I was sitting in a workshop at a Youth Specialties Conference many years ago. Doug Fields was the speaker. He said something that has stuck with me all of this time.
The topic was remembering students’ names. Doug asked for everyone that is not good with remembering names to put up our hands. My hand shot up like a rocket. Then he immediately said, “you’re not bad with names, you are just lazy”
I wasn’t expecting to hear that. I was shell-shocked. Then I was mad. What right does Doug Fields have to call me lazy. Then I thought about it a little and considered maybe he might be right.
What’s In a Name
How about you? Are you bad at remembering students names. This is an area that I still have to work on. And when I say work, I mean it is painful. So much so, that I try to convince myself it is not worth doing.
This is a lie though. One of the most personal things that a student has is their name. If you remember their name it speaks volumes. To be effective youth workers we must remember the names of our students.
Here are some practical tips on learning names:
Quickly and Often
As soon as you meet a student for the first time say their name. Don’t just say it once, but say it often in your conversation. This will help your brain to associate the name with the face. In fact it is better to over kill it a little with using their name so you can remember it.
Selfies for a Good Cause
Taking pictures has never been so easy or inexpensive. Have students write their names on a piece of paper and hold it up. Use your smart phone and snap a picture of them. You get all of your students to do this and now you can go through your pictures and memorize names.
Hector = Nector
If all else fails give them a nickname. The nickname can be something that is appropriate for them. It can also just be something that sounds like their name.
A little word association can go a long way. Who else do you know by this name? What mental image comes to your mind when you hear this name?
Help Me God!
This is important stuff. Ask God to help you to remember. He cares for these students more then you do.
Pen is Mightier
After meeting the student write their name down in a journal, in your phone, on your hand. Studies show that writing something down greatly helps in remembering it.
Make a game out of it. Tell the student they can test you anytime on what their name it. If you forget you have to give them a dollar or buy them a coke.
You might think it is not worth all of the effort to remember someone’s name. However, I do know when a student I have only meet once or twice comes up to me and I remember their name they light up. It also allows me to speak into their life more effectively and quickly.