Arts Bridge Scholar: Jessica Jensen at Brookhaven Elementary

The Power of a Name:

There were so many benefits to simply learning student’s names that I would implore future arts bridge scholars to make this a priority! Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of each class to learn and remember each of the student’s names. They will know you care about them, focus, and understand you as a teacher so much better.

This semester I had the opportunity to participate in the Arts Bridge Scholar program. I was placed at an elementary school in Eagle Mountain where I taught 6th graders dance while integrating some of their science lessons on air pressure and weather. I taught three lessons to two different classes. Being able to repeat my lessons provided great insight and learning.

The opportunity for students to embody the principles they had already learned was very impactful for these students. The students in my first class (Mrs. L’s class) already had some lessons on weather and air pressure so as we began embodying the principles they learned, more students became confident and familiar with the concepts. Upon asking the students at the beginning of class about the topics we would be learning about, only one or two students felt confident enough to engage in conversation about the principles. By the end of the lessons with Mrs. L’s class, all students were able to answer simple questions and engage in conversation. Because they had embodied the information through dance, the students were able to think about more hypothetical questions and think through the scientific processes rather than just memorizing vocabulary and regurgitating it. They developed skills of critical thinking about things they maybe beforehand didn’t care about or didn’t understand.

For the second class I taught (Mrs. R’s class), I was their first exposure to these concepts. I wish I could see how that affected their future learning of the concepts, but based on how they were picking up on the concepts with the movement and the vocabulary I felt hopeful that grasping the concepts came more easily to them. Embodying information was a powerful tool for these sixth-grade scholars. I thoroughly enjoyed learning and growing with them through an art medium so close to my heart. Arts integration is such an amazing tool for learning and I feel grateful that I got to see it in action.

After finishing the three lessons with Mrs. L’s class, I had a lot of things I knew I wanted to improve and try differently for the next set of students. There was one thing from my list of improvements to try that ended up having the biggest impact: learning the names of each student. By the end of the last lesson with Mrs. L’s class, I noticed that there were many moments when knowing someone’s name would have been helpful. I recognize that three 45-minute classes is not a long time with a set of students, but I decided to move forward with the idea and planned a few minutes at the beginning of the first lesson to learn names.

I remember arriving for Mrs. R’s class a little nervous to learn close to thirty names, but excited to see if it would make a difference. Before starting the lesson, I gave myself 5-7 minutes to learn everyone’s names. I almost couldn’t believe it, and the students were absolutely jazzed, but I did it! I learned and remembered everyone’s names that day. As we proceeded through the lesson I was surprised at how much easier it was to keep their attention, and how much easier it was to get them back on task when their attention veered. Not only was I able to quietly say their name to urge them back to being on task, but because they knew I knew their names they seemed less likely to try and slide by me. In Mrs. L’s class, it felt that many students tried to get away with things and could because I didn’t know how many of them there were, and I didn’t know their names, so in turn they could more easily go unnoticed.

For this to be a true experiment I would have had to control more things. I realize each class culture and identity are unique, but the activity levels of these classes were very similar and the impact of such a small act greatly affected my teaching. I would review names at the beginning of the next two classes and it always got the students excited and involved to test my knowledge. Learning their names, then having them switch spots around the room to test my knowledge was not only helpful for my memory but also helped get them in new spots by people they don’t normally gravitate towards. Learning their names also provided a good time for these students to get to know me and my personality a little better, which helped them understand me when we were learning.

There were so many benefits to simply learning these student’s names that I would implore future Arts Bridge Scholars to make this a priority! Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of each class to learn and remember each of the students’ names. They will know you care about them, focus, and understand you as a teacher so much better.

In the future as a teacher, knowing names and other things about my students will be a very important part of teaching for me. I saw firsthand how knowing and taking steps to more fully see your students can be a huge help as a teacher and as a student. Everyone benefits from such a small act of showing interest. The power of a name is truly remarkable.

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