One thing that is a bit foreign to me is students who are annoyed when you pronounce their name wrong at the beginning of the school year. Even if it happens a few times, it still seems such a silly thing to get upset over, and I cannot stand it when I get any attitude about it.
My eastern Eruropean, ethnic name is difficult to pronounce, or at least people think it is when they say it and try to do all sorts of strange things with it, but I just find it amusing. In fact, if I had a name like "Smith" or "Bates" or something, I think I would have missed out on quite a bit of humor this year. So it mystifies me when people get upset over it.
I usually don't. I think kids see me try and struggle with names, and I'm usually a friendly guy about most everything so they cut me some slack. I've had some edges of attitude this year about learning names - "I'm never going to tell you my name again after today" a girl said, without enough of a smile - and then I remind them that teachers learn 173 new names all at once and it might take a while.
I have one kid this year - his first name is Muslim, and it's Sulaiman. I trip over his name - embarassingly - every class, and sometimes even find myself avoiding calling on him. This is pretty silly, as he's a real friendly kid, saying, "Oh, just call me Sulay," but I really want to learn his real name. But even now, my tongue is tripped up trying to say it, even when I don't have 37 pairs of eyes looking at me. It's like I have a mental block. This is especially bad because it's World Literature, and a lot of what we're learning is about learing other cultures, and I'm feeling like my inability to pronounce his name could be seen as xenophobia or something. (Actually, one of my smarty-pants kids actually said this last time I was tripping over his name... "What are you, xenophobic?")
Today, Nneka, who is quickly becoming one of my favorites this year, came into my classroom and described for me how she got into an altercation with a colleague-friend of mine earlier that day over the mispronouncement of her name. She was having a bad day, she explained, and felt like he was "too sure" about how he said his name. "That is not my name," she told him, and felt guilty about it all day later. I told her that she should go apologize, and she laughed, and said that the teacher made it worse by escalating it, and I stopped her and told her to go talk to him.
I didn't think she was going to, but she came back up to my room after "Welcome Back" night and said, "You know, I went to Mr. ____'s class just now and apologized. I wasn't going to, I wanted to go home, but I thought to myself, 'Mr. E asked me to do it, and I like Mr. E this year, so I thought I would.'"
She laughed, and I laughed, and we talked about her essay, and that was it for the night.
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