The First Letter of Your Last Name

Sometimes we encourage others to do something, to make a change, to up the game. We strive to make a change that

Remembering my walk at the end of the diploma line

will make our world better. We appreciate encouragement to get there. Other times we just need to acknowledge the truth and know that it is what it is. [Nature of Encouragement #2: Plausible change is necessary for encouragement to be effective.]

Today I witnessed behavior based on something that, for most of us never changes. It is written in stone, or at least on our birth or marriage certificate. It is our last name, more specifically, the first letter of said name.

Recently kid #4 “graduated” from 8th grade. I say “graduated” because really she is just moving along to 9th grade in the fall. When I was a kid there was just as much pomp and circumstance with the 8th to 9th grade transition as there was for the 3rd to 4th grade transition. I guess we need another occasion to buy balloons and eat cake.

So, there I was sitting in the stands. A friend sitting next to me was there to watch her daughter graduate as well. My friend’s last name starts with A. My last name starts with B. So as they started calling the students names, we were both very attentive, and had our iphones ready to take a picture as the girls received their certificate. Then we relaxed and even (every quietly) chatted just a bit.

After hearing about 350 names, I saw the line of 8th graders coming to an end. (See picture above.) It jolted my memory of being at the end of the line with my fellow V’s. I grew up a Vansteenburg. I mentioned to my friend that those kids were me throughout my school career. There was usually a Vetch or a Zimmerman behind me so I was never the last kid.

We were talking about how the kids at the beginning of the alphabet had to pay attention at the beginning of an activity, and then could relax while the rest of the students took their turn. Those of us at the end of the alphabet didn’t always catch the directions, but could watch the kids in front of us and know exactly what to do by the time it was our turn. I’m not sure what the kids in the middle of alphabet did.

Also there was a geographical aspect to last names in the classroom. Most teachers started assigning seats to students from the front of the classroom to the back, starting with the A’s then B’s and then everyone falling into place. This meant for me as a V that I was usually in the back left corner of the room. Again, the A’s and B’s needed to be a bit more attentive to action in the classroom than the V’s and W’s.

My friend mentioned that she grew up with a B last name, so she was always towards the beginning. She shared that recently she took her motorcycle license test. She was one of the last ones to take her test, and failed. The next time she took the test she made sure she was one of the first ones to test. Her belief is that the waiting made her nervous , she just wasn’t accustomed to waiting, she performed best when she went at the beginning. Just like she had been patterned to do from all her years in school.

Do you notice your attention or ability to wait is connected to your last name?

P.S. Just starting to wonder if there is a there a correlation in behavior between being an oldest, middle, or youngest kid, to your last name being at the beginning, middle, or end of the alphabet. Oldest kids tent to be more attentive, like the A’s and B’s. Youngest kids tend to get away with more, and do a lot of watching the older kids, like the V-Z’s.

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