My seven year old daughter Lucy has a great admiration and a bit of jealousy towards the El Hato girls for their beautiful names. Lucy’s favorite name is Maria de los Angeles (Maria of the Angels). Others that top the list are Sol, Luz, Flor, Dulce, Alma, Reina (Sun, Light, Flower, Sweet, Soul, Queen).
In Guatemala it is common to have several names and it seems to be acceptable to call someone by any of them. We frequently have student confusion over this. Right now we have our first work-study student. Her given names are Lidia Maria Angelica. I call her by Lidia, while Alejandra, our librarian, calls her by Maria, and her classroom teacher calls her by Angelica. So when I asked how Lidia was doing neither of the other teachers knew who I was talking about. It took a few minutes for us to figure it out.
I was very pleased to see a student return to school after taking a year off. He has been our student for three years. Everyone calls him Benjamin. During English evaluations I asked him what his name was because it’s the first question on the evaluation. He answered Benjamin. I noticed his name wasn’t listed on the English class roster and I asked him why he didn’t write his name. He said he did. I asked, where? He pointed to Josue Por. At that point he decided to go by Josue, even though only five minutes earlier he had told me his name was Benjamin. So even after you think you know the names of your students, they may change them to one of their other names at any time.
In an attempt to overcome the name confusion, we have created a photo roster. After taking a picture of each student in the class, I ask a group of the most honest students to help me name the students in the photos since the Guatemalan teachers don’t know the names of their new students yet either. The kids go through the list. Once in a while we will reach a student unfamiliar to the naming team. I can only guess these students are traveling from a distance. I also get to hear all the nicknames. We then print and pass out the photo rosters to all the teachers. The teachers have begun to use the photo roster for other purposes, such as name tag helpers for the preschool students, library cards, and attendance charts.
A lot of students call me Sally. We once had an English teacher named Sally. I’m not sure if they think Sally and I are the same person or if it’s just my El Hato nickname.