DEAR ABBY: I have been teaching for 30 years in the same school district. I can't tell you how many times 30- to 45-year-old men have come up to me and said, "You don't remember me, do you?" When they were in elementary school, they were not sporting facial hair and didn't have receding hairlines. Still, I feel bad not being able to make their day by spouting off their first and last names.
All of my students are special to me. However, although some of these men attended my school, not all of them were in my classroom. I'm flattered they recognize me, but what's the best way to respond in a situation like this?
Also, could you give your readers some suggestions about how to approach former educators so we won't have to rummage frantically through the file cabinets of our brains trying to decide which child from the past this grown-up might be? -- STRUGGLING TO RECALL IN ARKANSAS
DEAR STRUGGLING: When someone approaches you and says, "You don't remember me, do you?" an appropriate response would be, "Refresh my memory!" Said with a smile, it shouldn't be offensive.
This potentially embarrassing problem can easily be avoided if the former student simply says, "Mrs. Jones, it's so nice to see you. I'm 'John Smith' and you were my teacher in 1991."