I’ve been called many things in my teaching career. Some go with “Dunsiger” or “Dunsinger.” The word, “Miss,” can go in front, but it’s not a requirement. Sometimes it’s “teacher.” This was the name that I always had difficulty answering to, until I realized that children who are at the developmental stage of a toddler will often default to this name. This made sense, and so then I responded to “teacher” much as I did to my last name. I also had some summer experiences teaching at a private school where students called all educators by their first names. I was then quick to respond to “Aviva” or “Miss Aviva.” I’m actually very comfortable being called by my first name, and would even extend this to school if others did so, but the last name seems to be the preference, so I introduce myself to kids as, “Miss Dunsiger.” Or at least this is what I did after I met my teaching partner, Paula.
Before working with Paula, I might introduce myself as “Miss Dunsiger,” but I always said, “Most kids call me, ‘Miss D.’ It’s easier.” And they did. It’s not that “Miss D.” was my preferred name, but I thought that I was providing students with an option other than calling me, “teacher.” Then I heard another educator talking to Paula about her name, and just like me, she shortened it for kids. Paula pushed back though, and said, “If we teach children our full names and expect that they will use them, they will.” She was absolutely right! This conversation and this name experience has made me think a lot about the underlying belief of the child as outlined in the Kindergarten Program Document: as “competent and capable of complex thought.” Reflecting back on the last couple of years, I’m thinking about some of the complex vocabulary that these young learners used in their conversations with peers and with us.
These words don’t happen by accident. They happen because we — as educators and parents — use them in conversation with kids. We teach kids what they mean, and then we give them opportunities to use them during play. Consider the vocabulary then that these children will have when they go into Grade 1, and how this vocabulary will continue to grow with each new word that they’re exposed to and explicitly taught. Why not make our names some of these new words? If we expect that children can remember and use our names correctly, consider what we’re conveying to kids about how we view them as learners. How might this change the rest of their learning experiences? As students correctly pronounce and use numerous Pokemon names in conversation, I have no doubt that they can also use ours. Don’t you? As a new year begins, how might you introduce yourself on the first day of school, and what might this mean for the rest of the year?