Name: a word or set of words by which a person or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.
What’s in a name? Why is it the first thing we use when meeting someone new? Why are names so important to use when teaching?
During my BYU ArtsBridge internship experience, I learned the importance of using names while teaching. Everyone wants to be called by their name since it makes interactions much more personal. After struggling for a few weeks to learn the names of the students, I asked for a picture roll from Mrs. Washburn, the teacher who I worked with. I studied this roll over the next few weeks until I had all of the children’s names down in my head. When teaching these students, I would use specific names to point out those that deserved praise. I also used specific names of those I wanted to gain full attention from if they were struggling to listen. The focus and effort of the class was boosted greatly and I no longer had as many attention problems. My success in the classroom increased once the students felt like their teacher knew who they were.
Just this week, I arrived in Southern India. I will be here for the next few months teaching life skills through dance to children. Many of these children have grown up living in leper colonies or underprivileged villages and have not been able to develop many vital life skills. In the short amount of time I’ve been here, I have already seen the power that names have. In India, naming children is very important. Names are based on family, region, caste (class system), religion, and other factors. In India, your name tells someone who you are, where you come from, what you believe, and where you belong in society.
When I first met some of the children here in India, I heard many of them whisper my name to each other. They had heard of their new “dance master” who was coming to teach them. As I met the students and they learned my name, they wanted me to know theirs. The first thing they did was tell me their name, as well as the names of their friends whom they were with. I know it will take longer than usual to learn the names of all those I teach simply because many of their 300 or so names are new and foreign to me. For example, Vijayalakshmi, is a fairly common name in India that has taken me time to master the proper pronunciation. I have had to learn to laugh at myself and be okay with feeling silly or being laughed at by the students as I try to articulate their names. Even though it is a struggle to learn all of the names of my students here in India, I am going to try my best because I know and have seen the power that comes in the classroom from using students’ names.
If you are struggling to memorize names of your students, there are many helpful hints out there. One website with some ideas is http://www.ehow.com/how_2078912_memorize-names.html.