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?

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


Teacher-Student Relationships: Do Primary Schools Do It Better?

A teacher’s take on building positive teacher-student relationships…

Not many teachers (or students!) would argue against a happy classroom. A learning environment in which students are engaged and feel supported. A positive environment that leads to higher academic achievement. A friendly classroom. Quality student-teacher relationships that improve not only learning, but the whole education experience.

So, after reading Kath Murdoch’s post “Do you know me well enough to teach me?” I had the thought, perhaps Primary Schools do the whole ‘relationships thing’ better than High Schools do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticising High School teachers; actually I think there might be a few things that stop them from developing the same quality, positive relationships with their students as their Primary counterparts…

 1.       Not enough contact time… Aka. “I only see them a few times a week!”
Primary School teachers see their students almost all day, every day. Primary School teachers have all the time in the world to ‘start the year slowly’. We could give up a whole month to building relationships, developing a class culture, developing norms and protocols and getting to know our students. Some High School teachers might see their students for just a couple of hours a week. When, then, is all this ‘relationship building’ supposed to occur? Besides, wouldn’t a teenager’s parents be outraged if they found out their child has spent all that time on the warm and fuzzies, rather than actual learning?! Also, we can’t forget the fact that High School teachers have many students in many classes, whereas the average Primary teacher has just 25.

 2.        The importance of relationships is taken for granted… Aka. “They’re teenagers. They shouldn’t need that warm and fuzzy crap!”
This follows on from point 1 I suppose. By the time kids are High School students, the onus is placed firmly on them to be engaged with their learning, their peers, their teachers. When kids are little we actually teach them explicitly how to make friends and teachers spend an awful lot of time getting to know each child personally, as people, not just learners. We do this so that we’re invested in their development and that they know this. We do this so that we can personalise the learning experience for them. Teenagers should just got on with their work, shouldn’t they?

 3.       The students are over it… Aka. “Teenagers hate everyone and everything!”
Yep, teenagers are surly zombies! The only thing they like about school is their friends, if they’re lucky enough o have some. They hate learning. They hate homework. They hate adults –  their teachers and heck, they hate their parents most of all! How on Earth is some daggy teacher meant to get through to these grumpy beings?

 4.       Teachers aren’t there to be their students’ best friend… Aka. “I need to maintain the power”
We all experienced a Miss Trunchbull-type teacher at some time during our own schooling. There’s a growing body of research that says the way to get through to students is through building positive relationships, featuring a few key ingredients. Care. Warmth. Empathy. Respect. Trust. This is at loggerheads with the traditional description of a teacher. Dare I say, if a teacher has quality relationships with their students comprising such ingredients, it does away with the need for ‘power’.

Anyway, High School teachers, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Like I said, it certainly isn’t an attack. What barriers stand in your way, building relationships with your students? If you’ve broken the mould and do have great relationships with your students, how have you done it?

There’s a whole lot of articles, blog posts and research to read on the topic of Teacher-Student Relationships. Click here, here, here, here, here or here to read more!

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More on ‘relationships’ from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on parent-teacher relationships…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt2…
A teacher’s take on respecting teachers, pt1…
A teacher’s take on earning respect from students…