let's collaborate on a tip sheet re: why it's important that my child's teachers can recognize him

Thank you for all of your advice and support after my last post[-ing binge], regarding my suspicions that my boys’ kindergarten teacher has mixed them up more times than is really excusable.

After taking some time to cool down, I’ve decided:

  1. Their teacher is a good teacher. She is kind, she works really hard, and she cares about the kids.
  2. Ignorance regarding the importance of facial recognition seems to be widespread.

To turn this into a useful experience, I’ve decided to compose a letter/pamphlet/flyer/something to hand over to the principal or the local board of education, that explains why it is so important to learn to identify look-alike twins, triplets, etc. by sight.

I’d also like to touch upon some tips or information along the lines of: What do I wish my kids’ teacher/s knew going into the school year?

If any of you have experience putting your multiples in daycare, preschool, camp, elementary school, or beyond, please comment (or email, if you’re shy) with your tips and suggestions. Or share ideas based on your own experiences, if you are a twin or triplet.

My email is jen.diagnosisurine at gmail.com, but consider posting a comment because your thoughts might spark some ideas for other readers. It would be great if we could come up with a piece that we all could use as we’re putting our children in new situations.

21 thoughts on “let's collaborate on a tip sheet re: why it's important that my child's teachers can recognize him

  1. The first time I dropped my boys off in a childcare situation I was appalled that no one wanted to know how to tell who is who. It was then that I realized if I wanted people to know them as separate individuals, I would have to be the one to initiate it.

    So whenever I introduce them I say this is Little Guy his eyes have a blue coloring, and this is Big Guy his eyes have a slight green tint. I also attempt when possible to coordinate their colors in that manner, sippy cups, clothing, etc.

    It is likely though that upon entering school that will no longer work for us. We shall see. Look forward to reading everyone’s thoughts!

  2. My boys are nine months old, so I haven’t had much experience with this yet… In general, I’ve been really impressed with people making an effort to know which boy is who. To make things easier, I will usually dress Kason in blue and Cohen in green, and let people know that when they first meet them. When we arrive at playgroup or where-ever, I make sure I use their names, so people know who is wearing what that day.

  3. I don’t have a lot to add, but I do hope you’ll share your eventual letter with us – it’s an issue that I know I’m going to face as time goes on.

  4. I do not have multiples, nor am I one, but…I always remember the set of identical twins in my daughter’s first preschool room. I was helping out and I (quietly) asked the teacher the best way to tell who was who. She told me that the parents always coordinate hair accessories. C had red, orange or yellow. E had green, blue or purple. I used that, but one day their mom was in the room and I asked her if there were any other ways to tell them apart (they really, really looked exactly alike, including haircut). She told me that if you look closely C has a rounder face (like the letter C) and E has a longer skinnier face (sort of like the letter E). That worked great. The first time I looked right in C’s face (and not her hair) and said “good morning C” she beamed at me and said “you know who I am!”. After that, I was determined to make the effort any time I encountered multiples. This is turning into a very long comment, sorry about that, but my point is two-fold. 1) people who really care will find a way 2) that tip from their mom, about the face shape, really helped me. So, if you’re the mom, try to think of helpful, clever ways for people to tell them apart (I love JP’sMom’s eye color trick) and if you’re the friend, teacher, neighbor, etc ASK. I think it’s much less shameful to ask the parents for tips on telling the kids apart than to just keep lumping them together or getting them mixed up.

  5. Great idea Jen. I’ve struggled with this with our identical girls. I usually dress them in outfits that help to distinguish who is who (“R” wears red, and “S” wears stripes) but at some point I expect people who care about them to take responsibility for identifying them without my help.

  6. I think JP’s Mom is right on. Most of the time people do not want to take the time to learn the differences and are perfectly content with calling them “the twins” or “that one”. I make it my mission to tell people the differences in my sons- the difference in the shape of their faces, their personalities, etc.

    As far as the proposed pamphlet goes, I think if you just write the obvious it will get the point across- every child wants to be special and every child wants to be known. If a child is constantly mistaken for another or feels like no one thinks it’s important to learn about them as an individual it can be nothing but damaging to that child!

    I’m sure in a couple of years when my identical sons hit school I’ll be asking for copies of that pamphlet!!

  7. Teach your boys to point out their differences. My sister Stacey and I did so starting around the same age as your boys. “I am [Mommy, Esq.], I have bangs; Stacey does not.” It is so effective – and much more than anything my mom did (she didn’t do anything by the way, a big believer in the “figure it out/what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger camp”). The key is teaching your kids to not be hurt by other kids who don’t make the effort (teachers will be shamed by the above confrontation). If a kid doesn’t bother (“saying happy birthday to one is like saying it to all of you”) to tell the difference then they aren’t worth your kids’ time and effort – that there are lots of people for them to expend their caring energy on. Good luck!

  8. One way to get buy-in for this would be to make it a tip sheet both for the teachers/caregivers and for the parents of multiples–making it a joint responsibility. So, a tip for parents might be: assume people want to tell your children apart (unless proven otherwise, as in your case, Jen), but also assume it may be difficult for them. Provide more tips than you think necessary. I mean, for whatever reason, this is difficult for people: I can’t tell you how many people have trouble telling my boy/girl twins apart. C’mon, folks, one is in blue and the other is in pink. It’s not hard. I can’t even imagine what parents of identical twins hear.

  9. I have identical twins but due to in utero growth discord, they don’t look very identical. That said, other daycare parents and teachers are always asking how to tell them apart. When they do, I always bring them over to them and put them side by side and say that Delaney has longer hair and is an inch taller.

    I also used to be the parent who almost always dressed them alike, until I realized that I really, REALLY wanted not only their teachers but also their friends to be able to tell them apart. Now they dress differently or at most, coordinate. (Although I realize neither of these efforts helped in your boys case.)

    Beyond that, I’ve found that by not telling their teachers much about the girls, they’ve discovered them on their own without any of my musings in their head. And since my girls behave differently at daycare than they do at home, I don’t influence them into thinking one will be more difficult than the other.

    And seriously, I’m still appalled at this teacher’s behavior.

  10. I am at a loss to why anyone would think that it’s not important to know a person by their name even if they have a twin.
    This seems drastic, but what if you started calling the teacher and the aid by the other’s name? Then, when they corrected you you could roll your eyes and say “whatever”. If you could get the point acrossed that names and recognition always matter, maybe they would understand.
    I mean, who wants to be called by the wrong name?

  11. I have four year old identical twin girls. They are in their second year of Pre K with the same teacher and aide and I am sad to say that the girls still get confused. Though they wear uniforms, I spent the entire year last year and part of this one, making sure their hair was always done differently, and that they didn’t have on the same uniform…one in a skirt, one in pants, etc. I even always put the same one in a white sweater and the other in a blue one AND one wears white gold jewelry while the other wears yellow gold. I finally stopped putting in the effort as clearly I was the only one making the effort. I have taught them, however, to make sure that they correct people when they are mistaken for their sister.

  12. What I had to do when I took my girls into daycare was say – Bridget is in pink today, Aubrey is in purple today.

    Also, my twins are now 3 1/2, so I tell people to listen to their voices. They do not have the same voice, so even if you can’t tell by their looks – listen.

    You could also look for visible scars :) Bridget took a header into a radiator and ended up with 8 stitches in her forehead. It’s getting fainter, but you can see it if you look.

    I guess more than anything, my tip would be to take the time

  13. I would tell parents of twins to give details of the twin, such that you could tell them apart when the twins are NOT together. Color codes would work, pointing out individual characteristics like the green tinted eyes, spots on their face, round versus long face. Mine have a spot on their face in different places and have the round versus long head shape. I also like having the kids themselves be their own champions too.

  14. This is a subject very close to my heart. The most obvious feature that differentiates my daughters is that one has a birth defect, and the other doesn’t. However, the last thing I want to do is bring attention to that, since it has never bothered my daughter.

    I’ve been fortunate that almost every teacher my kids have had have nourished their independence and individuality, while respecting their close relationship. I’m not as open-minded as you. In the one similar situation I had, I didn’t bother trying to educate the teacher.

    My neighbour tells me she has a mnemonic for keeping my girls straight. You’ve already got different haircuts going, and my girls had that for a while, but my shorter-haired daughter wants to grow out her hair. When I first met TraceyS’s boys, she just told me, “A has a rounder face,” and I haven’t confused them since.

    There’s an article on multiples in school available from the National Organization of Mothers of Twins. I believe you can purchase a copy for $1.50 even if you’re not a member. I’ve been planning to do so myself: http://www.nomotc.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=329&Itemid=247

  15. You know what? Maybe those of us whose kids have had teachers who have “done right” by our multiples could collect suggestions from those teachers too.

  16. I am actually going to suggest to hold such a panel for the Mothers Of Twins Club that I am in. I think it would be a great idea.

  17. I don’t have identicals, rather 2 sets of faternals (b/b & b/g). It drives me crazy that people can’t tell them apart. I’m pretty patient if they don’t know the boys, but I have a niece who still can’t tell them about after 4 years. There are times it can be difficult depending on the haircut, but mostly it’s plain laziness. Even with my boy/girl set. My boy gets called a girl 90% of the time the other 10% my daughter gets lumped in with the boys.

    As a parent, I don’t mind helping teachers and others how to tell them apart the first time or so, but I really expect them to learn who they are. I have been known to “test” their teachers before, glad so far they have passed. They really are so different in everything, not just looks. I find that out with most twins, personalities really are different. That should be an easy thing for teachers to see since they see them constantly. Good luck. I hope their teacher learns from this experience, sorry your boys have to be the teachers here.

  18. People not taking the time to learn the differences between my identical twins (who overcourse look very differnt to me) definately bothers me! Part of it might be my fault as I still dress them alike (they are two), but I do make a point when I introduce them to point out their distinguishing characteristics. I will have to figure something out though by the time they start school so they are not confused by teachers and peers. Might be after those pamphlets to distribute…

  19. As a teacher, I am guilty of calling kids the wrong name (regardless of them being twins or not), but only briefly when I am talking quickly, such as at recess, calling someone down, etc. I DO know who all of my students are, much beyond just their name. With so many students who look similar, have the same names, etc it is difficult when I am moving so quickly. Sometimes I call my husband by my dog’s name. I’m human; we all make mistakes when so much is going on.

    That being said, it is ABSOLUTELY COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE that this teacher actually was instructing them as a different individual. THAT IS worth going to the teacher and the administration about because it is affecting your children’s education. I think it is completely excusable to slip up from time-to-time, as I do, but it is NOT OKAY to actually NOT know who is who! What if they had food allergies? Oh my… this bugs me!

  20. So I am back again with a really heavy heart. My twin who wears a white sweater to school spilled syrup down the front of her sweater. Her spare is also dirty. I asked if she wanted to wear her sister’s extra blue sweater and she told me no because the teacher wouldn’t be able to tell he apart and would call her the wrong name all day and she doesn’t like that. Wow, I knew the teacher didn’t know them apart, but didn’t realize the girls knew and were bothered. How foolish of me to think my girls weren’t aware.

  21. I have 6yo twin boys that have been in school since the age of 3, and teachers still have a hard time telling them apart when they are together. They have never been in the same class, they do have activities at school where they are together at the same time. I never dress them the same, well not since last year when they switched classes at recess and neither teacher could tell, they were smart enough to write the others name on all the papers, and listen for the others name, but they confessed to me as soon as they got off the bus, after I brought it to the teachers attention, they sat down with both boys and attempted to figure out the differences. One of them have a rounder face and the other an oval face. When we cut their hair we always leave one with slightly longer hair, they have different shoes, and back packs, they sound different when you talk to them, they have totally different personalities, I honestly dont think its that hard, if my 2yr old daughter can figure it out, why can’t the teachers that seem them 8 hours a day?

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