Calling teacher's by first name?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by JenPooh, Sep 17, 2010.

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  1. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    My school philosophy is that we're all on a first name basis. I live in an area that is rather informal, so it's not as strange as it would be for those who live elsewhere, although as far as I know we are the only school in our district with this policy. I worked for a fortune 500 company and everyone used first names (not all around here do that). At my school and past job, the intention was to be less formal, more comfortable and at ease, and therefore, it is hoped, more open, connected, and communicative. The opposite would be, say, the military where one would not easily share with a superior or with a subordinate.

    I am uncomfortable with hierarchy based on position alone. I guess that's why I choose to work in places with first-name policies? I feel stiff and impersonal when someone uses Mrs. with my name; and I feel like I would be inadvertently conferring elderliness or stodginess on others when I don't know their preference and consider saying Mr. or Mrs.

    I see people as more or less equal in terms of standing in the world. My noble goal in life is to uncover the humanness in everyone, and one way I do that is by equally respecting everyone. Even if adults feel less respected today, our youth have faced many forms of disrespect throughout history. These days the children have rights they did not just a century ago, but most adults still treat them as less than (not just different, but actually less than).

    My :2cents:

    p.s. we don't have bells either. It is one of many ways we build opportunities for children to assert responsibility for their own behavior. In my mind, telling children what to do, when, and how leaves them without practice in using judgment. Some things they are not ready to take on, but many things we do for them are unnecessary. Carrying their backpack, turning in their papers, choosing how to show they mastered something, being where they should be on time, ...
     
  2. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    Oh believe me, I have already said all of that, plus more! :lol: My last email even ended with "I would hate to pull my child from a school he has loved since Kindergarten". :) I have been in contact with the P about this from day one...and I haven't stopped pressing the issue...along with other families that are speaking up!

    Now, would I pull him out over this issue alone? No, but after this issue you bet I will be keeping my eyes and ears open a LOT more.

    Thank you all for your support! I really appreciate it, esp. when it's coming from the professionals. :)
     
  3. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Just forgot to say, we're a choice public school, so parents who want to have the informal environment join a lottery to get their kids in. We're not unteaching their values, we're supporting them.
     
  4. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Shelly, I wanted to say something about adults thinking children are "less than" but didn't know how to phrase it. Even though I was raised not so much with an expectation to use formal titles but certainly ma'am and sir, and I continue to follow those teachings as an adult, I sometimes worry about the reasoning behind it. It shouldn't be to make an adult feel powerful and important. Of course adults are to help guide children through this world, and in that sense they do play a very powerful role, but that responsibility is just that, and shouldn't provide a power-trip or inflate the ego.

    I'm not saying I'd survive in your school as I'm very structured and I get the sense my structure and expectations within the classroom wouldn't exactly mesh with your school's philosophy, but I find it interesting. I think that type of school combined with highly effective parenting could result in some awesomeness. :)
     
  5. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    JustMe, as always, I respect your eloquence. That includes an element of diplomacy you seem to never lose.

    People often mistakenly assume the informality at my school results in a lack of structure. Ironically, it is the opposite. The students don't do whatever they like any time, but instead, they are given increasing amounts of responsibility as they can handle it. This way they practice making good choices when the stakes are low. Gradual release of responsibility from the adults to the children results in better judgment and more respect going both ways. We get kids from traditional schools at all grades, and it is difficult for the older ones to transition from the structure of being completely clear about what they must do and what will happen to them if they don't.

    For example, tardies. If a kid comes in tardy from recess, I talk privately with her and find out what her motivation and intentions are regarding getting into the room on time. She also misses whatever we were doing and I don't repeat the information or give her extra time to do the activity. She can take it home, or miss the free-play period, or whatever we did. We then brainstorm what she needs to do to get herself in on time. Every time I've done this with a kid who started K with us, the kid has genuine ideas of how to do better. With late-entry kids, they often are profoundly confused and even suspicious about why I'm asking for their input. They are not used to being shown the boundaries in a way that includes their point of view. They are used to being held to a formal structure of rules that are imposed on them. In those cases, the class can brainstorm together about how "a child" could get in from recess on time. This is how I handle it because we don't have bells and a list of consequences for number of tardies.

    It's not simple to explain how the respect and personal responsibility aspects are woven into the school. But I do want to say I don't think adults insist on titles to inflate their egos. And I don't prefer informality because I want to be friends with 2nd and 3rd graders. I think we all want children to grow into responsible people and some believe that formal expectations that separate the adults from the children will achieve that. Some others, like me, think it is a learned skill to be responsible and that giving autonomy and choice to people as soon as they can handle it - even just before, with guidance - builds connections, trust, and communication that will enable maturing young people to continue to be connected and in communication with us as they grow older. My girls go to school with teachers who can be their sounding boards and confidantes, and the more adults like that in their world the better.
     
  6. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Sep 19, 2010

    Thank you. :)

    In the example you provided, having those discussions with your students is surely more effective long-term than adopting the "do this 'cause I said so" approach.

    I also want to be clear that I think it would be quite rare that an adult feels superior just by having a child refer to him or her with a title and last name...that would be rather sad. :) I'd try to explain what's running through my mind more clearly, but I'm terribly tired and for whatever reason fighting sleep.
     
  7. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 19, 2010

    My students refer to me as Mr. Cerek or Mr. C. For my own reasons, I would not allow them to use Mr. FirstName, but would remind them to use either of the two choices already offered.

    Even our teachers refer to each other as Mrs./Mr. LastName - especially when it is in front of students. That shows the kids we aren't just imposing restrictions on them, but even the adults and other staff in our school consider it a matter of courtesy and respect to use the proper title and last name of the person they are addressing.

    I had a college professor who turned the tables and would refer to all his students as Dr. LastName and I sometimes do that with my own students, calling them Mr. or Mrs. LastName. It shows them that everyone deserves respect and everyone (including adults) should show respect to others.

    I also still have a difficult time calling any of my former teachers by their first name. My HS principal attends my church and his DIL is one of my team members, but I STILL call him Mr. LastName. I also call his wife Mrs. LastName because she was my 2nd grade homeroom teacher. This is true for any of my former teachers as well as adults I've known since childhood. If I called them Mr. or Mrs. LastName as I was growing up, I tend to still call them that out of respect when I see them now.
     
  8. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Sep 19, 2010

    I also believe in opening the door for ladies and holding the door open for anyone coming behind me. I always pause and look back to make sure I'm not letting the door close in someone's face.

    I believe in offering my seat to a woman or elderly person, but admit I'm not as diligent about this as I should be. Living in a very rural area, we don't have public transportation, so there just aren't that many opportunities to practice this.
     
  9. TeacherApr

    TeacherApr Groupie

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    Sep 19, 2010

    Fabulous!!! :lol:

    I'm glad to hear that other parents are supporting your respect issue and have the same values regarding that. = )
     
  10. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I like that and do the same...showing students it's not just a hoop they must jump through because they're "little people". I think that may be how they feel because it's not something often explained to them.

    I don't use those titles with my students, but I almost always use ma'am or sir after their first name.
     
  11. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I used the Mr./Mrs. LastName more with my 8th graders than other classes, since they were soon-to-be-HS students, but even then it produced more curious stares than anything.

    It was kinda neat (and funny) on the college level and could probably work better in HS, but I think it was still a little over the heads of my middle schoolers. However, I still use it sometimes when I see a kid in the hall and temporarily blank on their first name. LOL.
     
  12. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Sep 19, 2010

    My principal is big on titles, and as such has started calling every adult by Mr. or Mrs.--the secretaries, custodians, cooks, everyone. I think this is great-why should some adults deserve a title just because of a degree, but others not?

    Oh, and even if I could (or would be willing) to teach anything lower than 6th grade, there is NO.WAY. I would be Mrs. Firstname. I had a hard enough time adjusting to Mrs. Lastname.
     
  13. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    Sep 19, 2010

    I was raised calling both my parents by there first names. It was kind of weird but what they wanted. It has made me believe that showing respect is calling a person by what the person wishes. If a person specifically asks to be called something such as just their first name I believe the only way to truly show that person respect is to follow his/her wishes. If you do not follow the person's wishes who are you really showing respect too? It doesn't seem like you are showing respect to that person, it seems like you are doing the opposite regardless of the reasoning behind it.
     
  14. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    And if a parent wishes to bring up his or her kids a certain way, wouldn't it be respectful of the school to honor it? Teachers are being paid to educate these kids. They're not neighbors or friends; they're paid employees. So I don't buy the "what their wishes are" argument. They should do what's in the best interests of those children. That's where the whole "we're professionals" thing comes in.
     
  15. DHE

    DHE Connoisseur

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    Sep 19, 2010

    I often address my students as Miss/Mr. and I teach 2nd grade.. I used this with my 1st graders. I also hear OR PREK teacher call her students Miss/Mr.
     
  16. pete2770

    pete2770 Comrade

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    I'm in the same boat. I have a favorite high school teacher I send an e-mail to every once and a while seeking career advice (education related) and he keeps telling me to use his first name.

    It's a hard habit to break, I always elevated my teachers way beyond my peers.
     
  17. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    My son plays rugby. All the players address the ref as 'Sir'. At yesterday's game, I heard this interaction when a player was sure he heard the ref's whistle but the play had continued:

    "Sir, you blew the f-ing whistle!"...

    How's that for respect?
     
  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Love it, czacza!
     
  19. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    You would think, considering the parent is afterall, THE parent.;)
     
  20. apeacefulworld

    apeacefulworld New Member

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    This discussion is very interesting to me. I was raised in a semi-Quaker household (my mother was, father wasn't) and in the Quaker tradition, titles are not typically used.

    From Wikipedia:
    My mother always introduced herself to my friends with her first name, partially because of her spiritual beliefs. The idea, as I understand it, is that titles elevate one person above another, which Quakers try to avoid doing.

    I attended a Quaker college where everyone on campus went by their first name, from students, to professors, to the college president. I certainly didn't respect any of my professors less because of that tradition.

    However, when I attended public school, my mother never would have dreamed of telling me to call my teachers by their first names. We called our teachers the names they wished to be called out of respect for those teachers. I do see it as a sign of respect to call someone the name he or she asks you to use. Although she never said anything, I know it bothered my mother a little when people called her Mrs. M____ instead calling her by her first name (as she requested).

    We should be mindful that name preferences may have religious or cultural significance. And if a school's culture uses a certain naming method, it seems to me respectful to conform to the culture of the school.
     
  21. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    Conform? No, because it has nothing to do with the "culture" of the school or a religious reason. Had parents been told this ahead of time that this would be one of the 'changes' that the school was making when it changed into a STEM Academy this year, I might have chosen to take my child to another school considering we have school choice in our community. This was NEVER brought to the parents attention and it has nothing to do with the school, rather than a few teachers at the school...many still go by their title. :)
     
  22. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    To apeacefulworld, what you have shared is very interesting. In my floundering to discover who I am and exactly what it is I believe, I have been drawn and "matched" to Liberal Quakerism. That titles elevates a person over another is of particular interest to me. Thanks for sharing your take on this...
     
  23. Kate Change

    Kate Change Companion

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    At our school it's more teacher's choice, but those that go by first names still go by Mr. Phillip or Ms. Jennifer. When I taught younger students I went by Ms. Kate but with older students I go by Ms. Lastname. I've never had a parent complain, but I am wondering if this is something that would have bothered you?

    I have a last name that is not consistent with the culture of my area and my first class of younger students really could not pronounce it. I suppose I could've gone by Ms. last initial, but it seemed more natural to use a name rather than just a letter.

    I do agree though that "Hey Kate!" is not an appropriate way to address your teacher.
     
  24. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    apeacefulworld, thanks for your post. It's very thought provoking and something we should all be mindful of.
     
  25. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    The OP is correct that the change was handled very poorly. I can't understand the connection between becoming a STEM school and the use of first names. Enacting change can't be successfully done without a lot of stakeholder involvement and buy-in.

    My kids' school philosophy matches mine. If one year the school changed to the opposite without any explanation or input from me or any other parents, I'd be incensed, too.

    This thread is veering into debating what philosophy is RIGHT for society, though, which is abrasive. "Hey, Shelly!" is totally appropriate in context, and is not inherently wrong. Just saying, in case anyone cares.
     
  26. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I kind of forget what the thread was really about. Oops! :)

    I'm assuming the school had some type of assembly, meeting, something inviting parents to take part in a presentation or discussion regarding the STEM change? Was there a lot of faculty changes? I agree, Jen, that this name situation doesn't seem connected to the transition the school recently made, but I'm curious, still. I wonder if many new teachers are involved what philosophy they are brining to the table. Are the teachers wishing to be addressed in the less traditional manner new to the school?
     
  27. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    Yes.

    In all, thank you for all for your insight. Even though I don't agree with everyone's different philosophy's it's nice to hear opinions. Although, I do think adults are above children in some way. I mean, that is why we raise THEM and not the other way around. ;)

    Like I have stated, it doesn't bother me that some want to be called by their first name, nor do I care if other children call them by their first name. As the parent though, I should be able to have my child use a title if I deem so because I am the parent. On the flip side of what someone else has said...what if it was a religious issue as a parent and I wanted my child to use a title due to a reason such as that? ;) It goes both ways, really. I can't think of any religious reason why (we are a Christian family), but I'm just trying to make a point.

    Thank you all for your insights. :)
     
  28. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Since we've had so many opinions and insights offered, I went back to read your original post.

    I understand that some teachers want the kids to call them by their first name. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. The only problem I see is those teachers who want to use first names are sending mixed messages to the 3rd graders when they team teach with Mr. B, who still prefers kids to use the title and lastname. I feel this will be very confusing to the kids, who are still at an age where discernment is difficult. It's good you have explained the situation to your son and he understands the expectations in your household (and in much of society as well), but other kids may not have that support and explanation to help them understand the difference.

    At the very least, I feel the two teachers who like first names should understand and respect your parental concerns as well and should allow your son to still use Mr(s) Lastname with them. After all, they are the adults and such an adjustment would be much easier for them to make.
     
  29. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    This would not have bothered me in the least, because you are still using the 'title' of Miss/Mrs/Mr. ;)

    I was happy to see an email that went out the other day to parents, that addressed the teachers all with their titles. It still used their first names, but it at least included their titles. :)

    I was also happy to see my son correct himself in the car after school the other day as well. He said the teacher's first name only, then stopped and said, "I mean Ms.____.". I asked him if some other kids called her by her first name and he said they did, then politely explained how it sometimes confuses him but that he will make sure he tries hard to follow what we teach him at home. :) It's nice to know my son is at least listening to me about SOMETHING! :haha:
     
  30. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    Thank you! :)

    By no means would I want to disrespect anyone, but in the end it comes down to ME being the parent. I (with my husband) am the main one who teaches my child right from wrong, his morals, principles, manners, etc. When it comes down to it, I have every right to have my child call a teacher by his/her title whether they like it or not. Again, no disrespect, but I'm the one who birthed them! ;)
     
  31. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS 7th grade ELA SDI in Texas

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    I agree with original poster. MY own children do not and are not allowed to call any adult by their first name.

    Even if a last name is a 'hard to say' last name, they are not to use first name. I am not a fan of "Miss Firstname" unless it is for CLOSE family friends. They can use "Miss Firstletteroflastname" instead.
     
  32. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    In my culture, we go by first names. Even my professors went by their first names. I guess if a parent insisted on their student calling me Mrs. Lastname, I might take some time to educate them on the benefits of understanding/using other cultural norms.
     
  33. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    In my culture, we don't assume that people who disagree with us need "educating."

    Lots of college profs go by their first name. Their students are adults. We're talking, or at least I am, about the parents of childen trying to instill a habit of respect in those children. And about how the school (who has a LOT to gain from a group of respectful children) should put the needs of those children above the personal preferences of its paid employees.
     
  34. JenPooh

    JenPooh Virtuoso

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    If this were Facebook, I would triple 'like' your comment.:haha: Well put, Alice! It seems sometimes people forget about the ROLE of the parent. ;)
     
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