Ma'am & Sir

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by pwhatley, Jun 17, 2007.

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  1. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    I live in the deep South, where the terms Ma'am and Sir are (generally) used as a matter of course, and out of respect. My parents would have killed me if I had answered an adult with "yeah." We raised our daughter to use ma'am, sir, please, may I, and thank you. I did not mind if she answered me with "Okay," as long as the tone was respectful.

    This topic touched off a huge debate in my Classroom Management course. The instructor (from Ohio) fervently did not believe in using ma'am and sir. She did not illuminate us as to why. A girl I knew in a past life (from Massachusetts) said that she would NEVER teach her children to use them, because they are subservient. HUH? :eek: I guess the geographical area/culture in which I was raised is significantly different than some others.

    What are your ideas/beliefs/thoughts on this topic? I have noticed that in my area, most students do still use ma'am & sir in responses, at least in elementary school. In fact, and correct me if I'm wrong, ChristyF, several years ago, our governor passed a bill through the state legislature requiring elementary and secondary students to use them. I have talked to teachers about this, and most of them vaguely remembered the news coverage when it happened, and most of them did require respectful forms of address and response, but at the same time, almost all of them felt that it was an unenforceable statute.
     
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  3. Mrs.Rhinochunks

    Mrs.Rhinochunks Companion

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    Interesting... I am a Pacific Northwest native (so I do not think it is regional) and I will be teaching in Arizona next year and I will absolutely expect me students to answer "yes" or "no ma'aam".

    I remeber when I was 7 years old and my father called me into the kitchen and explained to me, very lovingly but definitely in a tone that let me know there was no other option, that in the future I would respond with "sir" or "ma'am". End of discussion.

    I think that good manners and respectful behavior are becoming lost courtesies in our society. Students will gain so much in life by making this simple resonse ender a habit. I will also include looking the person you are speaking to in the eye.

    I love my own daughter enough to have this expectaion of her and if I want the person I cherish the most in the world to behave this way then I think I am not unreasonable - and infact sharig my concern for all children - by having the same expectation of the students in my class.

    As for subserviency... I did not know that using good manners was a sign of being on a low rung of the social ladder. In fact, I thought good manners were often a sign of a caring upbringing.
     
  4. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    I am from Texas, so I definitely used ma'am and sir to address adults. My parents allowed yes, no and okay in casual conversations, with them. All other adults were to be called ma'am or sir, and Ms. or Mr. (or other title like uncle/aunt) with last or first names depending on what they told us. We never really questioned it, and it was just part of life. The kids come in with a range of manners, but they learn quickly if the teachers make it clear to them. On a side note, I really hate it when whole classes say "teacher, teacher" instead of Ms.Name.
     
  5. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Jun 17, 2007

    MrsRhinochunks

    I thoroughly agree! My grandson is only 17 months old, and we are already teaching him please and thank you, and it won't be long before he'll be getting yes sir, and no sir (I found if you answer the kids that way, they are more likely to use it with you). I was completely shocked by my friend from Massachusetts. It just took me off guard. I think that ('scuse my rambling train of thought here) if we as a society were to revert to the manners and respect of previous generations (not their racist acts, etc.), we as a society would be MUCH better off. JMHO
     
  6. OtterMom

    OtterMom Comrade

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    My kindergartners are expected to reply to their elders politely, with "Yes, Ma'am" or "No, Sir", and I'm shocked that some people might find that demeaning. Maybe that instructor was just an old grouch. Although I'm a Texan now, I spent my elementary years in Wisconsin, and I'm pretty sure I remember answering the same way, even that far north of the Mason/Dixon line.

    To reply to Tasha about the students who say, "Teacher," I give my students about a week to learn my name. I tell them that I call THEM by their own names, and I expect the same courtesy. If they persist in saying "Hey, Teacher," I reply, "Yes, kid?" After they quit laughing, they generally remember how they're supposed to address me. It's a lighthearted way to make the point, and it works!
     
  7. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Good idea, OtterMom! Again, I am ignorant of the customs of many regions, having spent all but 1 year of my life (which was spent in New Jersay) in the Louisiana/Texas/Mississippi area. That being said, my instructor was truly horrified (her words) that "we" would make kids answer that way.
     
  8. TeacherGrl7

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    I am from New York, and I have to say "ma'am" and "sir" are not a part of our everyday vocabulary. The only time I hear those terms are when they are used with humor or when my Pre-Kers are pretending they are in the army. In fact, I hate the term "ma'am" and I don't like those rare occasions where people refer to me as "ma'am." I'm only 23, and the way I was raised, "ma'am" was never something you called a young woman. I realize that those few people that I know (mostly parents from other countries) are using it as a sign of respect, and I don't quite understand the subservient comment, but I just don't like it. I wasn't raised with it, it's foreign to me. I think it is a forced sign of respect. I can show respect to other adults without having to refer to them using those terms. Please and thank you are in a completely different realm to me from "ma'am" and "sir." I was always taught to be polite, but those two words were never a part of it.

    But again, I'm in New York, an entirely different area than those of you responding! And maybe that's why other people think we're rude...... ;)
     
  9. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I use ma'am and sir. I was definitely taught to do so. Most of my students do not, which I don't find necessarily rude, but a bit sad. Those few who do...I tend to fall in love with them. I tell them what great parents they have. :) I don't force them to say it, but I stress polite words. Please, thank you, excuse me: IMPORTANT!!!

    There has been quite a bit of discussion about this before, so I'll make this short and sweet.
     
  10. TeacherShelly

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    "Ma'am" and "Sir" are almost unheard of where I live. If a child used those words, I'd assume he or she was from another country or, at least, from another region of the USA.
     
  11. knittingbec

    knittingbec Comrade

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    I live & work in a military community (my husband is in the military) so I hear lots of sirs and ma'ams all the time. Walking through the commissary, I hear lots of moms correcting their children, "Yes, ma'am", and when I go running in the morning I'm often greeted with "Good morning, ma'am". It's such a normal part of life here that I can't even tell you if my students address me as ma'am... it wouldn't stick out to me at all anymore.
     
  12. wig

    wig Devotee

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    I think it is a southern and military thing. I rarely heard it when I lived in CA, NB, IL, WI, or MI. When I taught in NC, all students used ma'am and sir. We did not use those terms in Wisconsin so it was a bit of a surprise, but I certainly got used to it and expected it.

    When I moved to Il it took the longest time to get used to NOT being addressed to as Ma'am.

    However, my own children, as well as my students are expected to use polite terminology and to use the person's name when addressing them. Those that do address me as ma'am are complimented on their good manners (privately of course - it would be the kiss of death in middle school if done publicly)

    I disagree that using ma'am and sir is forced politeness or subservient unless you also think that teaching students to say "please, thank you, excuse me, etc." is also forced.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think it's definitely a regional thing.

    Those words are not used by any children I know. "Sir" is what you call a police officer who has pulled you over; "Ma'am" is what you're called in the checkout line at the supermarket.

    My own children refer to every adult as "Mr." or "Mrs." They DO treat adults with respect, but we don't use those particular terms.
     
  14. letsteach

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    I'm from England so we don't use it, I've just seen it on TV and in the movies but when I was teaching ESL in Jakarta, we had an American teacher. I asked him a question, he turned to me and said, "Yes, Ma'am". It was the first time I'd ever been called Ma'am and I was rather taken aback as it sounded very 'Southern'.

    Today in group focus time, I incorporated saying 'Please'. My little ESL students say, "I want water", "I want toilet". Now they have been taught to say, "Can I please .......". Every single thing is now "Can I please .....? from all the students. The teacher aide and I smiled that they are learning. As I say, it doesn't cost anything to have good manners and people think a lot of you if you do.
     
  15. Beth2004

    Beth2004 Maven

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    That's EXACTLY what I was going to say. The only time I'm ever called "Ma'am" is at the supermarket, and being 24, I usually consider it an insult! :p

    The only people I know that use "Ma'am" and "Sir' on a regular basis are people that are/have been in the military. My ex boyfriend was in the air force when I dated him and always addressed my father as "Sir." My father actually hated it and felt like it was fake and he was trying too hard to impress him.

    I was never taught to use those terms in addressing adults, but was definitely taught to use manners and address adults with respect.
     
  16. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    In the workshop that I just helped with, we had 2 people from California. We got into this discussion and both said that it is not something you hear out there. They said they are still adjusting. The lady told us that where she is from it is something you say to "older" people. If you say ma'am to a woman out there she will be offended thinking you are calling her old. Definitely a regional thing.
    I do expect it from my students and have been guilty in the past of reminding a child to say it to their parents. Often, I will bring a child into a parent conference to address an issue. When they start the "yeah's" with their parents (they don't with me), I immediately correct them.
     
  17. teachingmomof4

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    I have had students in the past that were from the south who have addressed adults with ma'am or sir. We have a teacher in our school who teaches the students (5th) grade to say these words. I think they are a sign of respect and I would absolutely have my students refer to others using these words. In fact, I have a couple of boys this year who, when I get stern with them, will say "yes, ma'am" or "no, ma'am." I tell them if they are going to say it that they had better mean it by giving me the respect that that title holds.
     
  18. nc4th

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    I too am from NY and it is not often heard there. You still answer with respect. Yes, please in stead of Yes, ma'am or sir, or if you know the person you use their last name it is Yes, Mrs. Last name or Mr. Last name, unless they tell you to call them by another name and in that case you use the name they tell you to use. I am now in NC and many students even parents call me ma'am. Being from NY it was uncomfortable at first especially being only 24 but I am now use to it and often catch myself using it. I definitely think it is a cultural aspect of an area.
     
  19. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    I'm technically considered "south" although we're in the northern part of south, and we expect our students to address us with ma'am and sir.
     
  20. DHE

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    I also live in the south and I expect my students to use ma'am and sir. I also expect my children to use ma'am and sir. When my 19 and 20 year old says yeah, I say excuse me. They correct themselves very quickly. I think it is a sign of respect, but I have from the Deep South.
     
  21. vannapk

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    I agree that it's a regional thing. I was born and raised in Michigan and we never used ma'm and sir and I never heard them used by anybody else either. I then lived in the Boston area for 4 years and it's never used or heard there either. But I've been in TX for 8 years now and it's the norm. I used to cringe when my students called me ma'm and other teachers forced their students to do so too, but now it seems o.k. to me. However, I don't force my students to address me that way.
     
  22. shasha379

    shasha379 Devotee

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    Of course we do in Georgia. As long as my students say "yes" and "no" I am ok, but I do not tolerate "yeah". I'm in my late 20's, but yes ma'am doesn't offend me. I was raised saying it to adults. I still use it.
     
  23. GlendaLL

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    Like your instructor, I am from Ohio. "Sir" and "ma'am" are not used here. A teacher who insisted that the students use those terms would waste a lot of time trying to enfore that the students say "sir" and "ma'am." They are "foreign" terms here! However, the students here are still polite! Teachers insist on proper manners and respect.
     
  24. Mrs.Rhinochunks

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    As I stated earlier in the thread, I believe in "ma'am"and "sir". I can see that there is a variety of opinions covering the spectrum. I do think that we can all agree that the bottom line is that teaching students to be polite and respectful is part of our responsibility as educators.

    I KNOW that first impressions are lasting and by teaching students to be polite and respectful we are arming them with just one more tool to help them be successful and productive.

    Good manners are not a weapon to make people feel uncomfortable, good manners are a tool to make people feel comfortable. So... if we are going to teach manners we must also use them and be an example to our students. Above all else, I try to keep in mind that students are people also, with lives and baggage, who deserve to be treated with respect and common courtesy just as much as I expect that behavior from them.
     
  25. loves2teach

    loves2teach Enthusiast

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    I tell my students when they say "yeah" that they need to say "yes ma'am". I think that it is disrespectful not to, but I was raised that way as well.
     
  26. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The only time that "ma'am" really caught me off guard:

    When my daughter was born, there was one male nurse in training at the local hospital. He was in the Marines, and part of his medical training required an OB-GYN rotation. So I was the patient he was assigned.

    He was required to check my stitches, and offered to have his supervisor in the room if it made me uncomfortable. I told him that he and the FTD guy were apparently the only ones in the county who hadn't yet checked my stitches, and I would be fine without the supervisor.

    But anyone who had checked my stitches was no longer allowed to call me "ma'am"... it would have to be "Alice" from that point onward.
     
  27. TeacherShelly

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    In my experience, "Ma'am" and "Sir" indicate a formal and impersonal relationship. If someone said, "Yes, Ma'am," to me I'd wonder if I'd done something to make them feel I was being overbearing or bossy. When someone calls me by my name, I feel they are being personal and comfortable with me, and I like it.

    Just another way "interpretation" makes meaning.
     
  28. Steph-ernie

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    I grew up in southern california and now teach in Arizona. Sir and Ma'am are not used around here. I had one student this year who used to live in South Carolina and is from a military family. He used to say yes Ma'am and I heard his mom correct him a few times when he didn't. I wasn't at all insulted by it, although it did sound strange to me. A few of us teachers actually talked about how sweet we thought it was that he replied like that. (not when he was around) Students here are polite, those terms just aren't really a part of their vocabulary. It wasn't a part of mine growing up, and if I'd had a teacher who required it, I would have had a very hard time remembering to use it.
     
  29. Brendan

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    My kids genreally do not call adults as sir or ma'am.
     
  30. OtterMom

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    Well, I guess perhaps it is a regional thing. My cousin in Chicago said it wasn't customary there, either, but I could have sworn that in small-town Wisconsin a couple of decades ago, we said it.
     
  31. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    LOL, Beth! My daughter is now 19 years old, and uses ma'am and sir effortlessly, it's just a part of our jargon. I can remember when she was 3, 4, 5, etc., and when she would ask me something, I would instinctively answer her with "yes" or "no, ma'am!"

    Please understand, I did not mean to imply that those who are not raised this way are in any way discourteous. I agree that respect can be shown in many ways, and not all of them verbal. For example, and this is probably another "Southern" thing, any male in my family ALWAYS removes his hat (whether it is a 10 gallon cowboy hat or a baseball cap) when he enters someone's house. I can remember my Granddaddy doing it when I was little. I enjoy discussing the differences we all share (lol), because I think it helps us all understand each other better.
     
  32. meatball77

    meatball77 Comrade

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    I've always taught in military communitys. Ma'am and Sir is expected.
     
  33. HulaGirl75

    HulaGirl75 Rookie

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    I was born and raised in Hawaii and now teach in the very same community where I grew up. Ma'am and Sir were never part of the local lingo, yet our school community includes two military bases and many of the students from military families tend to use those terms. The issue here is cultural respect. Like many have stated in other posts, teaching our students to be respectful is our responsibility as educators. The other side to that coin is having respect for our students, and being aware that they didn't all grow up with the same values and beliefs as we did. Being tolerant and teaching acceptance is an essential part of our job as well. We must ultimately be careful of our "judgements" because whether we like to admitt it or not, our own beliefs play a huge role in our class. I believe that as long as my students are respectful, I don't have to require use of terms like "sir and ma'am" as indicators of that respect. I don't see anything wrong with the terms, but they are not necessary for a child to display respectful behavior...escpecially not here in Hawaii.
     
  34. OtterMom

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    This is cool!

    TeachingMom and Mrs.Rhinochunks are just about the only posters outside the South who seem comfortable with "Ma'am" and "Sir" and they both live in Washington State.

    I live in Texas, so I like that form of address. I am considering moving to Washington State.

    Ergo, if I move, that would probably be where I should go! :love:
     
  35. teachingmomof4

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    Come on up...we'd love to have ya, ma'am. :)
     
  36. Blackberry_Girl

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    A New Englander here...Sir and Ma'am are generally only used for military around here. Having grown up right near a Navy base I heard the terms often, but it was never a mainstream term used to address others. Instead of Yes Ma'am, we were taught to say Yes Mrs. Such and Such or No, Mr So and So. Never Sir or Ma'am.
     
  37. TXTeacher4

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    This is exactly how I feel! I have lived in Texas for 22 years. My husband thinks it is important, but I don't. I don't think people should be judged as rude if they choose not to say it. I guess I don't understand why some people think it is so important. My husband can only answer with "It just sounds better and it is respectful". I am the type that has to have a concrete reason for doing things. Maybe if someone on here can tell me WHY it is polite, besides the way it sounds, I could change my mind!
     
  38. meatball77

    meatball77 Comrade

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    Why is "Whatever" not polite except for the way it sounds?
     
  39. TeacherShelly

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    "Whatever" is a complete dismissal, IMO.
     
  40. Mrs.Rhinochunks

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    This is my philosophy:

    I think it is about teaching chidren to have respectful behavior so that it becomes a part of their personality. Some people have expressed that a "yes, Mrs___________" or "no, Mr___________" are acceptable to them instead of the "sir" or "ma'am". Ultimately the acceptable response is what the classroom teacher feels is respectful and acceptable.

    General societal courtesies are being lost. Holding the door open for someone else, looking people in the eye when you speak to them, saying please and thank you.

    If we teach (and) model polite behavior we are giving them one more tool, one more advantage as they participate in the bigger world.

    I also think that having high expectations for student behavior creates an atmosphere of respect in the classroom. I believe that when challenged, people, and students are people:p, will rise to the occassion. I also think it is human nature - especially for students-to follow the crowd. If the crowd is polite... then everyone benefits.
     
  41. Beth2004

    Beth2004 Maven

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    I think you're absolutely right, but I also think that the point some people are trying to make is that you can be polite without saying "sir" or "ma'am." That's all.
     
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