During my teaching career, I have come across many names I did not know how to pronounce. I never guess how to pronounce a name because I will guess wrong. A stumbled attempt is fine with scientific names for plants or animals. A misspoken dinosaur name is not a huge deal. A mispronounced name for a person sitting in front of me? Unnecessary. Simply ask.
I always make it a point to have each student introduce themselves on the first day of class. While I do realize some students do not want to speak in public, this is the only time I require it. I want to know how a person wants to be addressed and how to say each name. Even if I have seen the name on my rosters multiple times before, I want to hear how each individual wants to be addressed.
Practice with names and faces is a big deal to me. I take the time every class, to see each student and practice saying their name while looking at them in the eye. This is all usually done while they are working on a first day of school activity. There are no, “Hey! You!” in my classroom, or life. Some school years, I’ve learned up to 220 names in 48 hours. I just think a person’s name is important.
The first time a student told me it was “ok” when I pronounced their name wrong I was taken aback. Same when someone told me to just call them “substitute name” because everyone else did. The worst phrase is always, “I don’t care what you call me.” In each instance my reply was, “No. This is your name. It is important that I get it right. This is you. You matter and so does the name by which you want to be called.”
As a teacher, camp counselor, student and traveler I’ve met a lot of different people. Actually as a, person who’s left my home on occasion throughout my life, I’ve met a lot of people. And all those people have names. Long names, short names, medium names, and nicknames. Names they may have changed and names they dislike being called.
The point is we all have a name. People should be referred to by the name they prefer. It should also be pronounced correctly each time. Learning how to correctly say another person’s names is not a personal choice but a part of human respect and value.
With more information about anti-racism available I was appalled to learn that choosing to not call people by their correct name is a common thing. Apparently, some people actually demand to give others substitute names. Same with pronunciations. Upon meeting another person some people deem a name too difficult to say. Their answer is to this situation is to declare they will call this individual something else.
On what planet did Miss Manners or Dear Abbey or Oprah ever say this was okay?
A person’s name is probably one of the first things they learn. It is one of the first things a person has an attachment to and identifies with themselves. Later in life people may change their names for various reasons. Names carry history and culture. First names are sometimes passed down through generations, honoring a person. Other times someone is named after a role model, childhood friend, maybe a hero.
A few names have become famous household utterances, the brand of products and companies. A person’s name written down is a visual stand in for them. It is binding on documents. Some names are worth money and increase the value of an object on which it is signed.
Names mean something, maybe more than any one person could ever completely comprehend or assign value. What’s in a name? Everything. And that’s why we should get it right. Each and every time.
To continue learning about this topic please visit Anti-Racism Daily.
The article, It’s all in a name: Why it’s important to make the effort to get each person’s right. was written by Elizabeth Schap and first appeared on just B more.
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