Monday, January 15, 2018

Kim Frencken: The power of a name

Everyone likes to hear their name. Well... almost. 

I didn't like to hear it when mom used my first, middle, and last name with 'that tone' in her voice. I knew that I was in trouble. 

Other than that, hearing my name gives me an identity and purpose. It lets me know that I am important to someone. Kids like to hear their names too. It lets them know that you care enough about them to learn their name. 

My back-to-school rule was to learn my student's names within the first three days. Not easy when you teach departmentalized middle school classes, but doable. Especially if you put forth the effort. Mondays were hard for a couple of weeks, and then things would fall into place. My students' names identified not only who they were, but also their special characteristics too.

Yes, names were used to identify the one who put a snake in someone's locker. Or the one who just couldn't stop talking. Or the one who liked being the center of attention. But using their name was powerful. It let them know that I saw them. A person. An individual. Someone who mattered. Even if they had not made the best choice in the world.

On the flip side. I am not teacher. Or hey you. Or Ms. A teacher is what I am. Not who I am. I am Kim. Aunt Kim. Kimberly. Or Mrs. Frencken. It all depends on where I am and what I am doing. If a student insists on calling me teacher, I call them kid.

"Hey, teacher", said the kid at the back desk.

"Yes, kid at the back desk. How can I help you?"

"My name isn't kid!"

"And, mine isn't teacher. "

You see, it is important to our students that we learn and use their names. They want to be seen.

Think of it like this. A child that has little interaction with adults outside of school craves for attention. A name gives them worth. Respond by learning their names and identifying them as a valuable person. After all, you could be making all the difference in the world.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing and information about her educational products, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)

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