Education Humor

Duplicates Disease

baby names for dummies
Image by alist via Flickr

A little while ago I received my roster for my fall Comp-101 writing class.

I scored a great building.

(No pole in the middle of the classroom this semester, people!)

And I have a full house, so there is no chance the class will be canceled.

Also reassuring.

And then I noticed it.

Assuming everybody shows on the first day, I should have four Ashleighs.

And an Ashley.

Four Zacharys.

And a Zach.

One Nathan.

And a Nate.

Oh, and two students with the last name “Johnson.”

With my luck, they will be identical twins.

Holy crowly!

I’m usually pretty good with names, but I’m thinking it is going to take me longer than usual to figure out who is who.

Several years ago, I repeatedly called a student Brennan. Problem was his name wasn’t Brennan; it was Brendan. By chance, Brendan chose to sit in the exact same seat that Brennan sat in one hour earlier. I tried moving Brendan’s seat, but I kept calling him Brennan. He was gracious at first – but eventually, he got annoyed.

Can you blame him?

But even if I goofed up my students’ names, I never confused their grades because my sound-alikes were in different sections.

But this year is going to be different.

All these students with the same-sounding names will be in the same section.

How are we going to have class discussion?

What will I do if 3 Ashleighs are simultaneously raising their hands because they want to respond to something?

Secretly, I find myself praying that one or more of my duplicates will drop my class before the semester starts. Or, in the very least, that each student will have dramatically different appearances and personality traits.

I’m hoping that Ashleigh #1 will be an amazing writer who loves to talk while Ashleigh #2 will be lazy and fall asleep at her desk each day. With any luck Ashleigh #3 will have tanning-booth bronze skin a la Snooki, and Ashleigh #4 will be an albino with red eyes and protective eyewear. I haven’t figured out what Ashley could be like. Maybe she will walk through the doors wearing a fabulous fuchsia pin. And maybe I can persuade her to agree to wear it every day Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the entire fifteen weeks of the semester.

I’m a little anxious about this. Can you tell?

What tricks do you use to remember people’s names? And what tactics do you recommend for a situation like this — other than a seating chart. Think creatively, people.

69 thoughts on “Duplicates Disease

  1. Wow. That’s kind of a bummer, huh? I was lucky growing up to pretty much be the only Abby in any of my classes, so I can’t really offer any personal experience. However, I had a professor in a Psych 101 class in college (with 300 + students and several sessions) who made it his goal to remember each students name after the first month. He did. I was impressed, seeing as I had six profs and barely remembered their names.

    Anyway, ask if any of them have a nickname or a preference and then go from there. If all else fails, just call them Ashleigh and hope one of them knows the answer. 😉

    1. I always remember my students’ names. (Except for the Brennan/Brendan mix-up. I tell you they looked exactly the same! They were like twins!)

      For class discussion, I was thinking I could have them do “the metaphor game” — where you give them the prompt: “If I were a ____________, I would be a ___________ because…” and then have them qualify it.

      I thought I’d ask them to name a favorite food.

      And then, for the rest of the semester, we could call each other avocado or hamburger or watermelon or turkey. It could be hilarious.

      What do you think?

      1. That sounds like a fun way to get to know each other past just the basics. Give it a couple weeks of “I’m an apple” and I’m sure you’ll get to know each other better, probably negating the need for food monikers 😉 I look forward to reading about how things turned out!

  2. What luck! If a guy raises his hand you call him Zach otherwise for any of the ladies, you say Ashleigh. Odds are you will be right.

    Actually, I’d have all the Ashleigh/Ashley’s gather with me and a spend a few moments discussing the situation. Same with the Zachery/Zach group. I’m sure they’ll have a few things to say about the situation and you will have a better chance to see each of them as the unique individual that they are. (or is it …unique individual that he or she is? or …unique individuals that…? Maybe we need to discuss this?)

  3. My son’s teacher decided since he was called Mr. So and so, he would be professional and call them by their last names. My son was Mr. Sorbello =O) Maybe that could work for you.

    1. Is that for real? If so, I am getting on that right away? This is an emergency! Do you not agree? I am wondering if other teachers are seeing the same patterns in their rosters.

      I did a Google search and I see between 1985-2001, Ashley (and all its variant spellings) made the Top 5 Names for Girls

      Curious that I have none of the male counterparts: the Jacobs or Michaels. Where did those Nathans and Zacharys come from?

  4. The last semester that I taught I had 3 Kyles. I think I finally had them all straight about half way through the semester.

    And I had one kid whose name I could not pronounce to save my life. I just kept thinking, “I swear I know your name. I can spell it! I just can’t say it.”

    Good luck!

  5. I have 3 Ethan’s this year in a class of 17 students! I feel your pain! My plan is to ask the first day of school if any of them have a nickname they would prefer that I use. So I recommend you do the same. Somehow students always come up with something.

    My niece graduated with 7 girls named Lauren in 2008. They all were called Lauren S. or Lauren A. Crazy, but it worked! What I find the most interesting is that my son named Michael has NEVER had a Michael in his class. There is not 1 in his whole eighth grade class of 200+ students! Michael was the most popular name for 30 something years and people told me not to use that name. I have always loved the name Michael so obviously, I used it. It has never been an issue.

    Lastly, as far as names… my whole educational journey as a child my name was always listed on any roster as “Jodi C…. (Girl)”. My name was always followed by the word, “Girl”. Everyone else just simply had their names listed, no “Boy” or “Girl” listed after… I hated my name because of that.

    1. Jode:

      On this chart — — I can see that Michael has apparently been HOT since 1954! I usually get one Michael each semester. I have one this year. But the Ashley thing is crazy. And I can’t use last initials because I have duplicates there, too! Can you imagine?

      I am sure we will come up a solution.

      (And it will make a fabulous blog.)

      *quivers with anticipation*

      Maybe I can get one of them to write it. 😉

      By the way, I got the Renée (Girl) thing, too. Duh! Rene is the masculine. Don’t those teachers know anything? 😉

  6. Sadly, I am horrible at remembering names. Faces, sure. Names, not so much.

    Last year the Boy had another Jack in his class. They went by Jack R. and Jack L. They are best friends. It’s hysterical to see the two of them get together outside the classroom. They both still use their last initial. “Hey Jack L. Check this out!”

    On my soccer team, I had two Allison’s (well one was an Alyson, but when you’re talking to them the spelling doesn’t come out). One was called Alberto or Al, the other Pinky because she always wore pink soccer socks. I say find something that works, or do as Brian says and meet with them at the beginning of the semester and figure something out.

  7. I say you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands; you can’t count on the Ashleigh/y’s to come prepared! (Ashleigh’s are like that.)

    You’ll need to go out and pick up a fuscia pin, safety goggles, and bronzer to distribute on the first day. As far as the good writer and lazy student, it’ll just have to be some quick assessment skills on your part. You can explain to the other Ashleigh’s, “No, these Ashleighs don’t need make-overs because she’s smart and she’s lazy.”

    With any luck, after that first encounter with you, some of the Ashleigh’s parents will remove them from your class!

    Ever helpful,

    1. Amy! That is a such a good plan. I like it. I need to control their destinies. I see now that I have been approaching this all wrong. What was I thinking? Off to buy the requisite school supplies.

      You are so smart. Like Amy smart.

  8. That’s too funny, especially the 4 Ashleigh’s and the 1 Ashley! When we named our daughter Madeline 13 years ago, we thought we had picked out kind of an interesting and unique name. I think we met about 300 Madeline’s those first few years! You’ll figure it out… teacher’s are good at that kind of stuff.

    1. Okay Cowboy, what kind of advice is that? Oh, who am I kidding. Will you just sing me another song?

      By the way, I love the name Madeline and I know a few. Each one is more gorgeous than the next. So she’s 13, now? Better get yer shot-gun. Cowboy. 😉

  9. When I was in college I attended small classes with many other Sue’s. I rarely turned around on campus when someone shouted out, “Sue!” since there were so many of us that year. Now I go by Susie because I moved when I married and my husband had always known me by that name…

    This reminds me of the Dr. Seuss story when Mrs. McCave was so lazy she named all her sons Dave. But it was easier when she called them all in for dinner! Hahaha!

    Just shout out one of the 3 names and you know you will get a response from someone…

    1. Hey Susie:

      I loved that story. Mrs. McCave never had any food in her cupboard, if I recall. 😉

      My students need to call on each other, so I’m guessing they’ll feel my pain and we’ll figure something out pretty quickly.

  10. I’ve had teachers that gave us nick-names instead of using our real names. It was actually kind of fun, except for the kids who were stuck with dumb nick-names. I took French one semester and we all had to pick a french name. That was fun. So here is my suggestion:
    Ashleigh #1 = Berf
    Ashleigh #2 = Berffin
    Ashleigh #3 = Berffindiddy
    Ashleigh #4 = Queta Aparicio Leal
    Ashley = Fred

    1. #4:

      I frickin’ love this. And I may just bring this to class on the first day. I am sure Ashley — I can see her now — her hair all done up, lookin’ fine in her tight jeans and high heeled boots, her long legs crossed, pen in her hand, ready to take notes.

      Oh, who am I kidding, she isn’t bringing any materials.

      She’s a Fred.


  11. I Facebook stalked the college students I worked with. (With whom I worked – sorry! It just sounds so stilted.) I was in more of a peer role than a teacher, though. Is it weird for an instructor to Facebook students?

    Ms. Caffo at Brighton drew stick figure pictures of all of us and made flashcards. Also easier to do in a class of 20 instead of 100.

    1. Elissa!

      I didn’t see that you had posted until now! Okay, an update! I lost an Ashleigh. And she was replaced — with an Ashley! You can not make this stuff up!

      I am going to try to find pictures of them, but I am having them sit alphabetically on Friday while they take a diagnostic. Meanwhile, I will be staring at them, studying their faces and saying their names over and over again.

      If that doesn’t work, stick figure flashcards!

  12. This post cracked me up!! About 10 years ago, I had a teaching year that I call “The Year of the ‘Js’!” I had 3 boys named Jessie, 2 girls named Jessica, 2 Justins, 2 Jasons, 1 Jordan (girl), 1 James, 1 Jerrica, and a boy named Jaylen. Over half the class had J names. I spent the year looking at kids and going “J…J….J”, until they finished the name for me! Good luck! I’m so glad you have a great classroom and a full class!

  13. Use the last initial. Example: Ashleigh B. and Ashleigh R. Most students would prefer this to having you get their names wrong. Unless you are creative enough thee first day of school to find nicknames for them. Lots of luck with that.

  14. One more – and last- word. My son’s last name was very much like another student and it was never confused in all his years in high school with this guy. But on graduation, sure enough, the insert tht indicated he had indeed completed all his required gym classes(!) was in the other guy’s name,, not his. I am leaving out the two names to protect their privacy.

  15. you already know there are going to be a bunch of ashley’s. knowledge is power. from the first day you get to class I bet you will have no problem with their names, but will end up forgetting some nonsequitur. I wonder if I used that word “nonsequiter” properly. I don’t think so but it fits what I am trying to say.

  16. I’m not going to be any help, because I can’t remember a person’s name seconds following the introduction. I was told, or I read somewhere, or maybe heard it in a communications seminar, that the reason that happened to me was beause I was listening the introducer to make sure they got my name right. So I tried to stop doing that, and I even repeat the person’s name immediately, (I was told that too… fact I repeat it in my head several times) and then when I shake the hand, the name evaporates.

    I had a Political Science professor once who took a polaroid of the class (3 actually) and had you put your name with an arrow on the photo. Within three days he knew everyone’s name, without looking at the photo. Drawback was you couldn’t move seats.

    My favorite was a Chemistry professor who had photographic, or some such, memory. He knew your name, your girlfriend’s name, you major, your gpa, and your bad habits. I’m not kidding. He was Chinese and everything you told him was locked in a file in his head that was opened the minute he saw you anywhere. Professor Lee, of course.

    1. I love your Professor Lee. He has the kind of memory I have. I learn all my students’ information like that , too. At least from the ones who are willing to share. But the names thing is another thing. I’m going to have to work.

      I could ask to take pictures of my duplicates on my iPhone so I can study. It’s not a bad idea. Maybe even a little video — if they’ll let me. 😉

  17. Use last names. Or, if you can’t get the pictures from the registrar, then take them yourself on the first day.

    Whenever I have repeats like that, I tell them straight out that I’m going to have trouble sorting them out. I’ll ask “What do you think distinguishes you from the other Ashleigh?” I also tell them that they’re not allowed to get haircuts for the first 2 weeks of school 🙂 I tend to make quick notes on my roster when I take roll the first couple of days. Dark hair, dumb remark, Yankee’s cap…that sort of thing. I just have to be careful they don’t a glimpse of my ‘cheat sheet’ roster!

    1. I mark marginal notes in my roster, too! (Don’t all teacher’s do this?) But I’m not sure how it will play out with all the duplicates. We’ll see.

      I did have a History professor in college who called us all Mr. and Ms. and then added our last names. If I did that, I’d only have to worry about my “Johnsons.”

      I don’t think I can have “two Johnsons” in one class, if you know what I mean. 😉

  18. Call them by their last names. Or you could goof on their initials. In my 11th grade history class there was a student whose initials were “GM” and the teacher called him General Motors all year.

    In my grandparents’ community in Florida, there were so many women named Rose that their next-door neighbor, whose name was also Rose, they called Tulip.

    But four Ashleligh/ys? Jeez…reminds me of one of the contestants of the Bulwer-Lytton “It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” competition in the mid-1980s: “Jason…Jason…Jason…Jason…Jason,” said Coach Phipps during his fifth period gym class roll call.

      1. That is outstanding! 😉

        Maybe I’ll have them pick their favorite flowers or cars and we can have Mustang and Daffodil, Daisy and Ferrari chilling in my crib.

        I mean, working studiously for 15 weeks on perfecting their composition skills. 😉

  19. I actually play a name game with my students the first day. They’re in Junior High so it’s age appropriate. I tell them if I don’t get everybody’s name right by the end of it, I’ll sneeze like Donald Duck for them.

    The fun never ends.

    Guess what I’m doing next Thursday?

    Classroom philosophy for Middle School: Be weirder than the students and they start to act normally.

    1. If only I could do the Donald Duck sneeze, Foghorn.

      I kind of think the humor would be lost on college students.

      That said, I sing to them all the time. It kind of freaks them out.

      Like you said, the fun never ends. 😉

  20. My eighth grade science teacher had one glass eye. It aimed in the opposite direction of her non-glass eye.

    Which usually wasn’t a problem.

    Except for when there were three names Julie in the same section and we sat on opposite corners of the classroom from each other.

    Swear. To. Corneas.

    We never knew whom she was calling on…

    So at least you have both of your own eyeballs. Right?
    (small favors…)

    1. Julie:

      There is no way you are going to believe me on this, but MY 8th grade science teacher also had a glass eye.

      I could never tell which was which, and they seemed to move independent of each other.

      Once, HE was totally pissed when someone poured hydrochloric acid into his fishtank. He stood there screaming: “I know who did this!” But I don’t think anyone knew who he was yelling at.

      Nevertheless, I felt insanely guilty.

      Mostly for not being able to tell which eye was the real one.

      Thank you for reminding me to be grateful for my eyeballs. Sometimes I forget the small stuff.

  21. Maybe you could try something to describe them using the first letter of their names, like Rambunctious Renee. Auburn Ashleigh, Athletic Ashleigh, Zany Zachary, Zippy Zachary. OK, “Z” is kind of hard.

    Oh well. Good luck.

  22. Oh, the fun with duplicate names.

    My Astronomy 101 prof had a son named Ricky, so she took an immediate liking to me. She would do something every class to bring attention to me. She made fudge and would stop lecturing, climb up the steps to my seat (200 people in this class), and make a deal of giving it to me. Weird, but fun. Also probably why I passed Astronomy.

    On the flip side, I twice turned down applicants at a store I managed simply because they had my name and I didn’t want to deal with the confusion of multiple Rickys. Not proud of this, but it’s true.

    1. Your prof brought you fudge. Ricky, she more than liked you. She like-liked you. That is a little creepy.

      Question: Were the Rickys more competent than the people than the non-Rickys you hired? Inquiring minds wanna know. 😉

      1. She died of cancer near the end of the semester, so I think it was just fun for her to pretend her kid was in the class.

        I don’t know how good the Rickys were since they never got an interview. I ‘filed’ their applications.

        I’m a jerk.

  23. You’re hysterical. I vote for middle names. Then they’ll always be on their toes cuz ya know you’re in trouble when mom calls out first-middle-(ans shudder)-last name!

  24. Our sons are Matthew, Zachary and Jacob. We had no idea when we named them that their names would be (or were?) so popular and duplicated. Maybe we should have named them Muffler, All Bran and Octagon just to avoid the embarassment!

  25. How about taking pictures of each student on the first day. Go home and print them out and doodle on each face – put a crown on one Ashleigh’s head and remember her as “Ashleigh the Great”, and a long beard and glasses on one of the Nates and call him “Nate the Wise”, and so on.

    1. Maybe they’ll let me video them saying their real name along with their super secret street walker / hustler names:

      “I’m Ashleigh M. But you can call me Peppermint ’cause I’m so sweet.”

      Well, it’ll be fun for me anyway. 😉

  26. Lots of great ideas here…not sure if anyone mentioned looking for suggestions from the class. It would also be a little bonding/teambuilding thing.
    By the third day, you’ll have all names and faces down pat, I’m sure of it!

    1. I’ll definitely ask the class. But on the first day, they aren’t usually up for “team building” activities. I’m going to have to take this bull by the horns. It’s okay, I’m a professional bull-rider on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 😉

  27. I got my rosters in my mailbox last week, too. I struggle with remembering names as well. My problem is ‘twins’ or kids who look alike or have names that are similar Jenna, and Janet, or Alisha and Alyssa. One year, I had three girls named Alyssa, Alissa, and Alisa all in the roster alphabetically right after one another! I don’t have a secret, except I play a game and call them by name in class to begin each day. I keep track on the board 5/27 (5 correct out of 27 students) , 9/27, 14/27 until I get a 100%. I see my classes daily so by the second full week of school I have them down. I do relapse every now and then and pretend I am their grandma and work through all the names in my memory but….

  28. I’ve had semesters like this, with 2 or 3 of the same name. I generally give many students nicknames anyway based on first impressions/interactions. My roster reading on day 1 is kind of my thing, more standup than administrative.

  29. O M G. This happens every year. I work in an elementary school. One year, we had a Taylor (female) and the following year we had a Taylor (male). My first year, we had every variation of Brenden, Brendan, Brandon, Braydon, Breedon, Madison, Maddyson, Haley, Haleigh, Halley, and Holly imaginable. I joked with some parents on open house night about the names, and one of them coldly responded with, “That’s MY daughter’s name,” and then she was offended that I didn’t realize that she lived in the same neighborhood (Ok, there are like 500 people for me to remember, and they only have to remember me? How do people DO this?). When I was in school, it was every variation of Kathleen/Cathleen/Kathryn/Cathryn/Catherine/Katherine/ etc. There were 4 Kathys of various spellings in one of my classes one year. The teacher called us by last name.

  30. It is day 12 – and I have most of their names down – a couple I am shaky on a Michael I call William and a Grant, a Brendon, and Carney I have to think about but I am almost there! I see them for 100 minutes a day – so I have an advantage. I also practice when I see them in the halls and after school. good luck and keep working at it!

  31. When I was leading Birthright trips, I would take headshots of the participants at our orientation meeting and write down the names in the order in which I photographed them. Then I created a Powerpoint presentation with each photo appearing for a few seconds, and then the name superimposed over the face. It worked, and they were thrilled that I knew all of their names on the first day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop