What’s in a name?

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

I miss the puzzle of learning names.

As a School Principal I used to love greeting families, learning student names and being part of the early morning routine welcoming everyone into school. I struggled, I got names wrong, I mixed up pronunciation, put the accent in the wrong place and from time to time muddled up siblings names… not to mention colleagues! I used rhymes in my head to try to remember and put effort in to do better the next time.

So as I sit and write this, my first year ever of not having a ‘Back to School’ experience – I can honestly say I miss the puzzle so much!

What I did not realise at the beginning of my career was the power of knowing and connecting with our name and of others honouring it. The story that can unfold, the space our names hold for us, and the power they possess to nurture connection and belonging. As I greeted students with their name, even better if I could pronounce it well, and perhaps even said ‘hello’ in one of their languages – their smile would broaden, their step lighten. The shift in how they presented themselves and responded was the affirmation that this mattered. It meant something to them, it empowered them, they were seen. As I struggled and stumbled and practiced I knew that this is a learning that has an impact; that nurtures connection and builds community.

Inviting our colleagues and students to ‘teach’ us their name is so valuable and I absolutely love the book ‘Tell Teach us Your Name’ by Huda Essa. This uncovered this concept so strongly for me. Since encountering this book, I have shared it with so many colleagues, read it with students and adapted how I approach meeting, greeting and connecting with others. You can find this, along with a few other books below that send a message of affirmation of our names.

Made with Padlet

So to all the teachers, school leaders, indeed anyone, anywhere who meets someone new – be sure to ask them their name. Listen to how it is pronounced and invite them to teach you how to say it. If you make a mistake, ask again, practice and demonstrate how important it is for you to be able to say their name just right. Enter into an introduction with curiosity and wonder. From there, the magic of discovery, connection, and belonging can unfold.