What’s in a name? Are names important? The inspiration for this piece has come from a variety of sources, firstly from a part of the ongoing teacher professional development program about teaching in English in multilingual classrooms and from the Nord Anglia University course I tutor concerning EAL in mainstream classrooms. Finally, from a brief conversation with the Admissions department, where I was told the story of a potential family who were going to register their daughter with an ‘English’ name, ‘Cinderella’. This reminded me of some of the names I was faced with in my earlier days in South Korea; Otto, Harry (Potter) and AceKing, as a few examples.
When walking around the school, two displays jumped out at me, one of the display boards showing some of the concepts that will be explored during the IB English course and another from one of our Primary classes.
The three words, unique, identity and culture, are, in my opinion, an important part of the language acquisition process and the school experience as a whole. It has been suggested that often learning a new language sometimes means learning a new identity (Lightbown and Spada, 2006). There have been further suggestions that this ‘new identity’ can have a rather negative impact on an individual's overall academic development, as they acquire a language as one person but are unable to apply it as their other persona (Norton, 2013). I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that, but it is food for thought.
The other two words, unique and culture, link in with names in a variety of ways. A person’s name is an important link between themselves and their culture. In many cultures, an individual's name has distinct meaning and relevance to their family and culture. In some cultures, a child’s name is chosen by a grandfather, or selected by a respected community leader. When we look at this from a BCB perspective, some parents do complete the administration forms using an ‘English’ name, with a view to helping their child and teacher settle and make the transition to an English speaking school easier.
A name is just part of who we are. We all have several hybrid identities that form part of who we are. This is a diagram from the training course of a fictional student, but does highlight many areas that influence our cultural, social, and academic growth.
What this acknowledgement of hybrid identities shows us is that we all bring a range of understandings, skills and experiences to our community. This is a key part of the uniqueness of BCB. Every individual member of our community is different. We all add something different, whether that's a new language, a new point of view or new experience. We are all experiencing a similar situation, but our hybrid identities allow us all to interpret the situation in our own special way. It is the awareness of these different interpretations that allows BCB to provide an individual schooling experience for all.
Together we need to appreciate and celebrate the cultural and linguistic heritage of all in our community. We need to promote and develop the understanding and skills we all bring from our culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This will help us to promote understanding and increase the value we all place on ourselves and our community. As part of this, I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the upcoming International Day for Diversity events that students will experience.