The Name Pronouncing Project

Happy Veteran's Day to all the members of the Armed Forces,

This week, I worked with Colonial Schools, Townsend Elementary, St. Louis Public Schools, UR Here Theatre, and I met Kim Walters as she and her husband were visiting Idaho. I also witnessed my buddy Jorge Valenzuela unbox his new book, "Raising Equity Through SEL: A Framework for Implementing Trauma-Informed, Culturally Responsive Teaching and Restorative Practices" (I had the honor of writing the foreword). 

Check out what the Leading Equity Center offers if you are looking for keynotes and training. I got a brand new keynote available for my STEM folks "How Do I Make STEM..." In this session, I answer five questions:

  1. How can we make STEM memorable?
  2. How can we make STEM considerate?
  3. How can we make STEM familiar?
  4. How can we make STEM real?
  5. How can we make STEM emotional?

You can also book a FREE 30-minute consultation with me regarding your upcoming events/projects. Let's get to this week's topic.

The midterms in the United States were this past Tuesday. I hope all folks were able to cast their vote. It is crucial to make our voices heard in policymaking and to be well-informed of the candidates and who and what they stand for. 

Sometimes we forget about the Power of Names. This week, I stumbled on this article, "Unionville High School students create initiative to have names pronounced correctly" written by TaRhonda Thomas, a 6 ABC reporter in Philadelphia. She reported a story about a group of students at Unionville High School, including Jyotsna Venkatesh and Zita Uejima, who came together to create the Name Initiative. The idea stemmed from an assignment their ninth-grade English teacher, Ashley Burslem, gave. The project was to write about their identities, including their names (i.e., where their names came from, their pronunciation, etc.).

Burslem stated, "Ninety-five percent of those stories were about their[students'] names being mispronounced." Venkatesh and Uejima had that commonality. Venkatesh recalls the nickname "Jo" starting in Kindergarten "because that was so much easier for everybody else." Uejima shared a similar sentiment: "It's kind of like a burden that I carry sometimes." They and other students created the Name Initiative "to give every student something they didn't have: the chance to have their names pronounced correctly and not have to default to a nickname." 

The first step requires students to learn the phonetic spelling of their names to then share with others. In the article, Venkatesh shared how it looked the first day of school, where students wrote down their phonetic spelling on small pieces of paper in every class for teachers to include in their student data. The Initiative met with a Power School executive advocating to fit students' phonetic spelling in their information. The Initiative has spread throughout the school district and beyond; e.g., Power School is a cloud K-12 education software that houses student information. 

Long term, they hope to expand the Initiative nationwide and even to the White House. So, as Venkatesh states, "students everywhere can have the dignity of having their names." This is a prime example of how as educators, we must create curricula that allow students to reflect on themselves and how their experiences and advocating for themselves will make impactful changes for their communities and even nationwide.

I challenge you to reflect on how you can do this in your classrooms and provide more space for learning about who your students are and what matters to them to empower them to self-advocate and advocate alongside them for necessary changes to their school experience. 

Content created this week:

In this episode, Kevin Simpson and Marla Hunter share their experiences as BIPOC educators working in international schools.

Watch the episode on YouTube

Last night my special guest was Davina Ruiz. Davina broke down Restorative Practices and how to implement this strategy in your school. Check out the video and subscribe to the channel!

That's all for this week, 

- Sheldon

Book Dr. Eakins

Details coming to your inbox on Monday. Stay tuned!


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