Names, names, names!

This has been the most challenging year of all my teaching career in terms of learning new names, for several reasons: of the eight new groups that I am teaching this year (whom I have never taught before), five meet just once a week. In addition, it’s difficult to associate names with faces when students are wearing masks. Then, to top it off, there have been absences (including my own on Yom Kippur), so some students I have seen only a couple of times. I am almost there, but I still have some names to go. What does one do in that situation? Simply confront it: review the names as often as necessary, both out loud and in the mind. I know how important it is to learn names, and if it’s taking longer than usual this time, so be it; they will all get learned.

These once-a-week classes are a result of two things: Civilization class meets just once a week (that accounts for four of them), and beyond that, the school wants to as many students as possible to have the chance to interact with a native speaker. In some ways those classes are pleasant; you can do a lot in that short time, and you have some flexibility too. But this year it has been a little over the top, with seven once-a-week groups (two of which I have taught for several years now), three twice-a-week groups, and three groups that meet with me more than twice a week. (Groups typically consist of about 17 students, but some are smaller.) I have eight distinct courses in all–that is, eight distinct sequences of lessons to prepare.

It isn’t as hectic as it sounds, though, since the students are good to work with and the planning comes easily. In the future I can ask for a somewhat more focused schedule. I am especially grateful to my colleague Marianna Fekete, who recognizes the importance of literature in English class and has made room for me to focus on literature with the tenth-graders. Even though I meet with them just twice a week, the focus is substantial, and the results show in their writing and class participation. Just last week they wrote imaginary scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the pieces abounded in perception, humor, and glee. And many of them contribute to Folyosó, the autumn issue of which will appear in just a few weeks.

It seems there should be some conclusion to all of this, some sentence that wraps things up, but there really isn’t, as the year is unfolding and I have to run.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

  • Recent Posts


  • Categories