Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Child's Name as a Bridge to Language and Self-Esteem


Hello and welcome back to all you champions of children!  It's always a pleasure to share with you concepts and strategies, (that have come from children, teachers, and parents) which you can use to elevate how our next generation lives, learns, and loves.  Hearing the stories from many of you of just how you're using these ideas is always thrilling.  Know that one great place to share your experiences is with the educational group, Living Like a Child, on Facebook, which I moderate.  Enjoy the blog!

We are all most likely very familiar with using a child's name as one of the first words with a child.  The first letter a child most often learns is the first letter of their name.  That's a fantastic, time-proven, way to use a child's name.  In addition to that, what if we asked a child questions about their name?  That's exactly what the teachers at the Benson Head Start Center in Benson, Arizona did.

Here are some of the questions they asked and the responses they received from child and parent.  One of the questions here was, "Why do we have names?"

Another question used looks like it was, "Where did you get your name from?"

An additional question looks to be, 
"Who named you?"

Another question teachers used looks to be, "What does your name mean?"  The responses to this particular question are fascinating.  Does a name absolutely have one specific meaning?  Perhaps, and while this may be true, this question leads us down the road of understanding how the young child sees their own image.  It speaks to how the child thinks of who they are.  In the adult world, one of the words we use to describe this is self-esteem.

Asking these questions of parents, in addition to asking the child, also allows us to connect in a profound manner with the family.  To understand some of the stories behind the choosing of a child's name not only opens a broad door of understanding about that family, but can also literally bring you to tears of joy.  You SEE the parents differently when you understand their story, and they SEE you differently for having asked.

While it wasn't done specific to this project, I have seen teachers engage children and parents in the creation of a family tree…pretty awesome!  I know when I've done just part of my own family tree we end up visiting Russia, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, the Yaqui nation, and my home state of Arizona, specifically, Tucson, Arizona.

Some stories are complex and other simple, and all of them valid, honoring, and critical to how the child sees how they fit in the world, which is a necessary step if they are to contribute to the world.  I know this child well, "Cruz."  His response is simple, yet empowering.  Because the teachers took the time to document, not only the words Cruz spoke, but HOW he spoke them (thus the !), we know that Cruz is excited about who he is.  This may seem like no big deal, but it's a very big deal.  Self-love is hugely important to self-esteem and to the child moving forward in life.

Each story gives you another layer of understanding of how parents choose names and how children accept them and use them as a lens of understanding.

Of course, as you can see, each child has written their own name and this particular set of teachers have done an outstanding job of allowing the young learner emerge as a writer, as opposed to helping too much and having each child's name look very similar or even worse, look exactly the same.

In this case, the family even has an acronym based on Sadie's name which describes her.  Many times, it is the grandparents who provide the inspiration.

There are no ordinary moments if we choose each moment to be one of illumination for ourselves and for those around us.  Thank you to the incredible parents, teachers, and children of Benson Head Start Center.  You are all an inspiration!

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