Tag Archives: Forgetting student names

Forgetful Prof and Student Names

I am forgetful.  Yes, I admit it.

Being forgetful has caused much pain and embarrassment.  Like the time in high school orchestra where I had a medium length string bass solo and forgot to attend the concert.  Oops!

Important dates such as a family member’s birthday?  Forget it.  Remembering to plan ahead to purchase gifts or cards?  Nope.  Wedding anniversary?  Ouch.

My office is cluttered.  My desk is piled high.  My bedroom is, well, messy.  I tend to keep everything.

Mentally, though, I experience the peace of an uncluttered memory.  My mind is absent from key details needed to live life daily.

Fall semester classes at my university have been in session for 2.5 weeks.  My class sizes are small (20-30).  Yet I only can recall the names for about 25% of the students.  When classes next meet in four days, the 25% will have turned into 20%.

Professor Phil Jones at SuperstarProfessor.com also has difficulty with remembering student names.  He tells this story:

I recently stopped by a local Starbucks and was greeted with a friendlier than normal ‘Starbucks welcome’ as I walked up to the counter. … [T]here was a familiarity to her face, but I just couldn’t place it.

She looked at me and said, “You don’t remember me do you?” Uh oh. I said, “Uhh, yea…umm…” in which she quickly replied, “What’s my name then?” Busted. “I was in your class!” she said. Of course, that’s why she looked so familiar, and the neighbourly Starbucks greeting now made total sense. “So, what’s my name?” she repeated. Damn, I thought that part was over. Trying to jolt my hippocampus into gear, I asked the obvious, “Uhh, what does it start with?” “K”, she answered. “Umm, and your last name starts with…?” was my brilliant rebuttal. “H”. Silence. “Karleigh…Karleigh H….!” she proclaimed. Yes, of course it was, and then it all came together and I remembered her being in my class. “So, what year did you graduate?” I asked her, in hopes of salvaging any hopes of a conversation. “Phil, I was just in your class…LAST semester!” …

As I walked away, I knew that she was probably thinking, “Holy sh*t, that guy needs another sabbatical!” I actually felt kind of bad about not remembering her name, mostly because I didn’t want her to think that I didn’t care whom she was, or to think that she was just a ‘student number’, which isn’t the case with any of my students, past or present.

I’m sure there are many professors other than Phil and me that have difficulty with remembering student names.  I’ll report back later if I have progress.

by David Albrecht



Filed under Faculty issues, Higher ed issues