That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet. Act ii. Sc. 2. 1
When I went to my first placement in a primary school last year I was shocked to find that some of the teachers allowed the students to call them by their first names. When I say some I mean the two Prep/One teachers. These teachers (lets call them Teacher A and Teacher B' because I cannot remember their names) also shared a classroom and team taught.
So with what to call myself sorted my placement went along fine. Stepping into that Prep/One class though really shocked me. Students calling teachers by their first names, how odd!
As I had never thought about this before then it instantly had me thinking. Hearing myself be adressed as Miss Last Name was something that I had resigned myself to, something that I would get used to eventually. Now I contemplate the choice that I may have when become a teacher, to be called Miss Last Name or by my first name. I say choice because not all schools have the same policies, some schools may enforce teachers being addressed by their last names and others may have no issue with either. I think that I would most likely ask about the possibility if I was in a school where the teachers were called bu their last names if it would be possible for me to be addressed by my first name but it would not be an issue that I would push as a graduate teacher.
First before I go into the different arguments for and against the issue I have to state that my opinion is biased. My opinion is based on the fact that I think that it would be extremely odd to hear myself be called Miss Last Name. Therefore I lean towards being called by my first name.
In preperation to making this post I looked at alot of other blogs, newspaper articles and websites to see what other people think on the matter.
Alot of people who agree with the idea of calling teachers by their first name says that it establishes a more comfortable feeling in the class between the students and the teacher which allows the students in addition to feeling comfortable with expressing themselves at school to develop a higher level of trust with their teacher. Calling a teacher by their first name reflects a more interactive style of classroom where the teacher is more a facilitator in the learning process rather than a harsh know it all who shoved information down students throats. It also would help facilitate the transition of the younger students into Prep as they are used to calling their Kindergarten teacher/s by their first name.
However there has to be a firm line between teacher and friend. A teacher cannot be a students friend. I what Mike a director of a small (40 student) private elementary school in California says on the topic. I found the following as a comment on a blog post:
The kids don’t seem to care on a conscious level, but it does frame the tenor and quality of the relationship, to one that feels, to me, more authentic and honest.
But not less authoritative, to be sure. I had a 13 year old student ask me last week, in the context of a conversation about an iPod rule, “Mike, we’re friends, right?” To which I replied, “no, we’re not. When you graduate next year and all this is over, I hope that perhaps we can be. But right now I’m the director of your school, and this is the rule.”
I agree with the assesment that it would help students feel more comfortable in class. It would be easier to ask questions, take a chance if they did not think that the teacher was intimidating. Calling someone by an honorific creates a degree of seperation between you and them.
On the same blog post I also saw this comment by Stephen who is a year 11 student:
When a teacher allows me to call her/him by first name, I feel like it facilitates mutual respect instead of going all one way. As you seem to know very well, teachers are people too, but calling them by last name makes it seem like their only purpose is to tell us what to do, but using first names makes teachers seem more receptive to our ideas. A teacher who insists on a title may be doing so just to conform to tradition. If titles are mandatory, how are they respectful anymore? And who came up with the idea that using surnames (which originally came about to distinguish between two people with the same name) is “respectful” anyway?
This brings up another point, respect. We call teachers by their lasts names to give them respect. We mostly do not call school office workers, cleaners or music teachers who tutor us one-on-one by their last names. If we play a sport we often do not call the coach by their last name. Working a part time job I have never called an employer by their last name. I never called any of my friends parents by their last name and my friends never did either. In fact outside of school unless asked no students call an adult by their last name. So why is it different in schools.
The following is from an article titled Promoting Learning...by Dr. Marvin Marshall. This is an extract from that article:
A prime reason to have students address a teacher by the teacher's given name ("Call me Joyce") is in an attempt to establish positive relationships. Basically, it is an attempt to have students like the teacher. The approach is misguided.
When teaching at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, my room was next to that of the oldest teacher I had ever seen. (Perhaps my perception was due to my youth.) When I became instructional coordinator at the school, I had an opportunity to see this teacher in action, and I discovered why her students loved her. I also understood why so many of them came back to visit her.
Her "secret" was that she empowered her students. She regularly and consistently brought to their attention the progress they had made and encouraged them by focusing on their successes. She taught by the concept that an ounce of encouragement after a failure was worth more than a pound of praise after a success.
It is a given that all students will not be attracted to all teachers. It is also a given that respect, rather than being liked, is the hallmark of great teachers. But chances of achieving both are far greater through encouragement and empowerment than by saying, "Call me by my first name."
The main/ only reason behind calling a teacher Miss Last Name seems to be the matter of respect. But if you are a good teacher you should be able to gain and maintain your students respect regardless of what name you choose to be known by. I think that all teachers should be able to chose how they are adressed by their students. A good teacher should be able to empower and encourage her students like the teacher above. I do not believe that any teacher who asks her students to call her by her first name is doing so with the belief that it will instantly gain her the respect of the class as the article seems to suggest. I believe that it would be a positive step but that it needs to be coupled with good teaching.
However if I were looking to teach in a high school setting rather than a primary one I must admit that I would be more wary of using my first name at least untill was remakably older than the students that I was going to teach. When I finish my degree I will still be fairly young and there will not be much difference between my age and the age of the year 12 students. I might allow year 7s to call me by my first name but definately not year 12's. I would feel the need to seperate myself from them and be seen as more professional so I would have them address me as Miss Last name.
One other option is to have students address you as Miss First Name. If I am employed by a school where their policy is tha teachers need to be addressed by their last names as Miss/Ms/Mrs or Mr(for the guys) I will accept and get used to it. However looking at all the arguments on both sides I would prefer to be called by my first name so everyone myself as the teacher, the students and the parents can be more comfortable.