» » My teachers mispronounced my name. Decades later, it still stings — and influences the way I coach educators.

My teachers mispronounced my name. Decades later, it still stings — and influences the way I coach educators.

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Carroll, Gregory, Dionne, Mario: When I was in fifth grade, my class roster included names that my teachers surely had seen before. Yet I can still recall the way they butchered mine. “Dionne” — pronounced Dee-OWN — had a least four variations that included Dee-On, Dye-Own, Day-On, and Dianne.

Whenever teachers mispronounced my name, it made me feel they had taken a shortcut and that the added step of learning the correct pronunciation wasn’t worth the effort. Which meant, to some degree, that I wasn’t worth the effort. I returned the favor by not participating in class or doing just enough to pass.

So I have always made remembering students’ names — and saying them correctly — a priority.

This hasn’t always been easy. When I was an English teacher at Brooklyn Technical High School, the total student population was a little over 5,000. I had 150 students spread throughout my academic schedule and because I also served as advisor to the sophomore class, I saw another 30 in student government meetings. Because the school is so diverse, I also encountered many names that were new to me.

As a strategy, I would repeat names ad nauseum for the first few days of school to get my brain to go into reflex mode. One trick I used was to place students with the same name or beginning initial in the same seat during different periods. That worked like a charm for me every time.

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Dionne Grayman
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Dionne Grayman facilitates paradigm shifts: Whether providing a liberated space for mothers of color to create internal support networks to better address external challenges or ensuring that marginalized communities have opportunities to be seen and heard, her work is grounded in amplifying voice.An educator, Dionne has over twenty years of experience in co-creating learning spaces centered in belonging and joy with a range of young people from incarcerated youth on Rikers Island to students at Brooklyn Technical High School, long regarded as one of the country's best. In her role as staff developer for the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility, she training and coaches leadership and staff in the implementation of restorative practices inside of New York City public schools. She is currently a lead facilitator on the federally funded i3 Project, a bold undertaking to disrupt racial inequity and dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.In 2015, as co-founder of We Run Brownsville (WRB), a not-for-profit women's only running group in a historically marginalized neighborhood, Dionne has carried her work from the classroom into the wider community where she continues to believe that the collective power of the people is the most effective mechanism for leading transformation from within and informing policy without. Black and brown women with little to no experience in running, receive professional training to complete a 5k race. Imbued with confidence, WRB women have assumed leadership positions within local parent associations, the community board, respective church homes and career fields.Most recently, Dionne serves as the community engagement consultant for United for Brownsville, a collective impact and participatory-planning initiative dedicated to improving outcomes for 0-3 year olds in Brownsville by helping families and service providers work better together. She works alongside project leadership to co-create strategies; engage in thoughtful planning; provide skilled facilitation, and ensure that their commitment to be held accountable to community members is a high priority.A lover of all things Toni Morrison, the Golden Era of Hip Hop and coffee, Dionne holds a BA in English and Journalism, and an MS in Special Education. Born to parents who grew up in public housing, she credits them for the belief that being a smart black girl with glasses is an act of revolution.Dionne is most proud of being the mother of three incredible children who keep her hip, cool and dancing.

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