“A name is not just a name.”

You know what I love about teaching?

It’s being able create opportunities for our tamaiti to develop what’s already inside them. Providing spaces for them to explore who they are and why they are. Supporting and enabling them to succeed as themselves. This is why my favourite times in the classroom were when my students bravely stepped out into our world proudly as themselves, empowered and confident.

I am blessed to have teacher memories which have proven, over and over again, that our tamaiti know what’s going on in the world around them and that they definitely have a voice – which just needs to be supported and given the space to be heard.

Here is just one example.

A speech written 3 years ago and presented to our entire school and staff by an ex-student, which seems to be quite relevant with what’s going on in our world today –

“Talofa lava, my name is Trinity Tauaneai.

I have lived with people saying my last name incorrectly most of my life. To be honest, at first it didn’t bother me when I was younger because I didn’t notice.

I mean, it was just a name anyway right? 

But as I got older, I really began to notice and understand more of my Samoan culture. So it really made me think, how important IS MY NAME?

So here is what I found out:

In Samoan culture, names are not only connected with our Samoan families, but also villages and districts. These names are passed down from one generation to the next through word of mouth, in stories, folklore, lyrics of songs and in poems. Some families also have surnames that are their family titles, held by respected family chiefs. 

I then discovered that my surname comes from my Grandfather’s village of Leulumoega in Samoa. He was a church minister and was held in high regards and with respect in that village.

So for me, my surname represents my granddad, my village, ancestors and family. For me, my surname is important. For me, my name is my identity, it is who I am and where I have come from.

So along this journey I have realised –

Number 1, a name is not just a name.

Number 2, we all need to remember the importance of saying someone’s name correctly. Just think about the history, respect and value a name can hold for someone.

If you don’t know, politely ask the person to teach you. Do not avoid it or keep repeating it incorrectly and it’s definitely not cool turning it into a joke. It’s not actually funny.

Number 3, do you know what and who your name represents? Find out. It’s important. We need to know more about who we are and where we come from anyway.

Number 4, I have learnt the importance and value of my own name, which means I need to act right to pay respect and honour my elders who passed my surname down.

Number 5, how do I do this?
It may mean being brave enough to correct and teach others how to say it correctly, especially as so many of us islanders live with our names being mispronounced and just get use to it. How else are people suppose to fully value our names if we do not speak up and tell them?

Finally – This is why I would like to take this opportunity to teach you how to say my name. Please repeat after me: TAU-A-NE-AI. TAUANEAI

Please remember, a name is not just a name. Fa’afetai Lava.”

Now can you see why teaching is so addictive? … And how our tamaiti have some amazing lessons to teach us when given the chance.

Fa’afetai tele lava Trinity and the Tauaneai aiga for giving me permission to share your speech. #WIS4Life

Author: Dahlia Malaeulu

dah·li·a (dah-lee-ya) / noun: a flower that is widely cultivated for its impact and coloured personality / adj: abundant, bright, bold, fresh, ready-to-bloom / human form: daughter, mother, wife, educator, problem solver, creative, teine Sāmoa / working on: creating more brown spaces in the world / currently: moving in the write direction.

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