I Never Enter a Classroom Without ‘Em…

Prior to becoming a coach, I was a math teacher for 21 years and have taught roughly 2000 students.  In my first year of coaching, I worked with 17 teachers and came in contact with approximately 1500 students.  This post outlines how I connected with all those students.

Failure #1:  The first time I ran a lesson as a math coach, I was doing an Inside/Outside Circle activity.  Students were standing around the room.  I didn’t know anyone’s name and had to refer to students as, “You in the queen of hearts shirt” or “You in purple star shirt”.  I hated it. Although the activity was successful, the atmosphere felt impersonal.

Failure #2:  After that, I started asking students to make paper name tents.  This was only a temporary fix.  The process took too long and it wasted a lot of paper.

Success:  While attending a training, I noticed the presenter using dry erase plastic name tents.  BINGO! The tents were exactly what I needed.  Later that day, I ordered a class set.

Now when I work in a classroom, I fill out the name tents as students set up for class.   I enjoy this process for it’s my opportunity to talk and connect with the students prior to teaching them.


  Here are some of those interactions…

  • Me: What’s your first name?

    Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.10.28 PM

    I quickly learned there are 6 ways to spell the name, Haley!!

  • Student:  Arianna
  • Me:  A-r-i
  • Student:  No i, y
  • Me:  A-r-y-a-n-n-a
  • Student:  Smiles
  • Me: What’s your first name?
  • Student:  Arianna
  • Me:  A-r-y
  • Student:  No y, i
  • Me:  A-r-i-a-n-n-a
  • Student:  only 1 n
  • Me:  A-r-i-a-n-a
  • Student:  Smiles
  • Me: Hey there, what’s your first name?
  • Student:  Arianna
  • Me: A-r-   i or y?
  • Student:  i
  • Me:   1 or 2 n’s
  • Student:  2
  • Me:  A-r-i-a-n-n-a
  • Student:  Smiles
  • Me: Hey, what’s your first name?
  • Student:  Abrianna
  • Me:  Abrianna?  Did I say that correctly?
  • Student:  yes
  • Me:  A-b-r-i-a-n-n-a
  • Student:  Smiles
  • Me: Your name?
  • Student:  Bibianna
  • Me: B-i-b (pause and look at student)
  • Student: yep
  • Me:  i-a-n-n-a?
  • Student:  Smiles


  • Me: Your name?
  • Student:  Steve

Every time I called on Steve, the class chuckled.  Finally, I asked, why.  The teacher replied, “Because his name is Nick!”  I appreciate a good prank, so I laughed along with the class and for the rest of the school year he was known as, Nick Steve.


Talking with a  group:

  • Me: Morning! Your first name?
  • Student:  Monases
  • Me:  M-a-n-a-s-e-s
  • Student:  No, Monases
  • Me: M-a-n
  • Student:  No a
  • Me: Oh!  Mooonases.  M-o-n-a-s-e-s
  • Student:  Smiles
  • Me:  And your name?  (switching my attention to the next student)
  • Student:  Priscilla, no s, one l
  • Me:  P-r-i-c-i-l-a
  • Student:  Yep.  Smiles
  • Me:  And your name?  (switching my attention to the third student)
  • Student:  B-e-n
  • Me:  Smile


Capture1    Capture9    Capture  Capture


CaptureCaptureThe $150 purchase turned out to be money well spent. The time taken to ask and record student names has had the greatest impact on my ability to coach.  The quick interactions typically end in students smiling or giving a nod of approval when I spell their name correctly. Students appreciate that I learn their names and they reciprocate the respect during the lesson.


About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
This entry was posted in building relationships, math coach and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I Never Enter a Classroom Without ‘Em…

  1. Leann Kilduff says:

    Love this Jen!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Leeanne Branham says:

    Great tip, thanks! 🙂


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