I’ve had this same situation happen numerous times at different schools:
A teacher pops in during the day — maybe just to ask a quick question. He/she always begins with, “Aviva …,” and then quickly follows up with, “Oh no! I’m sorry. I meant Miss Dunsiger.”
There’s always such concern over the fact that the students heard my first name. Why?
I’ve always told my class my first name. In fact, since I’ve started using social media tools in the classroom, I often model how to do so with the use of my first name. If the app says to use your name, I show how I write, “Aviva”: mentioning that we can stay safe online by only using our first name or our initials. When I model for students how to write a card and a letter, I show how I sign both with my first name because when I’m writing to friends or family members, they don’t call me, “Miss Dunsiger.” This provides a perfect introduction to how we’re often called different names depending on where we are and whom we’re talking to. Students share some of their stories connected to this topic — often discussing how their parents are called different names at different times — and it becomes a nice learning opportunity for everyone.
I understand why students call us by our last names. I get that it’s often a sign of respect. I’m fine with this practice, but I also think that respect comes from far more than just a name choice. My parents run a private school, and all of the students, parents, and teachers call each other by their first name. Having taught at their school every summer since it opened, I can tell you that there’s definitely still an atmosphere of respect, but there’s also an important “connection” that happens when we share a personal part of ourselves with our students. There are many blog posts, Twitter comments, and face-to-face discussions lately on the importance of building relationships with students. I agree with this! I think there’s many ways to do this. I wonder though if one of the easiest ways to start is sharing something simple, but nevertheless, meaningful: our first name. Let the conversation continue from there!
This year, a few of my students even named one of the many class critters (a.k.a. our snails) after me: Aviva. I don’t think that there’s ever been an “Aviva snail” before, and now I’m just hoping that it wasn’t the snail that ran away. 🙂
And while this may be amusing, I think it means something too. We connect first with new people by learning their names and addressing them by name: why then must first names often be seen as such well-kept secrets in elementary education? What do you think?