Wednesday, April 15, 2009

English Names


As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am currently teaching over 700 students. It's a tad confusing. To make matters worse, each grade 1 homeroom class is further divided into three levels for ability purposes. Still, I have been working hard at identifying students through seeing them in the hallways, having them remind me, and just doing my best to know them.

How do I do this? Well, to me, the only realistic way to memorize 700 students (some of whom I only see once every two weeks if I'm lucky) is to have them choose English names. The familiarity of the names will go a long way towards me being able to identify my students - a very important thing in the classroom. Students pay attention when they know that you are paying attention too.

Having my Korean students adopt English names for my purposes is an interesting proposition for a few reasons:

1) The oppression factor: Though it is a common thing to do on Korean schools (hagwons or public schools), assigning English names to my kids does feel a bit like colonization. Really, these kids all have their own real names, so what am I doing giving them new ones just because I'm more comfortable with it?

2) Most of my students are unfamiliar with all save for a few English names. They know some basics, but most soccer crazed boys want to go with Rooney or Ronaldo. That's fine with me.

3) Even though the students eventually choose their own names, it's no guarantee that I'll be able to remember them afterward. This is going to be a lot of work.

Through the process however I have received a great many interesting name choices. My co-teacher, Mrs. Lee, found a great file with about 100 English names for boys and 100 for girls - each with a Korean explanation o what the name's meaning is - meaning in names being very important for Koreans in general.

These lists proved to be very useful in getting students to choose names they were interested in and would therefore remember and identify with more. Ideally, it would have also given me 7 Emily's, 7 Lisas, 7 Michaels, and 7 Franks. But no - I ended up with about 25 girls named Emily and some really got creative.

Here's a sampling of the more unique names that some students chose. I explained the sheets, then sent a form around to all of the homeroom captains. Here's some of what I got back:

Boys:

Hugh
Handsome Guy
Cecil
Felix
Top
Crazy Plan
Tom Hanks
Gilbert
Jetty
Gee
Velska
Spider Pig
Tom
And (the student really wants to be called "And" so he can be with his friends)
Jerry
Jerome
Buzz
Lancelot
Turtle
Dekar
Obama
Gopsory
Pikachu
Carry
Simpson
PJY
Ronaldo
Rooney
Tupac
Kino
Johnny Depp
Marlboro

There are also a handful of Franks, Toms, and Dave's - what can I say? I've got a cool name.

For the girls, there are, like I said, a few Emilys and enough Janes. But you will also find:

Roushiper
Mickey
Xiah
Nikita
Andra
Joker
Benjamin (yes - a girl named Benjamin)
Diary
Plaviana
Ophelia
Lucifer (I convinced her to go with Lucy)
Tea
V.I.P.
Bumblebee
Doraemon
Cotalee
Hello
Snow
Nemo
Spaghetti

Obviously, some of these names won't stand. The whole purpose of having a native speaker at the school is to have the students immersed in an English environment - hence the names. I personally don't have enough of a problem with it, though like I said, I try to be aware of students who might. If someone doesn't want to have an English name, they are more than welcome to stay with their given Korean one in my class. Being that one student wrote "F%$# YOU" in the English name slot on one of the homeroom lists, perhaps it's not 100% accepted after all.

Anyway, like I said, I have varied feelings about it. The great majority of the students enjoyed choosing a name and I'm sure they will enjoy class more when I can address them directly with a name that, considering the circumstances, has just been made a lot more accessible to me. Here's hoping. And here's to Tom, And, and Jerry.

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