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.