For those who follow Dr. José Medina, he starts every video message by introducing himself with his entire name. He encourages students of Hispanic descent to use their full name and to ask their teachers to pronounce their names correctly. We NEED to call our students by their names with the correct pronunciation instead of white-washing their names, shortening them, butchering them, or mumbling through them. This is important because our name is our identity. Pronouncing our students’ names correctly is being respectful to the student. It’s acknowledging their culture, their presence, their place in our classroom. We need to put in the effort to learn their names correctly. Jennifer Gonzalez wrote about it in the Cult of Pedagogy in 2014. The NEA published an article by Clare McLaughlin in 2016. Punita Chhabra Rice reported on it in EdWeek in 2017. When we do not do this, it is construed as a form of microaggression. In fact, it’s “a tiny act of bigotry” as Gonzalez explained.
My babies for these few weeks are all Hispanic or of Hispanic descent. Aside from one student, they are all Spanish speakers, too. It is incredible that they are growing up to be trilingual, but I digress from my point. All of their names are also pronounced in the Spanish way. The first day when we played our “Comment t’appelles-tu” game, they introduced themselves and said their names multiple times and I repeated. As an intermediate Spanish speaker, I try to pronounce their names correctly, but sometimes I fumble. I also decided during the week that I was not going to pronounce their name the French way or in a Frenchified manner. I will call them as they introduced themselves.
Here’s the tricky part with my brain though. It feels awkward to be speaking French then adding in their name with the Spanish pronunciation. The words feel out of place. It’s my own issue and I know with more practice, it will flow like any other part of our instructional language. But at least my brain is able to put the Spanish and French together during French instruction time. When it’s English time, my brain does not compute as easily. I am guilty of pronouncing their names with an American accent. I love these kiddos though, because they correct me. Miss, Miss, it’s A-Lon-Dra. Her name is A-Lon-Dra. They slow down and make sure that I can say it. I repeat after the child who corrected me and apologize to Alondra for mispronouncing her name. They remind me in their adorable ways that I need to pronounce their names correctly. That their culture matters. That I need to put in the extra effort to say their names correctly no matter the language of instruction.
Do you have student names that are hard to pronounce this year? How will you make sure to pronounce them correctly? You got this!