A teacher’s take on students using their teacher’s Christian name…

Do teachers earn respect through their name?

In this Topical Teaching post, it’s suggested that teachers earn respect through their surname. In Australia, I’d say that most teachers go by their surname – Mrs X, Mr Y, Ms Z. In many cultures, honorifics are widely used; think ‘Sensei’ in Japan. The thought of my students calling me ‘Sir’, for instance, is totally bizarre to me. My belief is that nowadays, the kind of ‘respect’ earned through your title is completely artificial. It pains me that at my school the teachers are instructed to go by our surnames. My students do know my Christian name, so why can’t they call me it? After all, I call them by their Christian names.

In the abovementioned post, it states,I don’t want my students to call me Michael because I believe it is important to remind them that I am their teacher and not their friend. This is important, because if you want your advise to be respected, I think it helps to have a more formal title.

Personally, I believe you earn respect through your actions, not your title. I’ve posted previously that teachers need to be warm, be caring, laugh and above all, be human. I find the ‘don’t smile for the first three months’ rule to be incredibly damaging to classroom culture, student-teacher relationships and learning. A combination of great relationships + high expectations = Respect.

Some feel very passionately that respect is earned through a name or title and will take extreme measures to uphold that ‘respect’. In this case in the UK, a student was suspended from school for 5 days simply because, outside of school mind you, he called his teacher ‘Barry’ (whose name is, surprise surprise, Barry!).

Some wonderings I have, for those that claim that allowing students to call you by your Christian name somehow puts their respect for you in jeopardy…
* Is respect only bottom up?
* Do you only respect those that are ‘above’ you and not those ‘below’?
* Do you only hold respect for those with a special title?
* When you call someone by their Christian name (your students, your own children, your wife, your neighbour…), does it mean you don’t respect them?

I know a few Primary schools are catching up to the many Secondary schools that have already made the switch to allowing students to call their teachers by their Christian names. What do you think?

Teachling<WordPress> < Twitter>

More on the topic from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on positive teacher-student relationships…
A teacher’s take on earning respect from students…


5 thoughts on “A teacher’s take on students using their teacher’s Christian name…

  1. I find this post very interesting, being a New Zealand teacher myself, as in NZ like Australia it was always Mr, Ms, Miss, etc. Then I moved to Malaysia, and I liked what they do here, they mix the first name with the designation, e.g. Mr John, Ms Mary. That is at the Primary and Secondary school level, Then at the English Language Centre level (where we are dealing with adults), the students are all from many different cultural backgrounds and countries so the names they call their teacher vary but in the end it comes down to the teacher and what students feel comfortable with, and usually it ends up being ‘Teacher John, Teacher Mary’. Initially I found the whole idea of being called simply ‘teacher’, disrespectful, but soon I realised that that was how they show respect in their culture, as a teacher has a lot of respect (unlike some western countries…sadly).

    • Thanks for sharing- interesting perspective! I suppose that’s a bit how we usually say Dr ___ for doctors? I never know what to call doctors, but often end up using their Christian name unless they introduce themselves otherwise.

  2. Thank you for this post. I’m a mother of four and our youngest child is a junior in high school. My children always called their teachers Mr. or Mrs. Y. My husband and I have always called their teachers Mr. or Mrs Y., I sometimes see one of their grade school teachers in the grocery store and I still refer to them as Mr. or Mrs. Y. To me it’s a sign of respect for all the work a teacher does in the classroom and the respect that is due him or her. I can’t speak to whether the name a student calls a teacher corresponds to academic success. I will say that when our children entered a classroom they knew the teacher was the authority, and if they got into trouble at school they would get into trouble at home. We rarely had discipline issues at school. In my opinion, there are too many parents who abdicate their responsibility to their children by defending inappropriate behavior in the classroom and blaming the teacher for not being ‘strict’ enough or that their offspring was not ‘challenged’. Perhaps if the children were taught respect in the home there would be fewer challenges in the classroom. Hope this remark isn’t too harsh or offensive but I’ve seen way too many teachers thrown under the bus by parents.

    • Hi there and great points. Yes, I still have to stop myself from calling my own childhood teachers by their ‘teacher nanes’ (Mr X, Miss Y) as I often see them at training days and at the store as I work at a school very near the one I went to! On the topic of strictness- perhaps being called by your Christian name does seem a bit casual?

  3. Interesting! I was working as a lunch supervisor in my kids’ school for five years. To denote that I wasn’t a teacher, and to make it easy on the kindergarten kids I was in charge of, I went by “Miss Tracy”. Then I started working as a supply/substitute teacher in the school. Now, many kids in grades 1-5 will call me Miss Tracy, but I tell each class at the start that my “teacher name” is Ms Mainwaring. The littlest kids love that they were connected to me previously so often still use “Miss Tracy”. My own issues are with other teachers. Having been a parent there, I know them mostly by their last names! LOL.
    I find the use of the term “Christian names” to be interesting. Here in Canada, there is so much awareness of cultural sensitivity, that we don’t use that term. It’s “first” or “given” name.

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