A few weeks ago I overheard a conversation that has stuck with me.

I was sitting at a soccer game, and the parents next to me were with the opposing team. From the conversation I could tell they were also teachers, and they were talking about kids’ names. The conversation started with how hard it is to remember kids from past years, to keep their names straight when you’ve taught for so long, but then it moved in to talking about unique names of current students.

And I was bothered by what I heard.

Both of them talked about how some of the names were difficult to pronounce, so they just gave the kids nicknames.

At first it made me think of this:

But then, I thought about all the times people misspell names and don’t make corrections, the times names are shortened without asking if that’s okay, and even calling someone by a siblings’ name.

I’m kind of funny about all of these things.

My poor daughter goes through life having to tell people there is no H at the end of her name, and that our last name has an E not an I.  People still get it wrong, which is okay if they fix it when she (or I) point it out, but we’ve had a teacher tell her it’s no big deal and not to worry about it.

And I hate to be called Jenny (goes back to a moment in 7th grade when a friend who shared my name but spelled it differently informed me that a Jenny was the female counterpart to a Jackass).

But people call me that all the time….shorten my name without asking my preference.

In high school, one of my few rebellions came when my history teacher insisted on calling me Jenny even though I had asked her not to – I ignored her when she said Jenny. I wrote JENNIFER in huge letters at the top of every assignment. She never got it, and it frustrated me.

And sibling names? I’m the youngest of five. I don’t think my mother has ever gotten my name out on the first try. 🙂

As a teacher, if I use a siblings’ name by mistake, I quickly correct myself and apologize.

I’m not afraid to ask how to pronounce a name – better to ask than to slaughter it with my Ohio/Texas/Wisconsin accent. I’ve found that I earn a little trust with students when I do that.

And I always ask before I shorten a name. I totally get the Michael who isn’t a Mike or the Elizabeth who’s okay with Beth but hates Liz.

It may sound like I’m making a big deal out of a little thing, but I think names are very personal.

They represent who you are.

So when someone changes your name without your permission?

It makes you a little less you.

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