Contributed by Head of Lower Campus Shelley Searcy

To advance the work of IDEA in the Lower School, students spent their virtual learning day during the week of August 31, learning more about their own identity. The School’s goal is to empower members of our community to realize their full potential, to engage meaningfully in life, and to leave at the end of each day with their humanity fully intact. And one way to do this with our lower school students was to start with their names. 

At Mount Vernon, we start with questions, so we started this day with these essential questions:

  • How might we learn more about each other’s identity through the study of our names?
  • How might we create a plan to embody our school’s IDEA statement?

Together, we read the book The Name Jar and explored how Unhei felt when her family moved from South Korea to the United States and children at school had trouble pronouncing her name. Students made observations and inferences about her feelings then suggested solutions to some of the problems she experienced in the story. Furthermore, students made connections to times when their name had been mispronounced or when they’d had trouble learning the pronunciation of a new classmate. Students tapped into their creative talents to either design name badges that represented their names or created a dance to show their names. Many shared the stories of where their names came from and we talked about the pride we can have knowing that our name might come from our family, our faith, or someone special in our lives. 

Mount Vernon students have a wide variety of beautiful names. While some students share the same name, others have unique names and pronunciations. It was important to learn about each child through this identifier. Kindergarten through Grade 2 students also read My Name is Elizabeth while Grades 3-5 students watched a video of people from all nationalities talking about their names. We further explored what makes us all the same, as humans, and what makes us unique.

We also discussed nicknames and how these can be affectionate and appreciated but nicknames can also be hurtful. Together our ethical decision-makers and solution seekers agreed that we should not use nicknames that are hurtful or teasing. We also talked about strategies to stand up for ourselves or others if needed. 

The virtual learning day closed with reflections, compliments, and appreciations. It was a beautiful day of learning and we look forward to seeing how our learners apply their knowledge of names and name-calling to make an impact on our inclusive school community.

Our IDEA statement reminds us: The School seeks to respect, affirm, and protect the dignity and worth of each member of our community to advance inclusion, diversity, and equity at Mount Vernon. As a result, Mount Vernon does not tolerate expressions, language, and acts of racism whether it occurs on or off campus.  All Lower School students know the importance of calling each other by our correct name and never teasing each other about our names. We are Mount Vernon. We are better together.  

We are continuing to learn about our IDEA statement through Morning Announcements. Each month one part of the IDEA message will be discussed through the lens of our MV mindsets. This month we discussed how to be an Ethical Decision Maker and how EDM help to build a school culture where all members feel valued and safe. Different students have expressed their choices and what being an EDM means to them. 

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