I wrote an essay for Education Week Teacher about why pronouncing students’ names correctly is — and should be — a big deal. In the piece, I spoke about why mispronouncing students’ names is problematic (and can be a kind of microaggression), what my own experience has been with my own name, information about the ISAASE Name Pronunciation Guide, and actionable tips for teachers to improve their name pronunciation.
A brief excerpt from the piece (about how many South Asian Americans — myself included — already simplify our own names for the benefit of others, thus emphasizing the importance of teachers making the extra effort to get it right!)
I am South Asian American and spent over a decade mispronouncing my name for my own teachers to make it easier for them to say. My name is pronounced Pu-nee-tha; but for years, I said “Puh-nee-da.” I’m not alone in doing this; a lot of South Asian Americans I know offer an Americanized pronunciation of their names (Unn-jal-ee goes by “Anne-julie”), if not another name entirely (Sanket goes by “Prasad”). In spite of offering teachers what I imagined was an easier version of my name, most still pronounced it wrong (“Poo-needa?” “Paw-needa?”).
In fact, my own frustrating experiences informed the work I’m doing now: I founded an outreach organization to improve South Asian American students’ experiences in schools. When I spoke with South Asian American students about their experiences, many indicated in interviews that they didn’t feel teachers understood them or their cultures or knew how to say their names. And the importance of pronunciation goes beyond any one background or culture—it’s important for all students, no matter where they’re from.
(Excerpt from article that first appeared in Education Week Teacher on November 15, 2017. Reprinted with permission.)
If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing here.
P.S. – Segments of this piece were first published in a blog post for ISAASE, which you can read more about here if you’d like.