Multicultural Education Diversity Cultural Competence
Share/Bookmark an EdChange project by Paul C. Gorski
Teachers Corner
Workshops & Training
Equity Case Studies
Awareness Activities
Curriculum Transformation
Equity & Diversity Quizzes
Printable Handouts
Research Room
Humane Education
Social Justice Speeches
Social Justice Songs
Social Justice Quotations
Multicultural Links
Join Our Listserv
Contact Us

Receive Email Updates
Awards & Recognition
About Paul C. Gorski

EdChange Consulting and Workshops on Multicultural Education, Diversity, Equity, Social Justice Document History of Civil Rights and Social Justice
Least Harm Most Good Blog
Exchanging Stories--Names

Preparing and Assigning:

Ask participants to write short (one or two page) stories about their names. (You may have to assign this prior to the class in which you want to use it.) Leave the assignment open to individual interpretation as much as possible, but if asked for more specific instructions, suggest some or all of the following possibilities for inclusion in their stories:

  • Who gave you your name? Why?
  • What is the ethnic origin of your name?
  • What are your nicknames, if any?
  • What do you prefer to be called?
Ecourage students to be creative. In the past, some have written poetry, included humor, listed adjectives that described them, and so on. Also be sure to let them know that they will be sharing their stories with the rest of the class.

Facilitator Notes:

In order to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to share her or his story, break into diverse small groups of five or six if necessary. Give participants the option either to read their stories or to share their stories from memory. Ask for volunteers to share their stories.

Points to remember:

  1. Because some individuals will include very personal information in their stories, some may be hesitant to read them, even in the small groups. It is sometimes effective in such situations for facilitators to share their stories first. If you make yourself vulnerable, others will be more comfortable doing the same.
  2. Be sure to allow time for everyone to share, whether reading their stories or sharing them from memory.
  3. When everyone has shared, ask participants how it felt to share their stories. Why is this activity important? What did you learn?
Sample--My Personal Name Story:

According to my mother, "Paul" means "small". When I say that to other folks, they tell me it doesn't mean "small," though no one seems to know what it means.

My parents wanted to name me "Cameron." "Paul" goes back three or four generations, I'm not sure which. My father and his father and his father are all named "Paul." But my mother liked "Cameron," so "Cameron" it was. But then I was born...five weeks prematurely. I was a tiny baby. I was the itsy-bitsiest baby in the new baby room at the hospital. According to my mother, that was a sign. Remember, "Paul" means "small".

So I am Paul Cameron Gorski. My father is Paul Peter Gorski. The exception, of course, is when someone calls my parents' home for one of us. At that point we become Big Paul and Little Paul, the father Paul and the son Paul, or the older one and the younger one (my Dad doesn't appreciate that one too much). Sometimes people call and I'm too exhausted to explain to them the whole idea that there are two Pauls living in one house, so I just pretend to be Paul Peter, and give my Dad the message later. He doesn't seem to mind that, especially when the caller is trying to sell us something. Still, I hope he doesn't do the same thing.

Paul lends itself well to rhyming nicknames. Bill, a good friend of mine, calls me "Tall Paul". He does so sarcastically, usually after blocking one of my shots in a basketball game. I often have to remind him that the whole irony of that nickname is that, according to my mother, "Paul" means "small," which is very nearly the opposite of "tall." In high school, I was often called "Paul Mall" in reference to a brand of cigarettes, because, as they said, my ball handling skills were smokin'. And again, the irony is that generally the small players have better ball handling skills.

The truth of the matter is that I really don't know whether or not "Paul" means "small". Perhaps it means "Jedi warrior" or "sunflower" or "career student". No matter. I've never looked it up, and never will. According to my Mom, "Paul" means "small." That sounds good to me.

[ Return to the Awareness Activities Page ]

an EdChange project
© Paul C. Gorski, 1995-2015