There is power in a name. It’s the reason the fairy-tale goblin, Rumpelstiltskin lorded over the King and Queen. No one ever bothered to find out his.
My dad always insisted on finding out and remembering people’s names. He would write them down or recall them by association to something else – whatever it took to register their identity in his brain.
While most people think the definition of popularity is if your name is well-known, dad always believed you were actually disadvantaged if the person in front of you remained a stranger. I had found this theory to be very interesting, amusing even, until I became a teacher, of course and suddenly everything rang true.
As a teacher, one teaches and communicates with at least 200 human beings daily. In a school lacking academic staff, you can always expect to take over a class if a teacher is sick or away for a meeting. This is called a relief period. It is anything but relief. I especially dread relieving a class that I do not already teach. Most teachers would agree. The reason is simple. You don’t know them, and therefore in the words of the possessed King Theoden from “The Lord of the Rings”, “you have no power here.”
Can you imagine trying to call out a misbehaving student, and only having to resort to “Boy!” or “Girl!” or worse, “Eh!” If you don’t know them, you are deemed powerless, and as a result will be ignored. On the other hand, a teacher who can correctly identify everyone she is speaking to will notice very different reactions.
I have seen the shock on some students’ faces, when they hear their names being called, especially by a teacher who doesn’t teach them. “Kenapa, cikgu tahu nama saya?” (how is it possible you know my name?) they say, belatedly covering their nametags. I have noticed the baffled expressions on students playing truant as I yell out their names down the corridor. “She knows my name” “How?” they breathe, in horrified whispers to the other miscreants in the group.
Trust me when I say there is power in a name. Power to freeze a student in the midst of mischief. Power to stop an argument before the first punch is thrown. But above all, knowing a student’s name allows you to lay the foundations for mutual respect.
Apart from the authoritative aspects of being able to identify your students, there are benefits that run so much deeper than forced obedience. One of which, is allowing yourself to truly see your students. Using their name effectively removes the invisibility cloak around a pupil. By conveying the message, “I know and see you”, they can begin to crawl out of the “wallpaper”. This invitation to be “present” in class, can effect a world of change in a student. Students feel like you want to understand them, want to relate to them and they will confide in you.
Some teachers can go months without bothering to find out this simplest piece of information, only to later complain about “what’s-her-name’s” attitude.
My advice, if you take over an unfamiliar class, walk around and log their names in. Even if you forget it later, taking time to break the ice is effective in winning them over. Be the “busy-body” teacher that wants to know everything. When you see students in the corridor, greet them by name even if they don’t do it first. There is no way that that can end badly. Put your ready-stock teacher ego aside and try it. Outcome 1: The student greets you back and subsequently always greets you. Outcome 2: Student is startled and smiles. Outcome 3: Student ignores you (highly unlikely).
In conclusion, for a better relationship with students, and an overall more rewarding experience, reap the benefits that come together with knowing this fundamental piece of information. A name.