Say my name #SOL23 21/31

“Ok, it’s 9:25. Who wants to do the Land Acknowledgement?”

Around the classroom, grade 12 students shift in their seats. No one meets my eye. A few more kids slip in and find spots while I wait. Eventually, someone raises their hand. They choose to read the printed acknowledgement out loud rather than offer their own. We review the meaning of “stewardship” and then it’s time for a quick book talk – Their Eyes Were Watching God – but before we shift into independent reading, A says, “Wait! We have to do names.”

Students begin to chuckle. “Right!” I smack my forehead dramatically, “Names. Surely we can do better than yesterday?” Yesterday was a disaster – it took three tries before anyone could name everyone and apparently no one – including me – was pronouncing one student’s name correctly. (And this after I had practiced!) Eventually she gave up on us, even though we really were trying. Today goes a little better. We get through everyone twice before we move to reading.

Y’all. It is mid-March. And yes, we are a semestered school, and yes the beginning of this term was riddled with weather days, but we’ve still been together as a class for six weeks. I try to say students’ names all the time (mostly because I think it’s polite and friendly, but also because it’s a research-supported way to give people a sense of belonging and increase engagement), but lately (ok, yes, post-pandemic) it seems like quite a few students don’t bother to learn the names of their peers unless they were already friends before the class started. I’m not ok with that.

I have checked in with the teenager in my home; he admits to only knowing some of the names of his classmates. In fact, he is perplexed by my question. “They don’t usually make us work with other people,” he says. When I ask, “But how do you meet people?” because he is in grade 9 and therefore at a new school and therefore has made new friends, he says, “I already have a group of friends I’m happy with” then gives me a look and goes back to his phone. I push and ask how he met his new friends this year, but he only grunts at me. Minutes later he looks up and says, “that’s actually a good question,” but he doesn’t have an answer.

Unfortunately for my students, I’ve come back from March Break with a fire in my belly: I’m determined to help them connect – and if they can’t or won’t or don’t want to connect, I’m determined to at least give them practice in the skills they will need to do this later on. Yesterday, I told them about this article that argues that we should not allow cellphones in school *and* that we need to “rewire classrooms for connectedness.” So I’ve asked students to keep their phones away and I’m insisting we learn each other’s names. I get the sense that some of them think that this is cute but ultimately useless, but so far no one has said no. 

Today, once it seems like many people know most names, I tell the students about the next step in my scheme: I want them to learn something about the other people in the class. In the front row, the same student who had reminded me that we needed to practice names, shakes his head as he opens his book. “Good luck, Miss,” he sighs. I’m pretty sure I’m going to need it.

10 thoughts on “Say my name #SOL23 21/31

  1. Phew! I was exhausted after reading this. There is just so many things; so many pieces, and I am feeling this these days.
    Your students are just lucky to see you model this. And when you said even if they don’t know now, they can and will remember this effort on your behalf.


  2. It’s takes a lot of work! I have only 20 students every year and still they don’t know each other. Some of them have even been together for several years in a row! They definitely don’t know each other’s last names. Good for you for sticking with this. It does help people feel like a community!


  3. Bingo, friend – classroom bingo. You have to have names, and you have to have them all write 1 fact about themselves that is true on an index card for you. You draw those out – check in questions, games of ‘that’s me, that’s us”, and then you give them the bingo card. This is not the old school ice breaker, where the kids have to walk around and get someone to sign the square. This is where they need to fill each square with a student’s name. Then you call out things – has been camping, thinks Kendrick is a god, etc. , and they have to match those to a name on their card. Lets you play all semester long, because you can always add to your stash of things you’ve heard them share about themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fight the good fight, which isn’t really a fight at all. When I hear a student in class refer to a classmate with just a pronoun (event after months together), I make sure to (re)introduce the two to each other by name: “So-and-so, this is so-and-so. So-and-so, meet so-and-so.” They tend to greet each other mostly with eye rolls, I find.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s