I’ve always been bad remembering names.
It takes me at least three or more encounters before I can remember the name to attach a face. This may be a major character flaw or maybe it’s just something I can attribute to the frequency of changing work groups while working at twenty three different high tech companies over a span of the last thirty three years.
Getting to know the names of the people with whom you work is easier because almost everyone in “the industry” wears a company ID name badge with picture.
Even so, for the first few weeks I would make lists of people’s names that I had to interact with until I could greet them by name without first searching for that ID badge clipped on a belt, purse or hanging from a neck chain.
I can still go blank when I run across someone I “know” from only a year or so back if I encounter them out of context in a location like a hardware store or a fast food court in the mall. I usually end up confessing in an awkward exchange that I “blanked on your name” and try to laugh it off blaming it on genetic Alzheimer’s.
I’m finding it harder to play the same trick with this substitute teaching gig.
I rarely sub for the same teachers more than three or four times in a whole year. Nobody at the schools wears ID badges. I meet a new group of twenty to thirty kids every day I go to an assignment at which time I usually see the name exactly once during attendance.
Of those thirty or so names, a small percentage will be unpronounceable (…”Is Pwllheli here?”). Another group will be spelled correctly but pronounced wrongly (…"Is Joel here"…"It’s pronounced JOE-ELL!!"). Lastly we have the “clever, cute” names: Afrika, Contessa, Chynna, DeStani (pronounced “destiny”).
Add to the mix we have kids with first names that might or might not be fully printed because the parents INSIST on the full hyphenated last name on the “last name first” column of the class attendance sheet.
I don’t know how many times I’ve asked if Alber was present only to be informed that there was no Alber in class, but there IS an Alberto.
I have even been known to compensate for what I assumed was a “truncated name” asking for Christopher only to be told that the name is indeed Christoph.
Even with all these hurtles, I still make feeble attempts at names instead of referring to the kid as “third from the back in this row”.
Now we come to Friday's 5th grade lesson plan entry. I was to read from the next chapter of The Book of Three (Prydain Chronicles) which their teacher is reading to them in class.
Truly a cruel joke. It’s a fantasy story about elves, gnomes, dwarves with …you guessed it…unpronounceable names.
Why can’t elves, dwarfs and gnomes have names like Tom, Dick, Mary and Butch?
Instead we have Melyngar, Eiddileg, Dallben, Doli, Ffewddur, Nevvid, Gwydion, Medwyn, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Prydain.
So stumbling half way through the assigned chapter, I gave up and announced we’re going on to something else. Problem is that I have this same class for Tuesday and Wednesday this coming week and I’m sure this lesson item is on the plan for both days.
If I can’t get a student volunteer to read the next chapter(s) for me, I may have to bribe one with a worthless coin or two.