What’s in a name? This question was famously posed by William Shakespeare. Of course, Juliet was suggesting that it is the worth of the individual, and not merely the name, that is important. I think we get what she is saying, especially in the context of our child-centered school where knowing the child in a deep and authentic way is at the core of our mission. While I understand what she was getting at (what with all the drama going on with that Romeo fella) I'd still like to see Juliet tell a five year old their name doesn't really matter that much!
During these first weeks and days, our focus is very much on getting to know each other again after the long summer break. We also set about getting to know our new children, parents and staff.
To be honest, I always struggle a bit getting all the new names to stick. Perhaps it is because my brain’s hard drive is already full with the names of the hundreds of kids I’ve taught and coached over the course of my care. That’s my excuse but, more likely, it’s just a sign of my advancing years!
Still, I know that name memorization and recollection is worth all the effort. Being able to greet each other by name as we move around our building is an essential component of our commitment to know all the children. Authentically greeting each other by name is a key building block in the formation of the many trusting relationships that are needed for learning to happen.
So how do we set about learning the names of 180 children? This process is embedded in the social curriculum that takes place in the first weeks of school. I sat in many circle meetings in kindergarten/first grade classes last week where the teacher carefully managed games and activities geared towards introducing the children to each other. This process was repeated during guided recess games. Over the coming weeks, children will learn the names of their friends in other classes in the school as the children are intentionally mixed together during games and play.
Our first All School Gathering took place last Friday. It’s always lovely to see all the children and staff together in the same space. We sang some songs, discussed some norms for how we would be together in these weekly gatherings. Most importantly, we welcomed our
new children. Amy B, Amy N and Christopher brought forward the kindergarteners and each child (very bravely) shared their name before the teacher repeated it back to the whole school. We also welcomed new children who have joined our older grades.
The adults model this process and in return press the children to know and use our names. At the All School Gathering staff made a long line in front of the children and introduced themselves. We’ll be greeting the kids all year, and insisting they greet us back…by name.
Christa, our librarian, began her multi-cultural literature unit of study with each class last week. She began by sharing several books that ask the children to reflect on why names matter. The Name Jar and Chrysanthemum (with more name themed books like My Name is Yoon to come), gave the children pause to consider that names give us information about our backgrounds, our identity and our culture.
Names matter. So, that work will continue and I will add learning the names of new parents to the list. Yikes! Please forgive me if I have a bit of glazed look when I see you around at times, especially early in the year. All it means is that I’m rooting around in my brain for your name – I’ll get it eventually!