TM4T NQTs - Names & Faces

Prosopagnosia is a condition which has received a fair amount of publicity.  I know that NQTs don't have time to read the newspapers so I'll explain that prosopagnosia is the condition of face-blindness, being unable to recognise another person from their facial features.

Obviously, the condition itself has been well researched, but what I can't find is any similar research dealing with less extreme difficulties, or how face recognition varies across the population as a whole, or across gender, or with age, and so on. The following observations therefore have no scientific validity - it's just my own theories.

My theory is that a lot of us have a problem, but not all of us. I have one colleague who can recognise and name most of a class after teaching them once, whereas I, well, I am an embarrassment to the school. If I teach a student once a week, I have usually learnt their name by the end of Year 9.  Note the word 'usually'... and even then, I don't always get it right, not all the time. I recognise them, but I just can't place their name; frequently I can narrow it down to one of two or three ('Jack?' 'Jason?' 'Oh, James -  sorry!') but sometimes I get it completely wrong ('Emma?' 'Oh, Beyonce - sorry') and sometimes I just draw a complete blank ('Sorry, it's gone.. Emma - of course, sorry!)

This sad process also works in reverse: presented with a classlist, with no additional clues, I struggle to remember - with any confidence - which student is which... and THIS, this is where the problem lies - the time management problem, that is. You see, the numbers game means that when teachers have to do some things - the same things - lots and lots of times, thousands or possibly tens of thousands of times over a career, then it is really important that they can do those things quickly and efficiently.

(If you haven't read about the numbers game, read here).

I have a colleague - not the same colleague as the one above, but equally annoying - who can enter a set of appraisal data for an entire KS3 class into a spreadsheet in 45 seconds. She just reads down the names and keys in marks (G for Good etc) for behaviour against them GGOOGGUGOGG and so on...  Me? I can offer a similarly quick assessment for the students I teach, but if I see the names on a spreadsheet, that's different. First name on the list is: Adam Armstrong.... heck, which Adam is he again? Is he the really well behaved kid or the one who threw the mango?  Now don't get me wrong - I'm not entirely incompetent; I use seating plans and I have marksheets and so on, and I CAN figure out fairly quickly which kid is which. But that's the whole point: 'fairly quickly' is not 'GGOOGGUGOGG-fast'.  In fact, my 'fairly quickly' often involves a thirty second ponder before I can be sure that I am not blaming Adam Armstrong for the mis-deeds of Adam Zogatev or vice versa.  Thirty seconds may not seem a lot, but that equates (30 students x 30 seconds) to an extra quarter of an hour per class, per report, per term.  I reckon it is costing me about a DAY a year.

So... what is my advice?

1.    Figure out if you have a problem. If you're like my colleagues, then accept my apologies for wasting your time. If you find names and faces difficult, read on...

2.    Do the numbers game. Work out how many classes, students, reports you actually have to do. Then figure out roughly what your absent-mindedness is costing you.

3.    Use seating plans. I have seen absent minded teachers printing out small photos from the school administration system, but that's really not necessary unless your problem is severe (though I confess I have done this when I have had to attend parents' evening for a sick colleague).

4.    Prepare beforehand. Prepare for the activities which are time-wasters. This means that you shouldn't just sit down and 'do some reports'. Before you do so, you should have printed out a seating plan, and possibly scribbled prompts and clues on the seating plan. This, of course, takes time. It feels like the preparation is wasting time, but it may actually be saving you time - 30 seconds per student, or a whole day a year.