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The Name Game

December 2, 2010

All told, I have four names.  When I changed my name after our wedding, I decided that I wanted to keep my maiden name as part of my name and add B’s last name as my last name.  This lead to four names:  my first name, original middle name, maiden name, and new last name.  The social security office was more than willing to do it, though the DMV couldn’t make it fit.  While my original middle initial shows up on my license, the woman said that if I ever got pulled over, the system to read that I had two middle names.  Gee, thanks.

This post, however, isn’t about getting to have a super long name.  It’s about the fact that I respond to two names without hesitation.  Most people who change their last names go through a period of time where they and those around them get used to their new married names.  As time goes on, people lose the habit of calling them by their maiden names and everything becomes less confusing once again.  I have mostly moved out of messing up my name when I call doctors’ offices, but part of me is stuck in the limbo of having two names.  Why?

Because I am a teacher.

Last year, I was laid off from my position teaching eighth grade.  My school was about two million dollars in the hole, and positions were on the chopping block.  As the newest teacher on the street, I was the first to go.  Fortunately, I had a principal who respected me and mentioned my name to the high school principal.  About an hour after being told that I wouldn’t have a job for the coming year, I was pulled into a conversation with my principal and told that I now had a job at the high school.  I was unemployed for a total of about an hour.  I was incredibly lucky.

Moving to the high school meant that many of the students would be meeting me for the first time as Mrs. H, which was great for me because it would help me get used to my new name.  However, my eighth graders were also moving to the high school with me, and they knew me as Ms. B.  When I told them at the beginning of the year that my name wasn’t Ms. B any longer, most of them seemed shocked but agreed to call me my new name.  Others downright refused.  I will always be Ms. B to them, and no legal name change is going to disrupt that thinking.

On any given day in the hallway between classes, I hear call outs like, “Hi Mrs. H” and “How’s it going, Ms. B?”  My freshman Literacy class has a mixture of both and there are only five students.  Strangely, I have become so used to it I don’t bat an eye.  I was sad to lose my maiden name when I got it switched, but thanks to the teaching gods, I don’t have to worry about losing it forever.  My students will know me as both and I will continue to hear both names called out.  It might be annoying or confusing to some, but I find it comforting.  I have given up correcting students.  I am both people, and I love it.

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