“Hey! You! Stop pushing your friend. That’s not very nice!” I would say when I first started out in the toddler room where I now work. When trying to take on the role of authority in a classroom, and not knowing the kid’s name, I quickly found to be a daunting task. It was even harder when I, being a subsitute support staff at the preschool/daycare where I work, would be in four to five classrooms in any given day. The teachers expect the support staff to take over the care of managing the classroom, and I felt overwhelmed as I tried to gain control and respect from the children in the classrooms. Not only that, but I started to feel my head ache at the idea of having to know all the kid’s names in almost the whole school, as well as the teacher’s names. Memorizing names to faces in such a short amount of time was not my strength, I thought.
Getting to know the teacher’s names was easier, as they were my peers and soon became my friends. It also helped that I saw them every day I came into work. Each classroom had an average of 12 kids each, except the infant rooms, and I found that when I was in a classroom long enough, names and faces beecame easier. Sadly, the ones I got to know better were the ones who needed attention and instruction in their behaviors in the classroom. The good and quiet kids, I got to know their names eventually. Having to repeat their names over and over helped me remember them,and it also built a healthy respectful relationship between myself and the children. They soon saw that I was an authority figure when I got to know them and worked alongside with their teachers.
One of the challenges of the names is pronouncing them right. With my hearing loss, it hasn’t been easy with some of the tricky names some of these kids have – especially the foreign names! I learned that the name “Johann” is pronounced without an “N” sound at the end. It’s more like “Jo- HA”. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes when kids say it, it is hard to figure out the phonetics just by lip-reading! It took me about five minutes with the kids, and finally an adult came in and saved me, explaining how it sounds using the phonetic break up of the word. The kids had quite a lesson on how sometimes a hearing loss, even with hearing aids, can be a struggle. There are even some names that, with my understanding of Spanish sounds, I think it’s supposed to be said one way, especially the double “L”, and only to find out that it isn’t pronounced that way, even though the name LOOKS Spanish.
I’ve been there since May, on and off, though more steadily since September, and I’ve found that it is getting easier to remember names and faces together. There are still a few moments when I get confused between two very similiar looking kids and their names. Fortunately, I haven’t encountered the challenge of identical twins or triplets yet. With knowing their names, I’ve developed several wonderful relationships with kids I see almost every day. I also don’t feel overwhelmed at the idea of adding more names and faces to my already growing list of them in my head. I do know that I may have days when I need to be patient with myself in getting to know kids names in a classroom, especially when its a whole new group. I will also have patience with the kids as well. They have to get to know me, and it’s then when they understand my role in their lives, they are able to respect me as their leader and teacher.