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  • 1.  What's in a name?

    Posted 05-14-2017 01:37 PM

    Sometimes I hear teachers using "nicknames" rather than saying, or writing out children's' real names. I think there are many reasons, such as the name being difficult to pronounce or remember. Do you think there may be other reasons? How do you handle "nicknaming" at your program?



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    Best regards,

    Sandy Baba, Ph.D
    NAEYC Asian Interest Forum Co-Facilitator
    Education Researcher, Community Advocate,
    California AEYC Diversity Committee Member
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  • 2.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-14-2017 02:57 PM
    Interesting question, Sandy!

    I think that naming is very important, particularly for families who have arrived in the US fairly recently and are seeking to retain their language, culture, and traditions in a new, often challenging, country. The general rule I've followed is to use only the names that the child and/or family wants used at school. Sometimes that leads to using a parent- or child-designated nickname or an English/Western name that the family uses in a variety of formal settings. Over the course of our relationship with them, many times we all agree to stop using that English/Western name out of respect and familiarity.

    My family lives in Mexico at the moment, and our 12-year-old daughter's name is Bebe, which produces some challenges here in a country where "bebe" means "baby" and is pronounced "bay-bay," not "bee-bee"! Though my daughter would likely take it in stride if a teacher created a nickname for her, I would find it very disrespectful of her and our family. To me, it would be a sign that the teacher did not take my child seriously enough to establish a respectful relationship to her as a human being -- making it difficult for me to believe that she was being taught with any care.

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    Chris Amirault
    Affiliate Advisory Council
    Mérida, Yucatán, México
    camirault@naeyc.org
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  • 3.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-15-2017 09:33 AM
    I actually experienced a reverse experience when my oldest son attended preschool many years ago. My son was called "D.J." by our family from birth. His full name is David, Jr., after his father. His preschool teacher refused to call him that , stating that he 'needed to learn his full name.' I contended that he would learn that as time went on, but that it was confusing to us to have 2 Davids in our household, and that since he was never called anything but D.J., we wanted him to be called that at school, as well. It was a battle at the beginning, but she finally conceded (after noting that he wouldn't respond to 'David'). I found it incredibly disrespectful that she wouldn't honor what we asked for at first. I always kept that in mind as children and families entered my classroom, and asked the family what they preferred we call their child. They may have a nickname they have given for a good reason. That being said, I would never give a child a nickname myself. That is up to the family to do, not the teacher. I had one teacher in high school who insisted upon calling me 'Dot', even though I told him many time I loathed that name. I would have to agree with Chris and say that shows a lack of a respectful relationship (and I still believe I did poorly in that class because of that).

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    Dorothy Frederick
    CPCD
    Colorado Springs CO
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  • 4.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-15-2017 08:09 AM
    I try to avoid nicknames unless they are used by the  family. When I started school, my mom wanted me to be called by my proper name, not a nickname. Despite her and my best efforts, my name was shortened, by teachers, all through school. It wasn't until college that people called me by my proper name. This was very frustrating to me and, I feel, disrespectful. This is always in the back of my mind when I hear a child called a nickname.

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    Catherine Roach
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 5.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-15-2017 02:29 PM
    This is a BIG topic when working with dual language learners! Some schools now require that all children use the name on their birth certificate. Of course, that is the name some children only hear when they get in trouble! But, nicknames are often considered disrespectful. Just because a parent calls a child "Gordito" doesn't mean it's OK for teacher or peers to use it! National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE) participated in an initiative last year called #MyNameIsMyID - My name is my identity. It was designed to combat the disrespect of giving children "nicknames" rather than making the effort to say each child's name correctly. Names aren't easy, but they are important. So, we had a discussion about this topic on our weekly #ELLCHAT Twitter chat a few months ago - and you would be amazed how many people participated with their own stories of hurt, discrimination, insult, and disrespect. Here's an article about this topic The Lasting Impact of Mispronouncing Students' Names from NEAToday. And here is a good children's story on the subject: My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits. I don't think a stiff policy is the answer - but I think we can all do better to make sure each and every child is treated with equal respect!

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    Karen Nemeth
    Language Castle LLC
    Newtown PA
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  • 6.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-16-2017 04:25 PM
    Thanks, Karen Nemeth, for directing to that link! It took me to several other resources that were helpful in explaining the importance of correcting pronouncing names.

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    Terri Buccarelli
    Manasquan NJ
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  • 7.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-16-2017 12:32 PM
    Hello Everyone,

    I would have to agree with everyone here who have posted thus far.  I would never called a student with a nickname, unless it was something that the family unit wanted for their child. My natural assumption is to call the student with his or her entire name always unless told otherwise. There are specific cultures that would not even allow you to shorten a student's name because of the name's meaning. This is definitely an interesting discussion!

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    Ankit Shah
    Educational Academy for Boys and Girls
    Columbus OH
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  • 8.  RE: What's in a name?

    Posted 05-16-2017 08:30 PM

    We have received some well-thought-out feedback, helpful resources, and real life examples about how having an unwanted name can cause feelings of disrespect and hurt. Thank you, Chris, Dorothy, Catherine, Karen, Terri and Ankit for taking the time to respond and share your thoughts. To all others, thank you for reading this posting. This is such an important topic, as our names and how we want to be called define who we are in the different cultural communities we take part in.



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    Best regards,

    Sandy Baba, Ph.D
    NAEYC Asian Interest Forum Co-Facilitator
    Education Researcher, Community Advocate,
    California AEYC Diversity Committee Member
    *Hello is a great platform for us to exchange our ideas and have conversations, lets keep sharing our ideas!
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