Teachers - which students do you remember?

I’ve always considered myself to be fairly forgettable, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn a couple of my French or Spanish teachers from high school might remember me, mostly because I loved those classes and I did well and I was in the French and Spanish clubs, so I got extra time with the teachers. But I’d never expect any of my college instructors to remember me because I was one in a sea of faces.

I taught a couple of algebra classes at a junior college, and I remember only one student. Not by name or by face, but because he had the nerve to ask me to give him another final after he’d failed beginning algebra for the 3rd time. I don’t know if he ever passed the class, since I never saw him again.

When my daughter was teaching 5th grade, one of the teachers on her team had been *her *teacher when she was in 5th grade, but that had been 12 years earlier, so the woman didn’t remember my daughter. Not too surprising, tho, since a student has many fewer teachers than a teacher has students.

Anyway, I know there are teachers here and as the school year is winding down (or done, depending where you teach) I got to wondering how memorable students are to their teachers. If one came back 10 years later, how likely are you to remember that person? Or do you just block them all out when you close the door? Do share!

I’m elementary school, so I only have 15-20 students a year–plus a smattering of students from other classes that I have for a couple of hours a week.

Those students from other classes? I may or may not remember them. A couple of weekends ago I saw one at a park, and she’d completely slipped my mind, even after her father, somewhat irritatedly, reminded me of her name. She’d been my student in a half-hour-daily group, less than a year ago. That was no good. (I finally figured out who she was about a day later).

But students in my class? I think I remember them all. I might not recognize them all at this point, but you tell me their name, and I can probably tell you an anecdote or two involving them. Possibly not a positive anecdote, but an anecdote.

The students I remember best were ones who were either highly disruptive (sad but true), or students who were exceptional in some way–extremely good at explaining math concepts in precise language, able to tell stories so that everyone fell over laughing, full of the sort of fearless kindness that infects others, etc. There are definitely students that make me light up when I see them, years later, because they’re such awesome people.

That’s pretty much exactly what my mother said (20 year teacher, retired about 5 years ago). She said that she only really remembers the kids at either end of the spectrum, and that the rest never did anything to stand out.

Anecdotally, I must have been one of those kids… my brother and I attended the same private school, and he’s actually taught at that school for 11 years now. So when they were printing up the graduation programs a few weeks back, they listed several of the teachers as the ushers/monitors. Guess what- they listed my name, not his. And I haven’t been to school there (never taught there) since 1991. My brother was both amused and annoyed by it.

Probably, though not necessarily glowingly. I wasn’t a bad kid but I had a habit of rocking back and forth and humming to myself (in retrospect, probably undiagnosed autism back when people would just say you’re weird) and a lot of teacher complaints about me being exceptionally bright but unwilling to do any work. According to my mother, one teacher was very flustered with trying to “unlock my potential” while another said my humming was driving her to drink.

Edit: I realize I answered for whether or not I was likely remembered instead of students I’d remember (if I was a teacher which I am not).

I did el ed - mostly 3rd and 6th. I may really be the odd man out but the ones burned into my brain are the kids who were hard to teach (“slow” or with behavior issues) but still learned. The really bright ones who got it all and the ones at the other end who never got anything faded fairly fast.

One exception was a kid who stuck in my brain because of his size. Before I knew/met him the previous teacher had warned me “If Russell ever gives you problems, threaten to call his Dad”. Well, here it is my first day in the classroom and there is Russell - 11 years old, 6’1", 240, and if he ever stood up straight he would KNOW he was bigger than me. Once or twice he acted up and I did the “that’s it – I’m calling in your Dad” and except for a choir of cherubs in the background he would become a perfect angel. Come parent/teacher night the largest human being I have ever seen in my life sort of stooped and twisted his way in the door. This guy was Andrea the Giant sized. I just looked up from my desk and said “You have to be Russell’s Dad”. He explained that he had always been big for his age as well and had gotten expelled in like 10th grade for his behavior. As a result he had always juggled multiple minimum wage jobs and seasonal work to keep a house and provide for his family. His kids wouldn’t make that mistake OR ELSE.

Odd thing too – last time I was near a classroom was 1984 or 5 and I still hear from a couple of the “kids”. I guess the impression thing worked both ways.

I recall a few of the students I have taught. Mostly they were students who impressed me in one way or another. E.g. The top student taking a grad course as an undergrad who is now my colleague; any student who later worked with me on a PhD; the girl who produced on a test what was to me a new and far simpler than the standard argument I taught for the fact that a regular pentagon is constructible–I will never forget her (for the record, the standard proof starts with the equation cos 5t = 1, gets a quintic, factors out a linear factor since t = 0 is a solution and then factors the biquadratic as the square of a quadratic; what she did was use cos 3t = cos 2t, get a cubic with a linear factor, etc.) But rarely recalled a student a year later.

I’m a school librarian, so I see tons of students. I saw three as teenagers who I hadn’t seen since they were in 4h grade. If the three hadn’t been together I’m not sure I would have recognized them. They didn’t distinguish themselves one way or the other. My wife works with the mom of two former students who are now in college, and they were pleasantly surprised that I remembered them.

I think I remember all of them for 5-6 years, about half of them after that? It’s hard to say. For years, I had most of them for two full years, first in English and then in Econ. Now, it’s just a year, but it’s a small school, so I keep seeing them.

I remember the ones that talk to me, either aloud or in essays. I remember the ones that do things, so I see them outside the classroom. I remember the ones I write recommendations for–that’s like an hour, ninety minutes of thinking really intensely about a person, and that fixes them pretty firmly in the mind. I remember the ones that friend me on Facebook after they graduate and then post updates.

I do get pretty attached. I’ve got two good friends who are former students. And I have FOUR starting work as teachers in my district in the fall–one on my campus. I am silly proud of that.

English really lends itself to this, especially Junior English. I have a year of getting to know how they think in my class, and then I often work with them on college essays over the summer/at the start of senior year, which is intensely personal. Then there’s a whole year of seeing them in the halls. If I taught all econ, I am sure it’d be different.

I probably remember a third of them, and the ones at either end of the spectrum I remember the best. Facebook helps, some. I would accept friend requests after they graduated from high school, and then when I retired, I accepted all friend requests. I see posts on their pages from kids I had, so that reminds me, too.

I taught in a small town, so going into Wal Mart, or any store or any restaurant had me face to face with kids I taught. And some show up on the police blotter. Some of those surprise me, and others don’t. I am happy I moved away before I went into a nursing home because a lot of the kids who found it difficult in school are working as aides, along with a lot of sweet kids, too, but I thought it would be awkward.

Of the people I taught in a class environment,

  • the two students who took advantage of the instructions to “take the test questions with you when you leave the exam”. The professor had been repeating the same two tests for years; he did it on purpose, to favor students who were able to figure out that “exams from previous terms” could be a good study aid. In three years, only two students took advantage of this huge help (one of mine, American born in Spain, and a Chinese immigrant in a different group). We even told students to get some of the tests from previous years, but they refused, horrrifieeeeeed! because it was “cheating” - it’s not cheating if the teacher wants you to do it and if it’s allowed for everybody in the class! Aaaaargh! (Sorry, in Spain we actually consider “exams from previous years” as a primary study aid, I never got over that).

  • The asshole who claimed that I had to give him full points on the daily tests, even if he’d handed it half-blank, because “he needed the grade because he was going to medical school”. After I pointed out that I sure didn’t want my doctor to be someone who hadn’t earned his grades, he requested and obtained a change to another group; sadly, his new TA had the same unappreciative attitude towards Mr Snowflake’s needs.

  • Every term there were several who needed to have the meaning of “work in partnership” spelled out. I remember some of the most egregious notions (for example, one holding the test tube while the other poured HCl into it), but not the individuals involved.

  • Also, every term we needed to keep several people outside the lab on the first day, on account of not following a dress code which was a matter of safety, not prudery. But the chick in the black patent-leather stiletto sandals, black patent-leather shorts so short she showed half of each cheek, and black corset is more memorable than the rest. I had to explain that “outside my lab I don’t care if you go naked; in MY lab, you’re not allowed to drop sulphuric acid on yourself.”

I got a Facebook friend request from my kindergarten teacher. I was in kindergarten in 1975.

Of the literally hundreds of students whom Mrs. Nous has taught, she remembers ME. I don’t know if I should be honored by that or terrified.

I taught English in Japan in 1987 and 88. I remember a handful of the students, and one kept in touch with me through the years. In fact he just came and stayed with me for 10 days. He’s grown up now of course, with a wife and kids. He’s a captain in the Akashi fire department. I just saw him off at the airport this morning. Sayonara, Kaji!
I’m a children’s librarian now, so it’s different. Some kids use the library from the time they’re babies, and I get to watch them grow up over the years. Good stuff.

I am related (through marriage) to a woman who taught Michael Devlin in elementary school. She said he made absolutely no impression on her at all. She did remember his parents, however.

I just finished my 20th year as a high school teacher and I estimate I’ve had 2,500 students, give or take a bit. The ones with personality are the ones I remember. Example: several years ago, when first passing out graphing calculators, I asked the class “do you know how to turn on your calculator?” Under his breath, one replied with “play it some Barry White”. I still keep in touch with him.

26 years, high school science here. I remember all the murderers. I remember those who died while they were my students, but not all of their names. I definitely remember more students from my first year teaching than from my last five years. That’s probably due to me being pretty useless my first year and to working in a single-grade school in my later years. I taught freshmen both places, but at the first school, I’d still see them every day for the next three years. Block schedule at the last school meant I only had them in class for a semester and they were gone from the building after that year. As others have stated, we teachers tend to remember the behavior problems and the academic standouts.

I have become a firm believer in the following. First grade teachers pick who they think are “leaders.” They pick them by physical attractiveness and “maturity.” Then they are groomed as such, either consciously or not, and passed on as “leaders” to the next grade’s teachers. So, if parents have a child who could either be the oldest or youngest in his/her class (August, September, October birth date), they would do well to wait until the next year for their child to start school.

OK, not me, but I have a retired teacher friend who remembers one particular kid from way back in the mid-50’s. That student is now our current governor.

I remember two students I taught back in 1984, when they were undergrads. They both went on to get PhDs in my field and we stayed in touch for years. My main undergraduate professor still remembers me from a few years before that, mostly because I was a pest–I had a huge crush on him at the time. He was recently interviewed by an alumni magazine and mentioned me.