Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Name Game

On day one I had mixed results with a young woman who didn't belong in my class. On Friday my supervisor caught up with her and a few others, and had them placed in more appropriate classes. But I'm gonna miss her. One of the big challenges I face as an ESL teacher is learning names. These days, our largest group is from China, and despite years of experience it takes me some time to learn all the names.

Some kids do me the service of adopting American names, which is a mercy to me, but I wouldn't presume to ask anyone to change a name, so it takes me a while to catch up with the rest. On Friday, as I was struggling to remember some name, and horribly mangling it in the process, my young displaced student said, "Why don't you play the name game?" "What's that?" I asked.

Apparently, it's when one student stands up, speaks his or her name, the next student speaks two names, the next three, until you reach the end of the class when the teacher has to try and name everyone. It's very simple, but it never crossed my mind in 30 years. I mentioned it to my young nephew, who told me all of his teachers did it for years. And what's worse is I actually use a similar process to discuss grammar points, as in, "I like ice cream, Suzie likes plotting revenge, and Johny likes robbing banks." Or whatever.

But now that I know what it is, I'm gonna use it with every new class I get. I wonder how many ideas I will miss now that I've lost this student to a more appropriate placement. In fact, she was rapidly becoming more at ease as she realized she would get 100% on every test. I don't suppose my supervisor will give her back to me, though. There's that irritating concept that students are supposed to learn from the teacher, and there's no leeway for teachers who want to learn from students.

I'll steal ideas from anyone. I'm not proud. I'm sure my student stole this simple idea from some teacher. But how many kids see a good idea and share it with their other teachers?

I'm always hopeful, though. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this. My daughter and I are very fond of American Horror Story, and here's an unusually bright moment from an exceptionally bleak storyline.

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