What’s In A Name: Getting to know your students better.

I didn’t remember her name…I could sense her disappointment when she corrected me for calling her, her sister’s name.  I hate when that happens, I hate not knowing a student or at least making them feel like I don’t know them.  It’s a disappointing feeling.  As adults we know what it’s like, you go up to someone you think should know you and instead they call you something else.  It’s normal to feel disappointed but it’s a feeling we should avoid giving to students.
Knowing a student’s name is so important, because it can mean so many things such as:

  • It Wouldn’t Be The Same Without You:  When we greet a teenager by name it’s like saying to them, “I’m so glad you are hear, if you weren’t I would have noticed.”  And we all want to be noticed to some degree because we were all designed to be noticed by God.  Knowing a name means noticing.
  • Your Focus Of My Love: A name gives identity, when we make note to identify something or someone it means that we are focused on them.  God knows us by name because of the love He bestows on us constantly.  When you call someone by name you are directing your actions towards them.

A name is so important, but for some of us it’s hard to learn these names, to remember them, to put the right ones with the right people.  Often my ministers ask if we can give the students name tags, but I always push back because I think it’s more rewarding when we take the risk to get to know someone’s name.  In fact if you get it wrong or you forget yeah you might hurt their feelings but embrace that emotion and make sure it never happens again.  But a few things I have learned to help me are the following:

  • Greet Them At The Door: If you have check-in ask everyone their name, the more you do it, the more you’ll remember names and faces.  It’ll take time but it’s probably the most consistent name.
  • Ask For More Than A Name: Follow up, “What’s your name?” with a question that will remind you who they are.  Like a sport, an instrument or family dynamics.  Use things that will help you associate a name not just with a face but maybe a personality.
  • Be Humble, Fess Up:  You may hurt their feelings, but once you fess up, laugh at how bad you are at names, the students will realize that you do want to get to know them, the problem is your just old and forgetful.  It’s embarrassing, but I promise you, that you’ll never want to forget that persons name.  

Again, names are important, I once called a kid Kevin for two years straight, his name is Andrew.  I had conversations with him, introduced him as Kevin to others, finally he corrected me and I asked him “Why didn’t you tell me?”  He replied, “At first I felt bad and didn’t want to embarrass you but then I was having too much fun with it.”  Get to know your students by getting to know their name.  Depending on the size of your group you may never know them all, but try, make the effort, because when you know a name the relationship goes far.