I chuckled as I read this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge about the significance of names. Any teacher will understand why. Being a teacher ruins names.
I don’t have children yet, but they are in my life plan. Like any girl dreaming of her future family, I’ve tossed around ideas for potential baby names with my girl-friends and my husband. However, for a teacher, names immediately lend themselves to memories of students. Sometimes the association is good, and sometimes I can only picture saying the syllables in an irritated voice commanding a kid to stop talking.
Tyler, for instance. I associate the name “Tyler” with an obnoxious inability to sit still and be quiet. I’ve had three students named Tyler who fit this description. Unfortunately, two of them were in the same class period, so simply yelling “Tyler!” didn’t do much, because they never knew where my yells were directed. Fortunately, Tyler was never on my list of potential baby names, so it isn’t too much of a problem.
“Anthony” is also ruined, and it only took one student to do it. He was actually a good kid, not intentionally a trouble-maker, but working with him was a struggle. He constantly had to be refocused in class, reminded to do his work, and refrained from talking too much. I liked the guy, but I’m hesitant to pass on his name.
“Austin” has a mixed association in my head. One of my first victories as a teacher came from an Austin. He was a great kid, but then, giving his name to one of my kids still seems weird. However, now I have a few Austins that must be refocused quite a bit, so the positive memory is mixing with a more easily distracted one. I don’t plan on naming my kids after cities, though, so either way it’s OK.
I’ve had a lot of Jordans as students, too. I don’t really have any specific frustrations or celebrations tied to the name, but when three different faces pop into my head at the mention of the name, it makes me not want to pass that name on to my child. The same is true of Ryan. And Zachary. And Matt. And Andrew. George just makes me laugh.
I guess those names aren’t completely ruined, but I do have to pause and think about it. They are good names, but it is hard to separate the names from the faces.
Girl’s names are interesting. Katelyn, with all its various spellings, is off the table, even though it has a nice ring to it. I’ve had some very sweet Katelyns, but I’ve also had some that remind me of the movie Mean Girls. The same goes for Mackenzie – some really nice ones, but others that make me want to steer clear.
Kelsey has a good association with it, as do Emily and Erin. I associate Amanda with a sweet girl who was bullied, and Felicia with the girl who did the bullying. Andrea has mixed associations, depending on the face that pops into mind first.
But whatever the connotation, positive or negative, the power of names is undeniable. Just a few syllables, a few consonants and vowels, and it’s more than just memories that spring up. It’s reliving the celebrations and frustrations. It’s the involuntary smile or shake of the head. It’s wondering what I could have done differently, if I made a difference, or where they are now. All from the power of a name.
And what of my own name? There’s a certain poetry to “Christine” that I like. I was in college when Phantom of the Opera came out as a movie, and soon my friends and acquaintances were serenading me with “Christine, Christine…” in the vocal tones of the phantom. The novelty wore off for me faster than it did for them, but I didn’t mind the association between my name and the music.
But then there’s “Mrs. Roberson” – a name so inherent to my identity that it’s how I introduce myself on my blog, even though I haven’t kept my first name a secret. “Mrs. Roberson” is my teacher name, and teaching is a core part of my identity. There was a time soon after my first year of teaching when I went an extended period without a permanent job. I subbed, but there’s a trend in the private schools of Seattle to have students call their teachers by their first names. I wasn’t really a teacher, and I wasn’t known as Mrs. Roberson. It felt like a piece of me was missing. When I found it again, when I took on a long-term job where I was known by my last name, the relief I felt was palpable. Mrs. Roberson is the signifier of my career, accomplishments, and goals. It’s who I am.
Names are powerful. What will your name mean?