TITLE: Name It AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: January 03, 2005 11:56 AM DESC: Giving something a name confers new meaning on the thing. Knowing something's name gives power to the knower. ----- BODY: Happy New Year! I've run into the same idea twice in the last couple of weeks, in two different guises. I take that as a hint from the universe that I should be thinking about this as I prepare for the upcoming semester. The idea is: Name it. First, at a public event during Advent, a friend was talking about how to raise strong, self-aware children. She said, "You know when your children do something good. Name it for them." Children should know that what they are doing has a name. Names are powerful for thinking and for communication. When an act has a name, the act *means* something. Then I was ran across a column by Ron Rolheiser that comes at the issue from the other side, from where our feeling doesn't seem as good. The article is called Naming Our Restlessness and talks about how he felt after entering his religious order as a young man of 17. He was restless and wondered if that was a sign that he should be doing something else. But then someone told him that he was merely restless.
His simple, honest naming of what we were feeling introduced us to ourselves. We were still restless, but now we felt better, normal, and healthy again. A symptom suffers less when it knows where it belongs.
Often, people can better accept their condition when it has a name. Knowing that what they feel is normal, normal enough to have a name and be a part of the normal conversation, frees a person from the fear of not knowing what's wrong with them. Sometimes, there's nothing wrong with you! And even when there is, when the name tells us that something horrible is wrong, even then a name carries great power. Now we know what is wrong. If there is something we can do to fix the problem, we have to know what the problem is. And even when there is nothing we can do to fix the problem, yes, even then, a name can bring peace. "Now I know." What does this mean for teaching? Name when students do something good. If they discover a pattern, tell them the name. When they adopt a practice that makes them better programmers, tell them the name of the practice. If they do something that isn't so good, or when they are uneasy about something in the course, name that, too, so that they can go about the business of figuring out what to do next. And help them figure it out! I think this is a sign for me to write some patterns this semester... -----