That old social bugaboo. Again. Still.

So, recently I was observed while teaching an evening class, and a couple weeks later had the opportunity to meet and discuss the professor’s observations.  Except for one problem, most everything else can easily be resolved.

I was able to explain how the combination of illness and exhaustion were affecting me, as well as how accessory issues like Auditory Processing Disorder and tinnitus and prosopagnosia meant that I had to either work harder or do some things differently.  I explained how I took notes during the classes of what I wanted to do differently, to keep improving my teaching. I think that overall the discussion went well.

The prof had some really good suggestions, such as repeating questions, or asking students if I had answered their question.  He reminded me not to mutter to myself when looking for something, as it was distracting to the students.

Since the observation, I decided to have the students pick up their returned papers from a pile, instead of trying to pass them out. That had not worked out well.  Due to my faceblindness, I was carrying around my seating chart and asking each person if they were so-and-so before handing them their paper. Students can accept that the first week or two of school, but even though I have mentioned my problem more than once, the concept is really hard for most people to get their brains wrapped around.

Halfway into the semester, I’ve finally sorted people out with regards to my prosopagnosic identification crutches, but I’m still working getting the names attached to their individual gestalts.  The other week I was entering grades and finally realised that there’s a student who is in both of my classes!  That this student is rather generic looking, quiet, and sits in the back of the classroom doesn’t help, faceblindness-wise.

But after the whole review experience had passed beyond the anxiety level into the stage of applying the information positively, I am still sighing over one point.

I thought I had gotten past this. I thought I had it down pat. But apparently, I still need to work on making eye contact.


  1. Jes said,

    15 October 2008 at 0:54

    Too bad you can’t assign each of your students a silly hat! Then you’d know that Bill was the jester, Mindy was Mickey Mouse, Karl was Dr. Seuss… As as student, I would so volunteer to wear a Statue of Liberty crown. :)

    I’m a new reader of your blog, and I’m really enjoying your entries. Thank you for sharing your struggles with the world! It’s really interesting–and eye-opening! Ingenuity is awesome.

    (I’ve always been interested in faceblindness, mostly because I’m terrible with faces myself. Although I can recognize people–eventually!–I’ve had problems at my cashier job when two middle-aged guys with beards would walk in. I’d always give one the other’s order. Eek!)

  2. qw88nb88 said,

    12 October 2008 at 21:54

    I have the students write their names on the backs of their exams, so no one is looking at the scores on their classmates’ papers. This is a method I learned from one of my own professors, and it made plenty of sense to me!


  3. abfh said,

    12 October 2008 at 19:05

    To protect your students’ privacy, when you have the students pick up their papers, I’d suggest that you put them in envelopes rather than in a pile.

  4. qw88nb88 said,

    12 October 2008 at 18:40

    … and if my students all sat at regular desks and faced towards me, I would do this, too. Alas, they’re at lab tables, two per side. I’ve also been in classes with student name plates, and think they’re wonderful! (-:


  5. chaoticidealism said,

    12 October 2008 at 18:37

    One of my profs insisted on name tags for everybody. He gave us pieces of cardboard and a big marker to write our names on, and had us keep the tags in our folders and put them on our desks each day. He said it helped him take attendance; but I’m pretty sure he was making sure he didn’t forget any names, too. :)

  6. 12 October 2008 at 17:30

    Hooray, I have easily-typeable features! (Being nominally in the “girls with long blond hair” category, despite being 40.)

  7. qw88nb88 said,

    12 October 2008 at 15:11

    There are a surprising number of people (especially in school settings) that fall into particular categories or “types”, where most-all the members of a set are nearly indistinguishable. Guys with baseball caps or girls with long blond hair would be common examples.

    It would be really difficult to set up a livechat, as we are in a laboratory setting. It’s an interesting idea, though! Maybe I can adapt it in another situation.


  8. CS said,

    12 October 2008 at 14:46

    “That this student is rather generic looking” I enjoyed this description. Sorry but couldn’t help but laugh because I’ve used the same expression. Is it possible that you could use some technology in the classroom that might help with some of these issues? Here is one suggestion, I’m not sure if it is possible or not but it might be a fun experiment and help you at the same time.

    Set up a live chat during class over the internet. Use a projector to project the website on a screen. Students get to ask questions anonymously through the chat, which would serve two purposes, allow students uncomfortable asking questions to be able to ask anonymously and second, seeing the question in writing would possibly help you address it bypassing the auditory difficulties.

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