What’s in a Name?

When I first started teaching in a high school many years ago, I called the roll from the list I was given from the office. In typical first week chaos, there was one student, Chelsey R. who wasn’t there and there was a student, Allen T., who was there and not on my list. I figured it was a couple of clerical errors and would get sorted out. By about the third or fourth day though, it still hand’t been fixed, so I decided to stop by the office. This is when I was told Allen’s legal name was Chelsey and the last name had changed when Allen’s parents divorced.

So, it was time to sit down with the student one-on-one and make sure we were on the same page. Allen confirmed his legal name was Chelsey, but through tears told me he didn’t want to hear that name again and every time a teacher said it in class, it hurt him. I assured him in my mind he was Allen and that would be his name in our classroom. He passed that Algebra class, but it was the only class he passed that year and ended up leaving the school. I changed my practice and from then forward asked the students to introduce themselves and followed up privately later with any discrepancies from my roster.

Why am I telling you of this story 20+ years later? A name is the first way we connect with our students and it happens as soon as the class starts. How we handle this first interaction can mean the difference between academic success and starting behind. To that end, one of my goals this year is to make it as easy as possible for instructors and students to see their preferred names in D2L.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office has a form on the public website which allows all users to update their name and pronoun preferences. This gets sent to the Records and me to update in Banner and D2L. I’ve also added a link within D2L under Student Resources to this page for easy access to anyone needing it.

Link to Request to change your preferred name is now available in D2L under Student Resources.

There’s one last challenge and this is the D2L class titles. The way these are made comes from the instructor’s legal name and not the preferred name. I’m working with the system office to see if we can’t get that changed. In the meantime, if you’d like you use a preferred name in your course title, please email me (nate.wadman@ppcc.edu) with your preferred name and section number(s) you want changed and I’ll manually do it for you.

Course title shows my legal name (Nathan) instead of my preferred name (Nate).

Let’s start the year off right and make sure we are all called by the names we want.


2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Nate, I’m so glad to read this! I cannot agree more…my experience or memories as a foreign student always included this painful and pretty uncomfortable feeling that many people could not say my name correctly, most of the time. It was a very positive thing if someone had tried, at least, to say it right…ha! I had gotten too used to the fact that many people expressed it was too difficult to pronounce it correctly. But after a few decades later, your message was right on and refreshing! Thank you, I’ll be making sure to connect with my students on this!

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