The winter quarter is scheduled to start tomorrow, although the weather may delay the start slightly, and with a new quarter comes two rosters of new names. Research shows that instructors who learn and use student names create a more supportive atmosphere for learning, so it’s important to me that I learn all the names on that roster as quickly as I can. I have lots of tricks for making sure that I learn all the names by the second or third week of the quarter, aided by the photos that DePaul allows me to associate with my rosters. I’m also sensitive to calling people by their preferred name, since as someone who goes by her middle name I understand from first-hand experience how annoying it can be to have someone use a name that isn’t right.

So what’s the problem? I have a terrible time pronouncing names. I manage with the easy names, but any name that’s even slightly non-standard gives me fits. The poor Thai, African, and other students who end up in my classes have to spend weeks coaching me on saying their names, even when those that are abbreviations of their actual name. It’s even worse with the last names of my many colleagues outside of DePaul. It’s so bad that Mark Guzdial (who really doesn’t have that challenging of a last name) once sent me a file in which he recorded himself saying his last name, all so that I wouldn’t slaughter his name when introducing him on a visit to DePaul. I’m not sure what the solution to this is, except to endure the embarrassment when I say yet another name wrong and to keep practicing at trying to say them correctly.

So here’s to two fresh rosters of practice. Happy New Year!