By Cortney Rowe
Now, I’ve been a substitute longer than I even expected. While spending every day learning about different sets of kids, you can make huge faux pas due to not knowing the students as well as their permanent teacher does (e.g. asking two students to sit in their assigned seats, which ends in a huge argument because they always fight, but that’s a story for another day).
One of the most uncomfortable mistakes you can make, is unwittingly calling a student by their deadname (a transgender individual’s birth name if they no longer use it) due to reading it off of the attendance roster. I have had this experience before (exacerbated when the officer called the young man down by his deadname, meaning that I had to repeat it again before he gently told that that wasn’t his name), but I’ve been blessed never to have that happen to me again. In my experience, most students come and tell me themselves that the roster has the wrong name. Oftentimes, their friends will come and tell me that the name on the roster is wrong. Even the absent teacher will put in their lesson plans “CALL THEM THIS, NOT THAT!” It’s been a really eye-opening experience, and it got me thinking…
If I don’t have the students themselves, their loyal friends or their cognizant teachers to tell me otherwise, how can I avoid saying a deadname?
Two words: Last Names
All of the transgender students I’ve come across have only changed their first names. If substitute teachers read attendances by last name, then transgender students can respond to it without acknowledging a name that does not represent who they are.
Substitute teachers should be aware of the fact that a student’s identity is not always reflected by their legal names, and that should be respected, even if you are only there for the day.
Edited by Emily Chance