Most public high school classes have relatively large numbers of students, which challenges a teacher’s ability to learn names in the opening days. Independent school classes typically have fewer students. Even so, I find it hard, at each new year, to match names with faces.
Last year, for example, I had several sets of twins in my classes–identical twins. In one case, two brothers looked exactly alike–from my untrained, unpracticed, unaccustomed eye. Literally all year, I tried to master the distinction. Through this struggle, I eventually discovered that I could tell them apart from their writing–i.e., from their authorial voices. Though these twin faces frustrated me, I could hear the differences in boys’ sentences.
This year, partly because I have more students than last year–though still only half of what my public school colleagues face–I worry about how quickly I will remember names. We are forging ahead with writing right away, so that I can get to know the individuals as writers and thinkers. Eventually the face recognition will happen; it does every year. In the meantime, if I think of each of them as hummingbirds, I want to keep quiet and still enough to feel the wind from their wings as they approach.