A necessary skill for teaching

I just went for a walk to get a coffee to start the day and some milk so I can make later hot drinks to get through the rest of the day. As I wandered back to the office I saw someone that I thought I knew walking up the connecting street to mine, so I gave him the encouraging Good Morning smile that I reserve for people I know. And he smiled back.

“Bit chilly” he said.

“It’s alright” said I, and talked about wearing layers. (I’m only wearing four layers today so it can’t be that bad!)

As he got closer I realised that he wasn’t the person that I had thought he was. He still looked familiar but only in that middle-aged-academic-male kind of way. I have no idea who he was!


“Are you still working at the uni?” he asked.



“Still in chemistry.”

“Still!” he said in astonishment and we had a good old chat about the stalwarts who had recently left because they got fed up, and how everyone is being moved into new areas.

He told me that he was retired but still linked to the uni as an honorary whatever, but he didn’t tell me what. It was a lovely chat but I still have no idea who he is. He obviously recognised and placed me correctly. Oh dear.

We parted company and I continued on my merry way, musing on my annoying lack of facial recognition skills and appalling memory for names.

As I mounted the front steps of the chemistry building there was another slightly familiar face.

“Ruth!” she greeted me

“Hello!” I said cheerfully and settled in for another chat with a complete stranger.

This one fortunately introduced herself as a past student who had dropped out last semester due to circumstances and was dropping in again to give things another go.

I am about to meet a whole new class of about 45 students. I love the teaching but the new faces and names are a strain on the old brain. DH and I have worked out that I tend to read emotional state rather than concentrating on physical appearance. Which means I can recognise my foundation students who are all new to the university by how lost they look in the first week or so. I can pick them a mile off now, but recognising them later is difficult as they meld into the general field of all university students.

Anyway, it’s time to start it all again. Here’s to a fresh start and a new semester.

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