The Naming This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

December 20, 2010
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In the beginning, there was man. Man had a name – a title by which he was known. Man multiplied and passed his name to his progeny. In those days, family names corresponded to professions, hence surnames such as Miller, Baker, or Fisher.

Now the year is 2021. Negativity has prevailed; people no longer have names based on their skills, but rather, their vices.

Sloth, Whiskey, Lust, and Gluttony – these are the names of some of the tenth-graders in my classroom. The daily routine follows accordingly:

Avarice steals the apple from my desk, while Scotch whistles to the tune of “Whiskey in the Jar,” and Gossip passes notes to Lie-za, and Acedia sleeps as Envy stares at Vanity's new necklace, and Sloth rests his head on his desk, all the while, Blasphemy shouts, “I am God!”

Chaos. Disorder. Anarchy. These are the names that I gave to my classroom – a place in which students cannot learn, live, or laugh, a place without hope, without love.

I have an idea.

“Class,” I begin, “When did the framers sign the Declaration of Independence? … Does anyone know? Anyone? … How about you, Brilliant?”


“Yes, Brilliant, you.”

“But … my name is Despair. Why are you-”

“From now on your name is Brilliant. Do you know the answer?”

“July 4, 1776?”

“That's … that's … well, that's brilliant!”

It does not stop there.

Scurrying into the classroom two days later, late as usual, my hands are full and I drop a book.

“Linda, can you help me?”

“My name is Acedia.”

“Your name is now Linda. Linda Hand. Now can you please pick up that book for me?”

“Sure … why not?”

And so it continues, until each student has a new name – one that suits them, one that accompanies them in their journey from vice to virtue.

Watching the newly reformed students excel in the classroom is a treat. Week by week, I give them a vocabulary assignment in which they have to write each word, include its part of speech and definition, and use it in a sentence.

If given this same assignment, I reflect, how would I define myself?

Emily: (noun) The student formerly known as Ms. Procrastinator, now a college graduate and ­experienced high school educator.

In 2021, Emily taught her students that a flaw, blemish, or imperfection cannot define a human, but rather, it inspires him to surpass his shortcomings and create a new name for himself.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

kimishotthemoon said...
Jun. 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm
Perfection. Great moral, great names, great plotline in general!
LittleMiss said...
May 30, 2011 at 10:50 pm
Wow. Impressive. It's fun, factual, interesting, and has a moral. I love it!
aidan44 said...
Apr. 21, 2011 at 7:05 am
I really liked this. It's a very interesting way of framing a story with a great moral, of course. Good job.
vestling92 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 21, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Thanks a lot! much appreciated.
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