The start of the year is an exciting time! We get to meet new students and rethink lessons or ideas that didn’t go quite as planned previously. For many students, the first day is both exciting and frightening. Students don’t just care about seeing their friends on day one, they also want to meet their teachers. They want to know if their teachers will be nice and whether they will like them. School is a big part of our identities. You know what else is a big part of our identities? Our names. This year, let’s commit to trying hard to get our students’ names correct.
As a student on my first days of school, I used to play the, how bad will my name be butchered game. Zandra de Araujo is not a common name in the United States and even though my last name has been Americanized from the original Portuguese pronunciation, my friends and colleagues still butcher it from time to time. My first name can also be said multiple ways. People tend to avoid saying my last name or just say I know I’m going to get it wrong as a blanket disclaimer. Why not try a bit harder this year with your students? I have an easy idea of how to go about this.
Early in the year, ask students to record a short video of themselves saying their full name and answering a few questions. Students tend to have handheld video recorders on them all the time (cell phones) and if they don’t, you can let them use your iPad to record a short video really quick at some point early on. Who better to learn how to same someone’s name than from that person? It is important that you do this with all students (even the John Smiths) because you want to give each student the opportunity to share with you.
In addition to their names, you might ask the students to tell you what you think you should know about them as learners, tell you about their favorite math teacher, ask them about their hobbies, ask them what is something people think about them that isn’t true, etc. This will give you better insight to your students as people and opportunities to draw on their resources in the classroom. Here’s an example of what it might look like:
You can have students share their videos via Google or put them in a shared Dropbox folder or just send you the link via whatever your classroom management system is. It will also help you put names to faces quicker. I also encourage you to make a video answering the same questions for your students. They will appreciate it and maybe you will get called Dr. de Araujo instead of Dr. de all year (not that I mind either way).
Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes!
Other related resources that I enjoy:
- Pronouncing Students’ Names Correctly Should be a Big Deal (EdWeek)
- How we Pronounce Student Names and Why it Matters (Cult of Pedagogy)
- The Lasting Impact of Mispronouncing Students’ Names (NEAToday)
- Facundo the Great (NPR Story Corps)