How Should Students Address Their Teachers
Found in: About Business
Karen T., Illinois
What do your students call you?
Last night one of my students saw me while out shopping. She got my attention to say hi to me by saying, “Karen!” Took me by surprise that a young girl, about age 11, would call me by my first name. Then I remembered – when I was first starting up and getting my new students, I would meet them at the door and say, “Hi, I’m Mrs. Tucker.” Except twice. Once I said, “Hi, come on in!” Her and her Mom called me Miss Karen. And once I said, “Hi, I’m Karen.” Oops! I realized it as soon as I’d said it, but I’d said it. That’s the girl who just called me Karen last night. How do you introduce yourself to your student’s, and what do they call you?
Last night’s episode has caused me to re-evaluate my assumption that everyone has to call me Mrs. Tucker. Upon re-evaluation, I still think that’s what I want. I don’t care for Miss Karen, because I’m not single. I don’t care for Karen, because it’s too familiar for a student/teacher relationship.
But having said that, I’m willing to hear and consider other viewpoints. What do you do?
Robin Keehn, Washington
Our students, both Kindermusik and SM, call us “Teacher Robin and Teacher Carry.” It is respectful but friendly. I introduce myself to children that way so that they know how to address me from the start.
Ginny W., Western Australia
The first thing that occurred to me is that there may be cultural, generational and regional differences and expectations that different teachers face the regarding names we go by. I’m not sure about different US locations, however it seems to me that, except in the school system (although even here there are exceptions), Australians seem to tend towards informality with regard to titles and names.
Personally, I don’t have a problem at all with being called Ginny by everyone, since that is the name I go by, and it has never been an issue. For me, to use a title would be to create a ‘chasm’ between my students and myself (some of whom or whose parents I knew personally before the started learning Simply Music) that would feel artificial and wouldn’t reflect my interpretation of the Simply music philosophy that ‘everyone is musical’. It would perpetuate a level of formality that doesn’t appeal to me about traditional music learning environments and which Simply Music has the opportunity to change somewhat. It would also feel decidedly odd to have my students, who are my age or older than myself, (I am 39) calling me Ms, Miss or Mrs. anything!
Most of the people in a community choir I direct are considerably older than me, but we also all go by first names and it feels appropriately familiar.
I guess I see myself more as a facilitator of other’s learning and musicality, than as a teacher in the traditional sense of the word. I think there are other ways to engender respect, create appropriate teacher/student boundaries and thus ‘claim territory’ as Neil would put it.
Lois B., Hawaii
I couldn’t resist sharing with you how my students address me in class and on the streets here in Hawaii. Here, local culture embraces a certain familiarity based on the Hawaiian concept of “ohana,” or family. Many adults, whether familiar or not, are referred to by children as “Aunty” or “Uncle.” For example, in a restaurant, the waitress taking your order can be called “Aunty” even if the child has never met the
person before! 🙂 So as a combination of respect and familiarity, most of my students call me “Aunty Lois.”
Kind of a unique situation to be sure, but one that has worked well for the 10 years I’ve been teaching traditionally.
I have so much to learn in the Simply Music realm I feel like a “baby”, but I’d have to say that’s a good thing, since infants are so open to learning all things new. I read with interest the many Simpedia postings and have appreciated all your insights and experiences. Thanks for sharing!
It’s not as easy to define, particularly amongst those of you with children-based studios, and even more so for those of you with Kindermusik backgrounds where, in many instances, you’ve had those children since they were born etc.
I would suggest that almost all of us who went to traditional schools rarely, if ever, called our teachers by their first names – but, that’s what happens in the culture of typical schoolrooms. It’s different for us, as independent, self-employed teachers, where we have a ‘customer-type’ of relationship with the student (who is always the adult!), and a ‘teacher-type’ of relationship with the person having the lessons (who is commonly the child of the student!). I hope you can get your head around this concept.
The cultural differences between the USA and Australia are not so noticeable on an individual basis, but they are really very significant when extrapolated across the 300 million or so people that are here, as compared to the 18 million or so in Australia. More striking is the diversity that arises according to which region of the USA you live in. More conservative areas share a more common stand with regard to how ALL people are addressed. In fact, the use of the words, “Sir” and “Ma’am”, are quite naturally prevalent and routine, even amongst customers in stores and businesses where everybody is an adult. When I first arrived in the USA, I wasn’t used to it and found it quite formal, but over time, I grew to both like and respect the courtesy. This type of thing just doesn’t happen in Australia, in anywhere near the same way nor to anywhere near the same degree. The USA and Australia can be like night and day in this and many other areas.
I consider myself a pretty ‘strict’ teacher in some respects, but allow that to be mostly expressed in the ways in which I handle students and address their ‘stuff’. Having said that, and with regard to how people addressed me, my personal leaning is towards more informality and a higher degree of intimacy and relationship, and as such, my student’s almost always called me Neil. However, in their first lesson, I always asked the parent if they enforced standards with regard to this, and if so, I honored the parent’s wishes. If the parent had no particular, established standard, I would then ask the parent if they minded me giving their child permission to call me by my first name. Some parents said they would rather their child call me Mr. Moore, and so occasionally it came to pass. In the scheme of things, it really should remain an insignificant issue.