ON HAND: Name signs

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Mrs. Most, Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Kendrick, Mrs. Hummel, Mrs. Bruner… That’s how I remember my teachers: by their last names. Of course, I don’t sign the “Mr.” or “Ms.”–I sign their last names (or in Mrs. Hummel’s case, a K-H diagonally across my chest). Ask me their first names, and I’ll have to think a bit before responding.

Yet, last week, I watched as kids at a track meet talked about teachers, the principal and the superintendent by their first names. Name signs were used, but when spelling out, the first names were always used instead of the last names. Coincidentally, a friend had paged me about this same topic and said he couldn’t imagine ever calling his teachers by their first names even though he grew up at a deaf school and came from a deaf family.

I started asking friends who worked at deaf schools to see if this was the “Deaf way” or more of changing times. Most said students call them by their first names, or more commonly, their name signs. Their name signs usually were initialized signs of their names (i.e. R-S, J-J, S-B, and so on). But those who didn’t have name signs were called by their first names. However, one person also noted that older teachers–those well into their 60s, or already retired–often had name signs that used the last names only, which he felt was a sign of changing times.

Do students today feel more comfortable using first names because we are such a close-knit community, or because they have less understanding of the line between student and teacher?

My name sign is a “T” on the chest. Most people call me “Trudy,” though. I’m fine with either, regardless of how old you are.


Many months ago, in Week #3 of this column, I wrote asking where the deaf people were at captioning companies. To date, I’ve learned of one hard of hearing guy who works for NCI; and then two who work for private, small captioning businesses. But I still don’t know of any deaf people who work at NCI, CaptionMax, or any of the other heavy-hitters in the captioning industry. Make what you will of that.

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