I used to have a fabulous memory for people’s names and faces. I could meet a person once, not see them for months, and I’d recognize him or her, and know his/her name. I could learn my 150-ish students’ names by the end of the first 3 days of school. It wasn’t that hard. I just did it. Sure I used some memory tricks for some people, but mostly, it just happened. I never understood how people couldn’t do it. How did people not just know people’s names. –Now I get it.
My first year back in the classroom, by biggest class of the 3 was 25 kids. Total of 65 kids. It took me a month to really know their names. If I saw a kid in the hallway, I wasn’t always sure if he or she was one of my students or not. As kids changed into or out of my classes, I was even more confused. Sure, some kids stuck easily. Others stayed a mystery.
Last year, I was only at school 3 months before going out on maternity leave. This year, upon returning to school, I would often see kids in the hall who would speak to me, but didn’t recognize them. I wasn’t, and still am not, sure if they were students of mine last year or they are just friendly kids.
I often feel like I’m in a new place full of all new people.Faces just don’t stick like they used to.
Names in print I remember.Show me a list of kids’ names and I can tell you if they were in my classes last year.But that’s different. It isn’t faces. If you lined up 50 kids, I couldn’t pick out which were mine and which weren’t. Again, sure, there are exceptions, but that isn’t the rule.
Also,now when I see a student from 4 years ago (the year before my wreck) I’m not always sure it’s the kid I think it is. Or, I’m not sure if I actually know the kid or not. And if she acts as though she knows me, I couldn’t call her by name. There isn’t even a hint of a name.Even when, on occasion, I recognize the face and I’m pretty sure she’s a former student, there’s no, “I think it starts with an M”, or “It’s a long name” kind of experience. It’s just blank. Before the wreck I could have told you her name, which class period she was in, who else was in there, and some particular thing about that kid. That’s gone.
Same applies to adults. I’ve run into adults at school functions of some kind or in the store, and I’m not sure what to do. I let them initiate,but even then I’m happy if I can fake my way through a conversation. I may have a guess at our connection, but I don’t know for sure. And there certainly is no hint of a name. It’s like making small talk with strangers at a party. Except, they shouldn’t be complete strangers.
If you aren’t in the TBI life, it’s easy to just say, “oh, just admit it to them, tell them the truth and they’ll totally understand.” Well, but admitting it is painful and new because this is a new deficit for me. I have no familiarity with handling mystery people. And, I think it’s rude to tell someone “hey, I think I should know you but I don’t, so who are you?”, and no, they probably wouldn’t understand. Besides, constantly reminding people I have a TBI gets old. It feels like a cop-out. Or, I feel like I’m making excuses. Maybe people would understand better than I give them credit for. Nonetheless, constantly saying, “don’t forget I have a TBI” gets old for me. I know I wouldn’t get it if I were on the outside, so I don’t expect other people to get it.
Regardless, another part of the New Normal. Broken facial recognition software.