Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Teachers are always looking for new ideas for their first day of term lesson. I have tried many different lessons: creating a time capsule, throwing around a ping pong ball with questions, or playing two truths and a lie. In reality, there are infinite ways that you can spark initial rapport with your class, an essential springboard for your relationship with students moving forward.
Another important first day tradition is names. I have always made it a priority to learn students’ names as quickly as possible as well as establishing correct pronunciation and whether or not they have a preferred nickname.
At the start of August, Nithya Ramachandran, the VP of Brand Strategy & Communications at the MH3 group (the group to whom Park Street is affiliated) sent the Park Street team a link to an article about how to pronounce names properly and why it matters.
Now, I have an identical twin and whilst I spent most of my school years correcting teachers on my name, it was an issue of mistaken identity not an issue of pronunciation. Yes, it was irritating at times, but it had absolutely nothing to do my race, my culture, or my language.
The article points out a few things right off that top that helped me reflect on how we as teachers at Park Street can demonstrate to students that “inclusivity” isn’t just a word used on the school’s website, the teachers actually live and breathe it.
“Pronouncing someone’s name correctly can make them feel respected, valued, and seen. Not only is it a major sign of respect, but it’s also the first step in creating an inclusive (environment). Pronouncing names correctly is " one of those ways that you can really practice anti-racism and practice allyship in the moment ," according to Ruchika Tulshyan , the founder of Candour, an inclusion strategy firm. She explains that it's "one of those very subtle but extremely important ways to get engaged and really stand up...for communities that are nonwhite and largely have faced marginalization." As we focus more on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) … in society as a whole, name pronunciation is a major issue to address. “
The article Nithya shared made me consider the ways in which Park Street can do more to address this common occurrence and to foster a more inclusive classroom environment. I knew that I needed to move beyond learning how to pronounce the names of my students myself and instead equip them with the language necessary to ensure that they feel comfortable asking their peers how their names should be pronounced.
Additionally, we want to empower those children whose names are less common to feel that they can advocate for themselves and share how they would like their names to be pronounced.
With Nithya’s help, I have designed my first lesson of term and I want to share it with other teachers. Not only will it help teachers with planning time because, let’s be honest, it’s difficult to get back into the swing of things after the summer, more importantly, it will help teachers set the dynamic for the rest of the school year and help build a more inclusive classroom.
Whilst we are sharing this lesson for all the teachers, if you’re a parent, this is a great exercise to do with your kids too to explore your family’s identity. In addition, you may also discover language that can be incorporated into your respective workplaces because there is no situation where this advice isn’t valid or applicable.