La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What I share in common with "W"

Not much. But, I do have trouble remembering names. And I do give my students nicknames to cover up that I can't remember their names.

I explain to my students the first day of class that I am horrible at remembering names; they should not take it personally. Then, when we do introductions, I ask them to tell us one thing about themselves that we would not necessarily know by looking at them or even eating lunch with them several times a week for a year. Examples are "the [uncool] music artist you like because your parents like them" (mine: Billy Joel) or "the first record/tape/cd you bought" (mine: a 45 of Love Me Tender by John Schneider/Bo Duke) or "a quirky habit you have" (mine: none). I learned this introduction trick as a grad student at UNC. (Paul, you should know who does this....)

And, I use the tidbit to remember my students. For weeks, I can't remember their names but I remember Guy-who-plays-tuba or Guy-who-is-GT-mascot or Girl-with-50-pairs-of-shoes-not-including-flipflops. After a few weeks, I learn some names, but some students (especially those with common names) are forever doomed to be the violin-player or the Tetris-addict.

For me, the most difficult students to identify and remember are those that look most like their peers. I can hardly tell two white girls with long, straight, brown hair apart, and blonde white boys with baseball caps all blend into one. I have the same problem with old black and white movies, when all the men wear suits and all the women have the same hairdo. They all look the same to me.

They say that Shrub's penchant for nicknames is either a result of his Skull & Crossbones membership or dyslexia. In my case, maybe it's mild dyslexic tendencies or maybe I'm on the borderline of the autisim spectrum. The latter may be the more likely since I also tend to engage in highly detailed conversations about things that other people don't find very interesting, like my tendency to give my students nicknames.

Added: This is a funny NYTimes story about W's nicknames.

posted by Michelle @ 10:51 AM,


At 8/26/2005 8:11 PM, Blogger Camicao said...

I've always thought Bush was intelligent, but just not verbally astute or comfortable with or interested in the conventions of educated thought and speech. Over the years I've gotten worse with names. Also, maybe I should get it checked out, but I do think that stress has made my memory mush. For over a year, when I taught at Bigshot Place, I developed a mental fog that made me forget the names of people I knew, and kitchen utensils. It was terrible. I'm better now, but overall, I am foggier now than I was ten years ago when I started out as an assistant professor. For weeks, I interrupt my classes to quiz students on their names and move on. By the third week, I usually have it down.

At 8/27/2005 8:52 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I'd agree that Bush has some sort of smarts, even if it's not book smarts. Some people have suggested that the name-thing is one of many symptoms related to dyslexia, including prefering verbal briefings rather than reading the documents. Or, maybe he's just an aural learner.

Maybe I should blame stress for my bad memory. I also often call household things by the wrong name b/c I'm not thiking clearly (or thinking about too many things at once).


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