I did a great deal of thinking after I read this message left by David Garlick on Facebook.
I still remember a conversation with a friend who managed a business in Windsor and this paraphrase because I can’t remember the exact message.
You can mess up just about anything but if you remember someone’s name, you’re easily forgiven
So, what’s in a name? As I started to think, I’ve had many over the years.
Douglas – this one is reserved for a special few. Police officers, medical professionals, security at airports, university professors and teachers doing attendance for the first time.
Doug – this is what most people know me as and it’s far easier to sign than Douglas if something needs my signature.
Mr. Peterson – I was fortunate at the time that the students in my school did respect teachers and this was how we were to be addressed. I will have some still address me that way and I invite them to use “Doug” but some aren’t comfortable with that.
Mr. P. – a spinoff off of Mr. Peterson for those who either wanted to do my name quickly or didn’t want to learn the proper spelling.
Andy’s Boy – Surprisingly, many of my parents’ friends knew me by this. I was always curious why it wasn’t Viola’s boy.
Andy – I’m proud of this nickname. This is what all my friends knew me as and it’s a real tribute to my Dad – at least in my mind. I could never be the person he was. A few years ago, we had a class reunion and it was just as if we hadn’t gone our separate ways – I was still Andy.
dougpete – Follow me on Social Media and this is the name that I use wherever possible. (Check the URL of my blog, for example) I didn’t make it up or choose it – it was assigned to me when I joined the Educational Network of Ontario. I still have a fond memory of being introduced as “dougpete” when I keynoted a conference in Alberta.
the guy who walks the white Shepherd on the third – lest you think that people don’t notice, I had someone come up to me at a local store and asked if that was who I was.
There is significance in names. I remember one year doing a first day roll call in a class and messed up a young lady’s last name and was quickly corrected, with attitude!
Names have personal meanings for people. It’s interesting to think that you don’t need to have just one and that it can change depending upon the context. Just don’t mess it up!
There’s a second part to David’s message that resonated with me and that’s “you” and your identity.
In his case, until recently, my interactions with him revolved around his presence at Western Secondary School’s pumpkin fest. He was always there supporting the event and I swear said “Hi” to everyone who walked the maze of booths. Happily, we got reconnected in a different way – probably mostly notably around his book but also in Social Media.
A name is the most personal thing you have. Her father and I are probably the only ones who calls my wife “Laurelanne”, her actual name. She typically goes by Laurel.
Formal names are given and honoured by respect. We have a “If you grew up in Clinton” private Facebook group and there are some of our teachers in there. I absolutely call them Mr. This or Mrs. That. They earned that respect and that’s how we referred to them in class.
One of my former classmates earned a doctorate and prefers to be referred to as Dr. It’s his accomplishment and wishes that his students respect that. I have a colleague who went back and earned her doctorate after leaving the profession. She doesn’t use it in informal conversation but does in formal settings. If you read this interview, you know that Natasha is a Fellow and proudly wears it as how she wants to be addressed.
Social Media can be a powerful connector if you let it be and that comes across loudly in David’s message. I love it when I make a connection with a former student or just reconnecting with friends from years gone by. It may not be exactly the same but there’s something extra special when it happens. It’s not the same for all people and I respect that. It’s still so cool when they come up and say hi in a completely different setting.
There are so many factors that go in to your identity. Most certainly, your name is one of them but David’s section part goes to the essence of being an educator. We complain about workload; we complain about discipline; we complain about new curriculum; we complain about _____ (fill in the blank) but the big message is that, as an educator, we can influence young minds and inspire them to do great things.
There absolutely, positively is something special in the moment when you see that someone who was in your charge has become a real person, with real lives, real aspirations, and real achievements. We just get pumped when we reconnect, even for a moment, to witness that. David nails it in his message and I suspect that most former educators feel the same way.
And, for the record, David has never asked me to call him Dave so I haven’t.
Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.