Back to names again. Seriously, the topic needs two posts. Names really are the #1 secret to classroom management.
In my last post I mentioned that it would be a good idea to take your class roster and go find a veteran teacher in the grade previous to the one you're teaching, to help you learn to pronounce your new students' names. Or maybe take your roster into the faculty room on your first day at work and use it to break the ice and start a conversation with your new colleagues. Asking for help is a pretty good way to get people to start talking to you.
There are a couple of reasons why you should ask a veteran for help. First, the veteran knows the kid. If the student's legal name is not the name they go by, the veteran will tell you what to call the kid. Believe me, some kids start every school year dreading that first calling of attendance, because they really don't want everybody to hear that horrible humiliating name. The veteran teacher will give you the gift of calling that kid the nickname he or she wants to be called, and the student will appreciate you for knowing that name. And obviously the veteran teacher can also tell you how to pronounce the difficult or unusual names.
But the veteran will tell you more. Maybe you've always heard that you should avoid asking or listening to what other teachers think about students. Most of us heard that in college. We heard how much it affects us to believe that a student is difficult or brilliant or anything else. The assumption is that we are too stupid to avoid believing everything we hear. But we're not stupid. We know enough to make up our own minds about kids. And what you can hear from a veteran may be critical to your success (or failure) with that child. How can it be a bad thing to know that a child's parents went through an ugly divorce two years ago and now he's living with his grandmother? Might that explain some of his behaviors? How could it be a bad thing to know that a student has a lisp and hates being called on in class? How could it be a good thing to ask her in front of all her peers, how to pronounce her name, if her name is Sareecia? That kind of thing can be avoided. Talk to those veteran teachers. They'll tell you stuff you need to know about the name, and about the human being who carries that name.