How many of you have nicknames that friends, family, or even coaches and teachers use when addressing you? Chances are you like your nicknames as they become equally significant to your full name. The most recent nickname I've acquired is "new guy", as I am barely two weeks into my team fitness boot camp three days a week at 6 AM. Everyone cheers me on... "You got it New Guy! Come on New Guy!"... as I do my best to catch up and not throw up in the hours before school starts. The team congratulates me with a "Way to go Rookie!" as I make it through each day, perhaps hinting that my next level nickname is "Rookie"--undoubtedly better than "new guy". Nevertheless, my elementary nickname makes me feel welcome, thus encouraging me to show up for at least another morning.
As a teacher, I've had many students come up with various nicknames for me over the years. And I love my nicknames because the essence of a nickname itself is a title of endearing respect, if not friendship and love. Two of my former students in Costa Rica, Marianna Calvo (Class of 2010) and Julie Javelle (Class of 2010), always referred to me without using the trivial prefix "Mr." I was known, as I still am today, simply as Berey. To this day, these girls address me with far more love and respect than any student I've ever had who inserted the prefix "Mr." Then there were a few students on my Costa Rica varsity girls soccer team who called me "Ber Ber" (pronounced Bear Bear, like the animal), most notably Jessi Curtis (Class of 2010) and Anna Pieri (Class of 2011). These girls, who were both notorious for pushing my buttons and invading my personal space, live every moment smiling so they could never put anyone in a bad mood. One current student, Eric Mance (Class of 2013), shows his respect by affectionately addressing me as "Berey the Bear". I know when he is irritated or upset when he actually addresses me as Mr. Berey.
Perhaps my most unique nickname created by a student is "Berey Kitten on Wheels". Yes, I've actually had students address me in the middle of 8th grade English class as "Berey Kitten on Wheels". One time I even responded by wheeling across the linoleum floor on my chair "meowing". The one and only Margo Wilson (Class of 2013) deserves all the credit for applying her vivacious, jubilant personality to my ever-growing list of nicknames. Finally, there are some students like Elise Lang (Class of 2011), who celebrated her own graduation by addressing me as "Sam!"--like the best friend she always wanted. The reality is that there is so much mutual respect on the student-teacher level, that upon graduation Elise was genuinely excited to appropriately address me as a friend.
All of these student-created nicknames represent the one ingredient that is absolutely essential for effective teaching and learning: respect. Successful learning is a two-way street, for both the student and the teacher, where mutual respect has the right-of-way in the direction of education. If we're lucky, as I have been so far, we pick up some friendships (and nicknames) along the way.
Thank you to all my students for creating fun, original nicknames that represent the important ideals I frequently speak about. I will never forget all my amazing students who continuously teach me the value of respect.