As I read through the list of names at home that night, practicing my pronunciation of them, my own children asked why. To them, it seemed silly to recite a list of names. As I sat there ready to respond, I remembered the first time I realized the power that our names carry. Years ago, as a doctoral student, I learned that a classmate had changed her name when she arrived in America to a more ‘American’ name. We talked about why she chose her new name and how hard it was for her to leave her actual name behind. It was a powerful conversation and showed me how our names are so carefully tied to our identities. Our parents chose these unique names especially for us. Perhaps the name is a connection to another family member. Perhaps the name is a treasured mentor or close friend they believed in. Perhaps the name was chosen after months of sifting through possibilities until the right one was found. Regardless how, our names matter and I cared enough to get it right to make my students feel welcome and valued.
Our program celebrates reading and writing, but is also celebrates students: their strengths, their personalities, their families and their future and we always begin with their name. We write our names, create heart maps around our names, proudly display our names on our drawing and writing and use our name to own our materials and our work. Our name means something. It is the start to our story.
The My Name, My Identity project works to honor our stories, starting with our name and begins with a pledge to use and respect names:
I, [NAME], do hereby affirm my commitment to the My Name, My Identity Campaign by pledging to:
- Show respect to others’ names and identities in schools by pronouncing students’ names correctly
- Be a model for students by sharing information and resources about showing respect to others’ names and identities
- Spread the word about the importance of respecting others’ names and identities
- Share my name story on social media
- Be proud of who I am and celebrate our differences
The campaign provides resources to investigate the world, recognize perspectives, communicate ideas and take action. I urge you to visit the site and take the pledge to honor students’ stories, staring with their name. Join me!