I am 38 years old (as of this writing).  That means a little more than 39 years ago, there was no me, at least not in the human sense.  39 years ago, the eternal part of me, didn’t have a name.  It just hadn’t been decided on yet.  At some point my parents decided on a  name to call me and I was born.  Nothing unusual about that story, we all have the same story.  But here is the question…how did my name go from something my parents came up with, to something you now know even if we’ve never met?  Even if you’ve never met my parents?

The short answer has three parts:

  1. I learned it
  2. I owned it
  3. I shared it

I Learned It

In the early months of my life, my parents would use these sounds and look at me…probably a lot.  I didn’t know what these sounds were.  All I probably knew back then was they used them a lot and seemed to use them when they were looking at me or holding me or playing with me.  These sounds had no meaning to me, they were just something I heard a lot so I must have figured that they were important.  At some point, in the first year of life or maybe later, I realized that those sounds meant that they were talking to or talking about me.  “Keh-vihn”  Ok, something about me is “Keh-vihn”, that’s cool.

At some point later I started learning the alphabet and that these things called letters had a certain sound.  Around the same time I would start seeing my name spelled out on papers (daycare papers, doctor’s papers, birthday cards, letter from Santa).  K-E-V-I-N.  Wait a minute, if that whole alphabet thing made sense, then my either my name wasn’t spelled right, or my name was actually “Key-vine”.  As it turns out, I was given two other names and those didn’t line up with the letter sounds in the alphabet either.  Something didn’t add up, my parents insisted that was how my name is spelled but it didn’t match up with these letter sounds I was being taught.

When I started school I learned about hard and soft vowel sounds (E can be “eee” or “eh”), digraphs (CH is “cha” as in Rachael and not “ca-huh”, but CH could also be “kuh” as in Michael), and diphthongs (OO is “ooh” and not “oh-oh”).  These things finally made the spelling of my name make sense.  But wait, when did it become “my name”?

I Owned It

As some point in my toddler years I began to notice that my parents would get upset if I didn’t respond to “Keh-vihn”.  I didn’t want to make them sad, so I started looking at them when they made those sounds.  Then they would smile when I looked and say it again “Keh-vihn” and I would smile because they smiled.  Later, when I started to learn some words I would notice that people would ask me “What is your name?”, it seemed to happen every time we went out somewhere and sometimes multiple times in the same trip.  When I would get asked, my mother would start saying “Keh-vihn” and give me some indication to speak.  When I said “Keh-vihn” my mother and the other person would smile and I figured that was the right answer.

At some point in pre-school teachers started asking me what my name was, and I would answer them “Keh-vihn”.  Eventually they taught me how to write letters and I learned how to write the letters of my name.  That said, I was still being told what it was.  I was doing what my parents and my teachers told me to do.  This wasn’t my owning yet.  It wasn’t until I realized that those letters and those sounds meant me.  I would see those letters on a Christmas gift and know it was for me.  I would see those letters written on a birthday card and know it was for me.  When I was on the phone with my aunt or grandma and they said it I knew they were talking to me or about me.  The name meant me.  The name was me.

I Shared It

Eventually I learned to respond with “Keh-vihn” even when I wasn’t prompted by my mother.  Eventually I learned to write down “Kevin” when I was asked to write my name.  If I called someone on the telephone I learned to give my name to let people know it was me calling them.  At this point, I stopped doing it just because I was told to do it.  It became habit.  It became comfortable.  Over the years I built an identity in this name, how it sounds, how it’s spelled, how it’s written.  I have shared that name with teachers, doctors, coaches, friends, classmates, family members, co-workers and government documents.  If someone were to ask me what my name is, I could give them another name (John or Kwame or Ricardo) but now I choose to give them the name that my parents gave me, because I own it as my name.  In fact, I like the name so much that I gave it to my son.  But wait, that means I had to change my name and add a “Senior” to the end of my name.  Even though I was much older this time, it took a re-learning and re-owning and re-sharing of this new name.


All Knowledge Is The Same!

We start by being taught a concept or an idea and if that concept or that method of teaching resonates with us (“makes them smile”), then we learn it.  Far too much knowledge doesn’t get transferred because it may have been taught but it was never learned.  Teaching can take many forms (speech, reading, song, dance, writing, drawing, or practice activity).  Different forms of teaching will resonate with different people because we learn in different ways.  The way that teaching is done in a school may not be the way that you learn.  If that is true, then you may not learn much of what they are trying to teach and just become frustrated with the whole experience.  Many people drop-out of school for exactly this reason.  The shame of it is that the same content taught a different way might make the content easy for you to learn but many schools are in a one-size fits all mode and so you either learn it the way they teach it or you don’t learn.

The same can be said for owning the concept that you learned.  Hard concepts have to be the same every time.  2+2 does not equal 7, ever!  Soft concepts have to be applied to a range of different situations (is water wet?  is juice wet?  is coffee wet?  is sand wet?).  Demonstrating that understanding (via homework or tests) shows that you own the concept and how to apply it.    As for sharing, it has been said the greatest way to learn something is to teach it.  In order to teach a concept you have to have a good understanding of it, and the act of trying to tell someone else this concept helps solidify it in your own mind.  It works in the same way that writing down notes helps you to learn a concept even if you never look at those notes again.  Just the act of having to think about it and run it through your mind to communicate it to someone else, gives you a better understanding.

The LEARN-OWN-SHARE model is how Goodwin Academy will help you solidify your knowledge too.