Say My Name: Personal Interactions foster awareness and respect

underlying principles Sep 08, 2021

The start of the school year is upon us and you will have, undoubtedly, seen your class list by now or you may already have met your new class. Unfortunately, a ritual that plays out in classrooms across the world on the first day of school is that teachers unintentionally mispronounce students’ names. The familiar scenario is the teacher mangles the name or doesn’t even attempt it and will try to cover by saying something like, “I’m not sure how to say this”, or laughing at themselves for the mistake. The student will then either try to correct the teacher, will say nothing, or will offer a nickname or Anglicized name as a replacement. The teacher internally breathes a sigh of relief that Eun Kyung can be called Sally, and everyone moves on. But has Eun Kyung moved on? What’s happening inside her head right now?

A simple act like not being able to pronounce a name may seem innocuous to us but can have devastating consequences for students. In Project GLAD® training we discuss validating student’s identity by validating their home language and setting up a classroom environment where multi-lingualism is seen as an asset. Students’ sense of identity and pride is embedded in the language they learned as infants in the familiar surrounding of family and home. But the most personal sense of identity lies in one’s name. It is a connection to their culture and sense of self.

Mispronouncing a name and not making an effort to correct the slight, is a microaggression. A subtle offense that is not intended by the aggressor and often not even noticed, but is an obvious offense and hurtful to the person on the receiving end. Other consequences in the classroom include:

  • Students feel they cannot be their authentic selves at school
  • They feel they are not valued and are invisible
  • A barrier is created that hinders relationship building
  • Hinders academic progress

When teachers make the effort, it is a sign of respect and will foster relationship building. This can be an important first step to help the new student feel welcome and adapt to their new community. Teaching other students to make this same effort is a concrete example of how to value diversity.

Does the Project GLAD® model offer any strategies to help create authentic dialogue between students?  

The Personal Interaction is a form of a 10/2 that we incorporate into all lessons. The difference is the prompt. A 10/2 prompt usually has a focus on the content and is intended to help students review and process new information just learned. The Personal Interaction puts a personal twist on this “turn and talk” conversation. Students discuss a personal connection, experience, or opinion.

Here are our tips for how you can use the Personal Interaction strategy to help all students feel included.

  1. Build an awareness about your personal past behaviors around the pronunciation of students’ names.

How much effort was made to say names correctly? Did you encourage students to use an Anglo name or derivative because it was easier? Did you or any other student apply a nickname because it was easier to say rather than one offered by the student?

  1. Make students aware of your commitment to learn the correct pronunciation and then put in the practice.

Not all sounds in some languages can be easily reproduced by native speakers of other languages. Making students aware of this and modeling your commitment to practice new linguistic sounds fosters respect for all.

  1. Speak to students privately, or enlist the help of their parents, to learn the sounds of their name and pronounce it correctly, or as correctly as possible.

There are many personal reasons why immigrants may anglicize their names when moving to an English-speaking country. (And that is a topic big enough for another article.) If a student or their parent introduces themselves to you with an Anglo name, use it. But if they introduce themselves with their given name, learn it.

  1. Create opportunities for Personal Interactions.

The example in the video clip shows how you can use elements from your content to create a personal connection for students and open dialogue from an objective viewpoint. We’re not bringing up the topic by singling out students from certain cultures. Starting the prompt with “Have you ever had an experience where…” invites everyone to share their perspective. 

You can learn more about student identity and how to build cultural proficiency through OCDE Project GLAD®. The first part of the training is online and the next session starts November 2nd. If you or your staff are not yet fully GLAD® trained this a the perfect fall to get started. Students are back in class and we all need proven strategies to get the most out of our in-person learning that serves all students. 

Online Research and Theory Workshops:

November 2, 3, 9, 10 (12:00-3:00) Registration deadline October 4th

January 25, 27, 31, Feb 2 (12:00-3:00) Registration deadline December 17th

Personalized training dates for your district also available. Contact us to schedule.

Get your staff started on their Project GLAD® journey today!


We’re rooting for you!

Jody & Sara


Speaking of proven strategies!...Starting in October is the next 6-week Acceleration course!

Acceleration 101: Setting the Stage focuses on 6 foundational strategies that create a positive and collaborative classroom. Perfect for the beginning of the year! 

Learn More!


If you’re ready for year-long access, keep your momentum going with online on-demand coaching with the Path to Proficiency.

Don’t miss out on another year! 

The Path to Proficiency is a year-long, self-paced coaching program that covers over 20 Project GLAD® strategies in-depth with video lessons, templates, and more. It is the most comprehensive online coaching program to support teachers with GLAD® implementation. 

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