Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #012


What are some things you do to help you remember everyone’s names? (students and staff members)


Answered by: Emily

It can be really hard to remember students’ and teachers’ names, especially if you visit a lot of schools during the week and speak to a lot of different people. Right now, I visit four schools per week, and have about 1,100 students total. I don’t remember all of their names! I do what I can though. At schools that I visit often, I have a “name-card” system. At the beginning of the year, I have the students make a name card to keep on their desks. They can write their real name or an English nickname on the card, but I make sure they know that whatever name they choose is the name I will call them by for the rest of the year (at low-level schools, sometimes the JTE helps me out with explaining this). We collect the name cards after every class so the students don’t lose them. I try to make eye contact with the students and say their names to them as they hand the cards to me, because it helps me remember (“Thank you Makiko! See you later, Chocolate!” etc). I find that at low level schools having name cards is a particularly helpful way to make a personal connection with the students, especially if I don’t see them very often. It also gives me a fun way to call on students if no one volunteers to answer a question. At some schools, the JTE also uses the back of the card as “point card,” and stamps the cards after class as a kind of participation grade.

Teachers’ names are a little easier to remember. In every school you teach at, there should be a teachers’ room seating chart, with all the teachers’ names written on it in kanji. At the beginning of the year, I ask my supervisor for a copy of the seating chart, and then ask the teacher next to me to help me write the names in hiragana under the kanji. (You could ask your supervisor or another English speaking teacher to help you write the names in roman letters as well.) I keep the seating chart at my desk, and when I forget a teacher’s name (which I do, often) I just look at the chart and remember!

Those are just the things that work for me, but I’m sure other ALTs have different methods that they use to remember students’ and teachers’ names. In general, don’t be too hard on yourself. Every new name is a new foreign word, so it’s okay if you have more trouble remembering names in Japan than you do in your home country, especially at the beginning. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for people’s names a second time if you forget or if you don’t catch it the first time. People will be glad that you cared enough to double-check.

Other ALTs, if you have strategies you use to remember names, please comment below or on the facebook page!


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