I have a weird name–Kaechele. No one can say it right. If a stranger pronounces it correctly then I ask who they know in my family. Before my education career, I worked many years in concrete construction. I had a boss for years who never learned to say my name right. He called me “Ka-she-lee” with a heavy emphasis on the “she.”
My extended family pronounces it “Kek-lee” with a short e. My immediate family pronounces it “Kak-lee” with a strong Michigan “a”(as in apple). In college, most people called me Kax, and they had no idea what my real name was.
My name is German in origin and means “small kitchen tile.” Apparently my ancestors were masons, but I prefer to believe that we were foodies. I once met a German woman who informed me that my entire family pronounces our name wrong. I can’t even remember how to say it correctly, just that it was guttural. This is as close as I can find.
Over the years, I have found my weird name to be a source of culture building in the the classroom. Students have called me many things: Kackles, Mr. Calculator, Kax, or just Kaechele. I answer to all of them. Some adults might find it disrespectful that students omit Mr. but I have never cared.
Important caveat: This does not work both ways. It is important that teachers always learn to pronounce student names correctly. Names are a vital part of our identity, and we must honor students by using their correct names and pronunciations.
I currently have a student who says, “Good morning, Mr. Kaechele” in a sing song voice every time she sees me. I can’t walk down the hall or pass the lunch room without her yelling it out. It’s a joke to her that she finds funny. But to me it is evidence of a connection that we have. Last week a student called me “Ka-she-lee” and was surprised when I answered her. Honestly, I am so used to my name being mispronounced that I didn’t even notice.
To me, nicknames represent a level of trust and comfort between myself and students. We are past the awkwardness of the start of school that I have never enjoyed and have developed a sense of community. It is also part of a culture that means I don’t take myself too seriously. That’s why I do Throwback Thursdays, playing 80’s jams when kids enter the classroom.
Oftentimes the rituals of my classroom happen organically as we get to know one another, but I am always intentionally seeking moments to create them. It feels natural to students but it is calculated on my part. One of the most under-appreciated aspects of the teacher is their power to create classroom culture. Mine reflects my personality-laid back, personable, while thinking deeply.
What kind of community and culture do you value? How do you create it in your class?
Learn with me!
If you are interested in how your school can use a PBL framework to teach SEL skills, I would love to have a conversation on how I can help. I have limited availability for PBL & SEL workshops during the school year so contact me early. Check out my workshop page or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat and co-plan meaningful PD for the educators at your school.