To the Editor:
Regarding the article “Bungling Student Names: A Slight That Stings,” I spent 11 years of my life as a daily full-time substitute, known as an occasional teacher, in a school district just north of Toronto, Canada, with a large and very ethnically diverse student population. China (mainland and Hong Kong), India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Japan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and many other countries were represented in the student population.
When I take attendance in a new classroom, I have learned the importance of pronouncing each name correctly. I have heard the class laughter and witnessed the embarrassment of the student whose name I have mispronounced. I have also seen the relief when I have said a student’s name correctly.
I read the attendance aloud to myself, alone, before class to make sure I am comfortable with the names and know how to pronounce them. If I find a particularly difficult name, I ask a neighboring teacher, or one of the other students as the class enters the class. I do this quietly and unobtrusively. I then take attendance reading the names slowly and clearly, and if there is a chance that thepronunciation is ambiguous (to me), I give alternative ways to the student and politely ask which one is right. If there is confusion, I ask the student to say his or her name.
I am touched by the look of relief in students’ faces when their names are said correctly and often I hear the comment “You’re the first OT [substitute teacher] to get my name right!” When I really stumble over a name, I apologize immediately and make sure all laughter stops. In doing all this, I let the students see and know that I care about them because I have learned to say their names correctly. The bonus is that classroom-management issues are severely reduced.
Covenant Global School
A version of this article appeared in the July 20, 2016 edition of Education Week as Correct Name Pronunciation Aids Classroom Management