What should the students call you?

Tonight on TV3 television news they had a piece decrying children calling their teachers by their first name. You can view it yourself through this link here. The full text article can be found here.

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!Teachers and students on first-name basis - Story - National - 3 News

Anthropologist, James Urry, warned us that using titles like Mr or Mrs is an important part of creating boundaries for children; boundaries that are undermined by using first names. He thinks, ‘The practice threatens discipline and that titles help children understand boundaries.’

Last year when I didn’t have a class of my own and worked mostly with adults everyone called me Allanah. The world did not stop turning, no one was mean to me and I never had anyone disrespect me. On my return to the classroom this year I thought I would give it a go as I felt I was a bit old to be Miss King and suggested the children could call me what they wanted- Allanah or Miss King.

Now they call me a mixture of titles- one great spin off is that everyone now pronounces my name correctly- the children have taught their parents how to pronounce it how my family have always pronounced it. I even get called Mum, Dad, Nanna, whatever.

I don’t feel any harm has been done by being Allanah. It is not school policy and some teachers at school prefer their titles and it is their choice. Surely we should have choice over what people call us- fairly fundamental I would have thought.

What do you think?

10 thoughts on “What should the students call you?

  1. Interesting. I’ve often thought this year that I’d like to go with the first name thing. I have 2 Jarrod’s in my class and just about answer everytime someone says the name. Going into our 3rd year together, the relationship in the class is brilliant and I think that the first name would work well. My biggest issue is that i’d be the only one doing it and I’m too wussy to step out of the box!

    Jarrod Lamshed

  2. I agree that you should be called whatever you want to be called by whomever you wish. First names, surnames, whatever. We don’t have any particular policy at our school regarding titles (that I’m aware of…) but I’m not I would be comfortable with my students calling me Mark (although they all know).
    When I first started teaching at this school, I told the kids in the junior school that they could call me Mr B, which I found fine (although other more ‘mature’ teachers did not agree with). The older kids still called me Mr Buckland.
    However, these younger kids are now the seniors, and now everybody calls me Mr B, because that is what they are used to. I don’t have a problem with this, but as I said, other don’t like it. It does make naming things a lot quicker and easier 🙂
    Thanks for the post Allanah / Miss King / Madam / Baroness / Her Highness / Matriarch of Moturoa / Late for Breakfast.
    (Take your pick).

  3. I’m called by my first name only currently – has worked successfully for the past 3 years and I LOVE IT! So great that parents can feel comfortable calling me Rachel in front of their children (without being disrespectful). I admit that it felt weird to start and it has been a part of our school’s culture for many years now as far as I know but I am having trouble thinking about being called anything else. Will actually be approaching my new Principal and seeing if being called Rachel next year is at all a possibility… time will tell.

  4. Matriarch of Moturoa has a nice ring to it.

    I must admit that at the beginning it sounded a bit odd having kids call me Allanah. I like the informality of it. Like @Durff often says, ‘We are all learners’and putting your name on the same level as the kids seems right- I am not sure that teachers should be on some pedestal of some hierarchy anyway. I don’t feel I need a title before my surname for people to show me respect. You get respect by earning it through my actions and interactions.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. At our school (Russell Street, P.N) we have been on first name basis for the past 6 years and it’s not an issue. Respect and trust is earned – not because you a called by an honorific. As we know in education (and life) relationships are key and paramount – if we get the relationship right, then learning and other aspects will flourish. Even our 85 year old librarian (who doesn’t look a day over 60) is called by her first name. If she can change and embrace it, then anyone can.

  6. I started at a new school this year and thought I’d give the first name thing a go. It has been fantastic. I think I’m actually more relaxed and comfortable about it. There has been no lack of respect – on the contrary the kids are always respectful and polite. i agree with Rachel – it makes it easier for parents to call you by your first name in front of their children.

    Jarrod,, I am the first to do it here too, and not sure that it was appreciated by all staff, but hey, life’s about being flexible and accepting change! They’ve got over it!

  7. I have to agree with Regan – it’s the values/attitude that we instill in and have with our students and vice versa that makes the difference!! If we have that balance right, the first name thing shouldn’t even be a debate I think – we could work by what is right for us!! 🙂

  8. I work in French, and the issue of first name is more than just that. French also has formal and familiar pronouns: “vous” and “tu”. Their use indicates levels of “proximity”: you use “tu” for a close friend or relation, and “vous” in other cases. The clerk serving a customer should use “vous”, for example. You would “tu” a child, indicating you are safe and friendly, but “vous” an elder to show respect. And the first name relationship is linked to this. The issue of calling teachers by their first name is alive and well in French also. I tend to agree that it is important that children learn that our language is rich and carries a social message. But so as not to create too great a distance I’ve done what many of my colleagues do and ask the children to call me Miss Christiane, a compromise that indicates a certain closeness, but also carries the meaning that I am their teacher, not their next door buddy. And I also prefer that they learn to use “vous” when talking to adults.

    Old fashioned? I don’t think so. My daughter, who is a police officer, must use VOUS whenever she addresses anyone, even a young punk on the street. It changes the dynamic of the exchange and helps her maintain a professional stance in the encounter. Words matter.

  9. You and your students are all so cute. Whatever your students call you, I think its their ways to show cares on you and your lessons. Besides, it means that they have learned from you a lot on these words.

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