My struggle to remember names

Prachi Lahiri

As a middle and high school teacher, on an average, I teach seven sections each year. Each of these sections has 30 students. Therefore, in a year I teach around 210 students. This is the arithmetic of only the scholastic classes. In addition to these I oversee extra-curricular classes, including visual and performing arts and sustainability classes. I am keen to remember the names of each and every individual, but I am not able to. I keep consoling myself that it is the large number of students that I handle every year that prevents me from remembering their names, but I know that it is not true. I forget the names of the children whom I have taught for more than two years in a row. I accuse myself of not paying enough attention to the children. I genuinely make an effort to remember the children’s names, but I still forget.

What could be the reason behind not remembering the names of the students that I teach year after year? Why do some names stick, and others don’t? A pattern emerges when I take time to reflect on this. I realize that the children who talk and distract others in the class are the children that I remember the most. I guess this is because they take a lot of my attention and disturb me and I keep repeating their names, which helps me remember them. The second category is the children who are consistently involved in class discussions and participate in class activities. These children are willing to take up responsibilities and therefore teachers trust them to carry on a task diligently and in turn start depending on them on a daily basis, thus remembering their names.

I wonder how the other children feel when I fail to remember their names! Do they get hurt? Do they care whether a teacher remembers their names or not? Honestly, in my quiet time I do feel guilty for letting them down but still I am not able to remember their names.

My struggle finds no solution, no matter how hard I try. If I remember the names of the children in one classroom setup, the next day the seating pattern changes. Or on Friday they come in a completely different school uniform, and their appearance is different from other days. During dispersal time, they abandon their usual groups and hang out with their school bus friends and I get confused. There are multiple children with the same common names as – Arnav, Atharva, Saanya, Mishika, etc. If that is not enough there are rhyming and same sounding names in the same class as – Vihaan, Nivan, Vivaan, Vanya, Sanya, Sonya, etc. I feel I am fighting a losing battle.

The much-needed help is elusive. I googled up as well for this but the solutions suggested are not practical on a regular basis, especially while running from one class to another. So many other things take priority that unwillingly I push the job of memorizing names to a later day. Unwittingly, the chores that have measurables for my performance like preparing lesson plans and question papers, finishing the portions on time, etc., take precedence. The bonding with children and investment of time for building emotional connection takes a back seat.

I am sure that I am not alone in this struggle to remember the names of the students and there are many teachers who will relate with me. I just wish that teachers had more time to spend with their students, that their days were not packed with things to do, that students and teachers could bond with each other and spend more quality time. In such a utopia I could remember the names of each student. I wish I could make all the students realize that they are all important and they are all precious.

The author is with the National Public School, HSR Layout, Bengaluru. She has devoted over a decade to teaching, has been invited to be a part of the Curricular Area Group on Social Science by National Syllabus and Teaching-Learning Material Committee. She can be reached at

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