Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. Every March, the Slice of Life Challenge is a month-long experience where Slicers post every single day for the entire month. I'm joining in on the monthly challenge this year! For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here.
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I walked around the room, talking to students about how they've used the laptops in their classroom to research and now to create presentations to share what they've learned. Two sixth grade girls were telling me about what they've learned when one glanced at my nametag.
She looked up at me,
"We have the same name!"
I smiled at her,
"Your name is Jennifer, too?"
She nodded excitedly.
The other girl looked down,
her shoulders dropped,
and she lowered her voice,
"I wish I had a white girl's name."
It broke my heart.
I asked her what her name was and repeated it to make sure I was saying it correctly. Hoping to show her she was important, that I wanted to know her name and wanted to get it right. It was a beautiful name, unique, interesting, full of personality. But she knew it wasn't a common name. She knew it was different and her verbal and non-verbal communication both told me she wasn't proud of it. I know this feeling of being embarrassed and ashamed for who I am.
But this was her name.
I envisioned a 2nd grader opening his lunchbox to see a liverwurst sandwich. The disgust in his groan, cranky his mom would even dare send him to school with that. The sadness in the growl of his stomach, knowing he'll go hungry the rest of the day. The shrug of his shoulders, quickly shutting the lid so no one else will see what's inside.
But this was her name.
Names are so personal. They say so much about us but we don't get to pick them. My husband and I spent a lot of time thinking about what we would name our sons. I have a close friend who didn't name her kids until after they were born - wanting to meet them and knowing the magnitude and pressure of naming a child.
I honestly believe most parents think a lot about what to name their kids. I can only imagine this student's parents wanted to give her a special name. But for whatever reason or reasons, society sends her the message that she isn't special, her name makes her too different, makes her stand out, makes her not feel like she fits in.
Yesterday, I wrote about seeing others, how a smile can make a difference. I believe learning someone's name is another key to showing someone you care. I happen to be good with names and I can't tell you how many times I use a person's name after having only met them briefly or after not seeing them for a long time and they are shocked that I remember their name.
Maybe you aren't good with names, but you can ask a person's name, take the time to make sure you have it correctly, and can say it right. And if the next time you have to ask a person to remind you of their name, that's okay. This is a great way to honor a person and help them see that they are important even if their name is different, or difficult to pronounce, or new to you.
I believe everyone should be appreciated for who they are,
and not judged prematurely, unfairly, solely, by their name.
Because each one of us is more than just a name.
To read my previous Slice of Life posts, click on any link below:
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