Recipe for a Name

It was Jem’s first day at his new school, and he was nervous. He wasn’t sure how he should introduce himself to his classmates.

“Jem” was easier for most people than “Janaldo Marcos.” If he told everyone “Janaldo Marcos,” they might have a tough time saying his name. And if they had a tough time saying his name, they wouldn’t want to hang out with him. And if they didn’t want to hang out with him, he would have no friends, and would end up starting a weird YouTube channel about bugs and growing a weird mustache like his Tito Anthony and…

Jem decided that he would introduce himself simply as “Jem.” Then he noticed that his teacher, Ms. Weaver, had left a nametag on his desk that said “Janaldo Marcos.”

Jem hurriedly erased “Janaldo Marcos” on the nametag and wrote in “Jem”—no mustache for him today! Realizing that the boy sitting next to him was staring at the new name, Jem squirmed in his seat, feeling tense, but the other boy said nothing.

Ms. Weaver smiled, said “Good morning, everyone,” and began taking attendance, reading names off the class list.

“Rebecca Álvarez?”


As Ms. Weaver read each student’s name, Jem realized that his name was still written “Janaldo Marcos” on the list, and not “Jem.” Ms. Weaver would call him “Janaldo Marcos” first and he’d end up with no friends. He started imagining himself with the mustache again…oh no…

“And our new student… Janaldo Marcos Sayo?” Even worse, she said his first name wrong, and that made Jem feel so embarrassed. She pronounced it “Ha-NAL-doe” instead of “Juh-NAWL-doe.”

“Ha-NAL-doe MAR-cose Sayo?” Ms. Weaver repeated.

Jem raised his hand but said nothing. “Welcome!” Ms. Weaver said cheerily, before moving on. Soon, she finished reading the names.

“All right, is everyone settled in?”

Jem responded “Yes!” with the other fourth-graders.

Ms. Weaver took a piece of chalk and wrote the word ingredients on the board. “For science today, we are going to examine the ingredients that make up my favorite food. And that food is…” She turned around and wrote something else on the board: Chocolate Chip Cookies. The class broke out in a loud buzz!

“Wow, I’m glad that you are all so excited,” Ms. Weaver said. “All right, who can tell me what everyone’s favorite part of a chocolate chip cookie is?”

“The chocolate chips!” everyone answered.

“Mine, too! But we can’t forget the other ingredients,” she said, writing a list of the different elements that go into a chocolate chip cookie— sugar, butter, flour, baking soda, and eggs.

Ms. Weaver pointed to each ingredient and explained what its role was: “Sugar and butter make the texture and taste of a cookie, which can make it chewy or hard, very sweet or less sweet. Flour gives the cookie a body, and baking soda shapes that body by making it rise. And eggs bring all those components together!” Next, she taped an illustration of a chocolate chip cookie up on the board and said, “In the end, each ingredient is important, and the cookie wouldn’t be the same without it.” Ms. Weaver continued on, explaining more about the science of baking… but Jem was distracted, fretting about what he might say to Ms. Weaver about the way she pronounced his name.

At the end of the morning, the students headed out to lunch, but Jem waited for a minute, then haltingly stepped up to Ms. Weaver’s desk.

“Hello, Ha-NAL-doe MAR-cos, how can I help you?” she asked.

“Hi,” Jem said. “I wanted to let you know that my first name is said Juh-NAWL-doe, not Ha-NAL-doe.”

“Oh my, I am so sorry to hear that I pronounced it incorrectly,” she replied. “Juh-NAWL-doe, am I saying it properly now?”

“Yes, Ms. Weaver, thank you,” Jem replied, paused, then added, “It’s kind of like a chocolate chip cookie.”

“How’s that?” Ms. Weaver responded, looking puzzled.

“My name also has ingredients. The ‘Jan’ comes from January, when I was born, ‘Aldo’ is from my dad’s name, ‘Ronaldo,’ and ‘Marcos’ is from my mom’s name, ‘Marcielle.’”

Ms. Weaver broke out in a wide grin and said, “It is like a chocolate chip cookie! Thank you for sharing your name’s recipe with me, Janaldo Marcos.”

Janaldo Marcos smiled back and left for lunch, ready to share his name’s recipe with anyone who would ask.