My Name, My Identity

Mar 18th, 2017 | By | Category: Advocacy, News
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Judith O’Loughlin


—What’s in a name? Each of our names is tied to our identity, our family history, our culture, our language and, essentially, who we are. When you pronounce students’ names accurately, you are acknowledging and respecting each of the students in your classroom. Your classroom, your school, and your community of learners are a microcosm of the global world. By respecting one, you respect all.

The “My Name, My Identity: A Declaration of Self” campaign, created by the Santa Clara County Office of Education, now reaches across the country as teachers take the pledge. The objectives of the campaign include:

  • Bringing awareness of the importance of respecting the names and identities of our students, measured by the number of community members who take the pledge.
  • Building a respectful and caring culture in schools about the values of diversity, measured by the “my name stories” shared on social media. (See

In my presentation at the annual CATESOL Northern Regional Conference, to be held this year in Pacific Grove, I will share some of the global competence resources with participants. The first resource, “Investigate the World,” focuses on the story of one’s name, exploring the significance of names around the world through literature, including picture books, poetry, videos, and online resources.

In the “Recognize Perspectives” resource, students and teachers share and celebrate names through their perspectives on naming. Participants in this section view videos on global education and citizenship, write about naming practices in two different cultures, create multimedia presentations about the story of the names of family members, and discuss diversity, equity, and justice. Students reflect on how effective communication affects understanding through interdependent world collaboration in the “Communicate Ideas” resource. “Take Action,” the final resource, connects all previous actions and has students planning how to advocate locally, regionally, and/or globally.

“Since each of us is unique, our name is tied to our identity. We would not wish to have our names changed or mispronounced. If you believe that all students have the right to be called by the names that represent their identity and culture, begin by asking them how they would like their names to be pronounced. Agree to respect students’ names.” (

Advocating for English learners goes beyond writing to your congressman to support a bill.  When you pronounce a student’s name correctly, you honor his identity, respect his culture, and acknowledge that you respect him for who he is. You create a sense of community in your classroom and school, which in turn is crucial for, as the campaign indicates, “healthy social, psychological, and educational outcomes.”

Will you take the pledge?

Judith O’Loughlin is CATESOL’s socio-political advocacy representive.


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