After grinding my teeth through a tortuous elementary school award ceremony recently, I felt the need to speak up.

Child after child (and no doubt their family members as well) cringed as award presenters stumbled over or outright butchered names as the children were called to the stage. Sometimes the mangling was done sheepishly, but more often not. During a long list, one teacher actually substituted one student's surname with "I can't pronounce your name." The poor student slunk onstage to accept a participation award that was possibly not even worth the recognition.

Why is it that many educators refuse to master the task of pronouncing unfamiliar names, especially after having the students for a year? They apparently can manage to pronounce Afghanistan, deoxyribonucleic acid and probably even supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But not students' names?

We may not expect them all to be linguistically gifted, but there are many workarounds used by public speakers to cope with these challenges. Some may (gasp!) still even be taught in schools: like writing names out phonetically or practicing saying them until they get them right.

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When you figure that most children are able to pronounce their own names (no matter how complicated) by second grade or sooner, it is pathetic, shameful and downright rude for people called educators to avoid this basic practice of courtesy and respect.

Michaelyn Tinkler, Holtsville