remembered who I was, he resumed the argument! Sometimes, forgetfulness is a blessing!

Mister Teacher said...

You could just do what I do -- call everyone Barry.

By the way, I like your blog, Barry.

Darren said...

What about the girl I saw at the mall today? Couldn't call her Barry!

It was over an hour before I remembered her first name, and I still can't remember her last. Fortunately she didn't see me--and if she did, she faked it well!

graycie said...

Post-Brain Dump Salvation: all girls are 'Sweetie;' all boys are 'Bud.' It's worked for me for years.

happychyck said...

That happened to me in a most embarrasing way last year when a student from the year before popped in. I'd even given him an award on Awards's Night! It was Jesus. And I only had like 20 more students with the same'd think I might have remembered. Or at least taken a stab with the most common boys' name...Anyway, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who name dumps! I sometimes do it during Christmas Break, too.

Darren said...

I don't think I could pull off "Sweetie", but I like the idea!

And it's so nice to find out I'm not the only one who deals with this.

Darren said...

The girl I saw at the mall today? I just now remembered her last name. Ugh!