All kids find their own ways to express their identity. Sometimes it's through their clothing, other times it's through their names. Kids know who they are, even if it's not who we thought they were. If a child has made their feelings about their identity clear, we should honor their feelings. Recently, a mom took to Reddit for advice after her daughter's teacher refused to call the girl by her preferred first name.
The mom explained that her daughter's given first name is Penelope. But for various reasons, the little girl decided at the age of four that she no longer wanted to be Penelope. Her parents obliged, and since then she's been called Fiji. For the last three years, they've encountered no problems. That is, until now. Her new teacher at school flat out refuses to call the little girl Fiji. The mom explains that previously, none of her other teacher have had an issue calling her Fiji if that's what she wants them to call her.
Her teacher's refusal is obviously distressing to the little girl. "She was hysterical when she got home because she hates the name and did not want it publicized to her new classmates," her mom explains. So like any good parents, they went into the school to have a chat with the teacher to deal with "we were sure was a misunderstanding." And that's when the teacher told the parents she has a "no nickname policy."
Except Fiji isn't the little girl's nickname. While her given first name is Penelope, Fiji is her name. "We explained it isn’t a nickname, it’s the name her parents, friends, sitters, extended family, and neighbors call her 24/7." The teacher tried to assert, "classrooms are formal and focused and nicknames detract from the learning environment because they bring in an element of causality that incited problems."
If the little girl wanted to be called Princess Consuela Banana Hammock, then yes, that would be distracting. But merely asking to be called the same name literally everyone in her life isn't a distraction. If the girl had been introduced as Fiji, the teacher wouldn't have known any better. When the parents tried to find a compromise and suggested calling the girl Pen instead of Penelope. Again, the teacher refused and told the parents "if we didn’t like the name, we shouldn’t have used it."
Naturally, they're concerned about what this is doing to their daughter's mental and emotional health. And if this teacher is already being stubborn about something trivial, how will she be the rest of the school year? Many of the comments are urging the mom to see about switching Fiji's class.
"Your name is your identity. Denying a child that for no reason is unacceptable," says one commenter. Another, who is a teacher says, "usually I recommend talking to teacher instead of escalating w the principal - but now is the time to bring in the administration. Teacher is in the wrong and it's time to tell her boss."
Fiji's mom has not updated the thread to say what's happening, but we hope they are able to come up with a solution that benefits the little girl.