My Name Is…

Back to School posts are everywhere! It’s that time of year after all. It’s great to read about caring, relationship building, visioning. That is all super important. We know that if students and teachers don’t feel valued at school or if there aren’t good relationships, success for everyone goes waaaay down. But I think there may be a missing ingredient when it comes to relationship building, at least from the posts I read.

What about the students’ names?  

Rusul Alrubail tweeted this out recently:

The link takes you to a really great post called “10 Ways Well-Meaning White Teachers Bring Racism Into Our Schools” and it’s a must-read. Even though it uses an american lens, we can’t let ourselves believe that these things don’t happen in canadian schools too. It made me uncomfortable, since I recognize myself in some of them, but that was good. How else can I continue to face and question my ingrained biases?

Rusul had a conversation about number 4: Intentionally or Unintentionally Mispronouncing Names on Twitter (you can go here to see the whole conversation) which I jumped in on. I, too, believe that naming is powerful. It is also political. There is a long standing tradition in Canada of changing the names of those who come to our shared country when they don’t suit our English or French tongues. I’m really glad that this tradition has almost died out. When we don’t pronounce student or colleagues’ names properly, we diminish ourselves and each other. It’s a message that you’re not that important. And using the excuse of “it’s just too hard” or “those names are crazy!” (yes, I’ve heard that) isn’t OK. 

Rusul’s post, Growing up with my name, is a window into how it feels. Her humour and gentleness in dealing with this subject is inspiring.  I know I’m going to keep making those efforts to pronounce others’ names correctly. I hope you are too.



5 Responses to “My Name Is…”

  1. David Resijan Avatar
    David Resijan

    Hi Sue,
    Welcome back to the new school year. I hope you have a terrific 2015-16.
    Knowing someone’s name can make a difference in how that person feels about you. Teaching at a school with many staff and students can be challenging but it is worth the effort.
    “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”-Dale Carnegie.
    Hope to see you at Ancaster Meadow soon. David

    1. Thanks for sharing that quote, David. I really like it.

  2. I have to thank you, Sue! I thought about this post a lot this week as I was meeting and greeting my new SK students. I tried to listen carefully to parents and students to ensure that I said names correctly, and make changes when necessary. I think we can show people how important they are and how much we care about them, by first taking the time to learn and use their names. Your post reminded me of the importance of getting ALL names correct. Thank you!


    1. So glad it made a little difference for you!

  3. Thank you for this post, as it also links to other resources/ideas…and then, other resources/ideas. There is such a high likelihood of these sorts of microaggressions when we act and speak as though the dominant culture is the most important culture, rather than creating a new culture together (which requires us to be mindful of name pronunciation, different perspectives, etc..) I feel sad when students with names that aren’t Eurocentric change their names. I was very heartened a few years ago when several students from South Korea kept their names in my class, rather than changing them…and then disheartened to hear people laugh in private at the sound of those names. My challenge is always to find a way to think about how to approach those who laugh. I learned through excellent HWDSB equity inservices how important it is to not respond in a way that comes across as blaming/shaming, but to try instead to recognize where people are in their understanding, and then speak in terms of “I” to share with them how I build awareness in myself. I’m always interested, too, in building awareness for my students — the majority of whom have European backgrounds. It is one of the reasons I love teaching so much in my current location.

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