It’s my name!

It’s my name!

When I heard Denise Chaila’s song ‘Chaila,’ I could relate. I have a Serbian name: Milica – pronounced Mill-its-uh – it’s not Melissa, Melisha, Vanessa, Melicka, Militsea. I always have my name mispronounced and misspelled. Even when I correct people, it is often mispronounced, and I have family members and long-term friends that still misspell my name; people love just popping in extra letters. At the same time, it doesn’t upset me, but I do still try to correct people. I completely understand why it frustrates lots of people. You may even relate yourself if your name is less familiar to wider society. However, names are very important. As educators, it is essential to respect each child’s linguistic and cultural identity.

I love my name; I also go by Mili. My family and friends call me both. When I was growing up in Ireland, we did not have as much rich cultural diversity that we have today. My dad is Serbian, and my mum is Irish, my dad regrets it, but he didn’t speak to us in Serbian. My identity is important to me, part of me, but I have always been frustrated that I don’t speak my dad’s mother tongue. I believe if I were a child now, things would be very different. My dad would have felt confident talking to us in his mother tongue, and he wouldn’t have prioritised English.

When I worked in Australia, I had a child that was due to start in the setting I worked in, she was born in Australia, but her parents were from India. I phoned them to invite them in so she could see the setting and meet the children and educators. I said we were looking forward to her starting, and I asked how to pronounce her name correctly. Her name was Advitiya. But her parents told me, it’s okay, don’t worry, you can call her Sydney. At the time, I did not question this. So, on her first day, we called her Sydney. Sydney was four years old, and she started when many of the children had already fostered close relationships with peers and had been together from a young age.

On her first few days, Sydney was quiet and didn’t seem to respond when we used her name. I spoke to her dad and asked whether they called her Sydney at home. He said they called her Advitiya, but it’s easier to call her Sydney here. I said, ‘her name is Advitiya, and that’s what we call her.’ Ah, dear Advitiya, thank you for this teachable moment. I have always found; teachable moments tend to stick out. Oh, I learned. When we started using it, it was clear how important her name was to her. When we first used her Indian name, I have no doubt it was so nurturing for her; I could see it in her eyes and through her expression. It connected her to her family, her home, and her identity.

Migration is not new to Ireland. For many years people have come to Ireland to live and work, perhaps for economic reasons or to seek asylum. In 2022 we have seen an increase in migrant refugee children attending settings due to the war in Ukraine. This has increased our awareness and has created a more urgent need for educators to understand how to enhance certain aspects of our practice. Mother Tongues and Early Childhood Ireland are working together to support you in exploring how we nurture a culturally and linguistically responsive environments in our education and care settings.

 

Francesca La Morgia from Mother Tongues has recorded a 3-part series of interconnected videos. These videos are available here on the Early Childhood Ireland YouTube Channel.

You can watch these videos at your own pace and in your own time. Questions and comments are welcome. We will respond to any questions and comments by the end of September, so we can all learn and share knowledge.

In October, Early Childhood Ireland and Mother Tongues will host three live workshops online. It will be a space for educators to discuss the ‘nurturing a culturally and linguistically responsive environment’ video series.

Registration will open in September.

*Criteria for attendance: you must have viewed the ‘nurturing a culturally and linguistically responsive environment’ video series to take part

 

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