I've always struggled some with learning and remembering names. Although I've definitely improved this skill as a teacher, I try to start off each year with flash cards to ensure I fully connect student faces with names.
My first two years, I did this by taking pictures of students one by one as they filled out their "getting to know you" sheets on the first day. I always gave students the option of opting out, but at my first real teaching job, the freshmen thought it was creepy I wanted to take their pictures. I ended up with less than half my students on flash cards and spent my first month getting names down.
So the next year I devised an even better strategy. It has more set up, but in less than one week I can learn every student's first and last names, and I know them before the first day of school. Students know on the first day that I care enough to learn their names, and that if they try to pull anything on that first day I can call them out on it1.
Here's how you go about this if you have eSIS. Open up your eSIS and make sure your classes have students in them. Then click on the blue arrow at the bottom right hand corner of the screen named "Navigate."
then double-click on "Photo Report."
This will pull up another window. Under the "Courses" tab, put in your name under "Teacher," then click "Run Extreact.
Boom, you have a report with students names and last year's school photos. Some programs that read .pdf files will let you select the pictures and save them. Acrobat and Foxit do not, so I use a free screen shot program called Screen Hunter 5. I select the pictures and save individual image files of each student with their name as the file name. Of course, it's important to copy the names correctly, or else you'll end up calling Camren, your student, Carmen for the first three days of school.
I then use a program called Virtual Flashcards to create cards with the pictures and names, so I actually have to type out the complete name when I study them. It also displays statistics on your study history after each set and can determine which cards you need to study more. The company that created the program is no longer supporting it, so you can't upgrade from the free version, which is unfortunate because while you can make as many flashcard sets as you like, they are limited to 20 cards and there's a nag screen that comes up while you're studying.
Last year, I studied sporadically through Labor Day weekend (maybe 2 hours a day) and was good to go for the first day of school. If you're crazy enough to try it too, hopefully this post will help.