01/10/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Lessons Learned in a College Classroom: Call Me By Name... Please?

Let me set the scene: End of the semester. Busy students. Busy professors. Missed work is due -- in some cases, past due.

True story pulled from my many years of teaching in different university settings -- and one I am afraid is all too common in higher education: "Amanda" goes by "Dr. Brown's" office to pick up a test grade she never received.

Dr. Brown said to Amanda, "I know that I should know your name since it is the end of the semester, but could you tell me?"

Remember, it is the end of the semester... finals week to be exact.... and her professor could not call her name when she stopped by his office to pick up a test he had graded earlier!

Amanda just happened to stop by my office immediately following that encounter with Dr. Brown, so I was unaware of that conversation.I boldly used the moment to ask her to help critique the class she had just completed with me. I asked if she could give me some honest feedback on the class content as to what she had learned, what teaching strategies she liked and any changes I should make. I like to do that from time to time because I have found that, one-on-one, students will be upfront and give great suggestions.

Amanda said, "You know all of us."

I said, "Yes, of course I know you."

"No, you really know us. You call us by name," she said.

"Of course I call you by name," I replied. "Why not?"

Amanda responded, "My other professor only had 25 students in class and he never bothered to learn our names."

HHHHEEELLLLOOOO!!! What is difficult about this? What am I missing here?

We value people when we call them by name.

For some unknown reason -- maybe a psychologist or psychiatrist can tell us -- we as humans like to hear our name called. I know that I do. It makes me feel valued and important. I believe it must be the way we are made by our Creator. I feel special when someone takes the time to learn my name.

It is our role as professors to value our students as human beings and build up their self-worth and self-esteem. We have that opportunity each semester in such a simple way -- just by knowing a name.


Dr. Sue Gober interacts with college students in a School of Education classroom at the University of Mobile where she prepares the next generation of classroom educators.