Names are nearly as old as humans.
Whilst we probably grunted or pointed at one another while hunting a wooly mammoth, it’s fairly safe to say they weren’t yelling out,
“Robbo, throw the spear at its neck you idiot… THE NECK ROBBO!”
Names set us apart from others and make up a part of our identity.
When someone asks you the background of your name chances are you probably have a story ready to be told.
I was named Daniel because of the old story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
My parents really value and believe in courage, honesty and openness. When they came across the meaning of Daniel they felt it connected to these values and chose it as a reminder and symbol of those values.
And that’s the thing – names are often chosen as a reflection of our family’s values, beliefs and hopes.
Which can explain why we can feel disappointed, annoyed or humiliated when people call us the wrong name or simply don’t remember it.
Our names represent us, what we value and make us stand out from the crowd.
Over the last semester I’ve been working with uni students studying teaching. My tute group ranged from people in their early 20s to early 30s. They were all clearly adults… not the small primary school students I was used to working with.
I was genuinely
worried concerned questioning my ability to transfer my teaching approaches and skills with younger kids to university students…but as they were the only skills and approaches I had at my disposal, use them I did.
This resulted in me investing in one thing I do the first time I work with any class…focusing on learning and using their names as much as possible.
Before the class I had taken the time to simply scroll through the class list a few times so the names already seemed familiar…and successfully distracted me from the terror of teaching a group of uni students for the first time.
When my tute group introduced themselves I would make sure to greet them, use their name, smile and thank them for being a part of our group.
If it was possible, I would involve people in our class discussion (again, using their name) or when in doubt I asked people to work in pairs and then share what their partner said…which gave everyone an opportunity to use their partner’s name and help everyone else hear it again.
Through using these simple approaches I was heard peoples’ names 6, 7, 8 times…on top of the couple of times I had scanned over the class list before our tute.
A fair effort on something seemingly small? Yep.
But the results from that small amount of time and effort were incredible…
After asking my tute for feedback on my teaching (what things I should continue to do and what things I need to upgrade as a tutor) there was an overwhelming response that came out of their comments…
Thank you for using and remembering my name.
Whilst I had invested a little bit of time on this before my tutes started, the dividends were huge: people wanted to be there, felt like they belonged, took risks and our tute had a highly positive culture.
All because of an investment in a name.
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