Today I covered three periods of government (for seniors) and two periods of world history (for sophomores). I'm guessing that the teacher was new. Her lesson plans were pretty sketchy. She didn't have her own classroom (which meant I spent the day traveling from one room to another all day). And she didn't leave me any seating charts.
Generally, classes average around 32 students. 5 x 32 = 160. If I average around 160 students a day, how am I supposed to retain any names? I can't. I need the help of the little cheat sheet called a seating chart.
Funnily enough, earlier in the day I was talking to another sub, and the topic of finding names came up. It happens sometimes--I need a student's name. I need to mention some idiotic thing that some random boy or girl did in my note. But I've developed some strategies to get a name when I need one. Since some of these ideas came from other subs, I thought it was about time to share them.
Firstly, I never let the student know I want to know his name. As soon as I do that, the student will make sure that I don't hear it. But if he doesn't know I want it, I can find it out sooner or later.
Most days the students are assigned book work. That book work is due to me, and they will put their names on their papers. As long as I'm walking around the room, I can just peek over their shoulders and voila, I have a name. (And as long as I have a roll sheet, I can compare. That way, if the student's handwriting is horrible, I can still figure out the correct name.) If the student's name is not on the paper, I can "remind" him.
What if they don't have book work? What if they're working out of notebooks or something similar? Then I look for notebooks or such. Many times they have names on those. Or on their backpacks. Or belt buckles. Some girls wear earrings or necklaces with their names on them. And most times the students are oblivious to this fact.
But the surest way to find out a student's name is just to listen. The student who's being an idiot is most likely a fairly popular student, and at some point someone will call out her name. It's simple. I just wait for it. And when the girl turns to respond, I've got her.
There's nothing quite like the look of astonishment on a student's face when you call him by name. "How do you know who I am?" he'll ask. My reply: "I pay attention."