Today while subbing I encountered a situation I hadn’t given much thought to recently: the impact names and titles used have on correlating levels of respect given. The classroom I was in had a student teacher who had recently begun his semester with the school. Unsure of his name, I waited for a student to address him (silly, I know. I could have just asked). Within a few minutes, a student approached him with a question. What they called him shocked me: “Brian.” Granted, this may be his name, but shouldn’t there be some separation between student and teacher? Typically this distinction is shown through titles such as Mr. So and So. I used my first name with students while I was still in college when I would sub, but now that I have a teaching degree, I insist on Mrs. Emokpae.
On one hand, respect should be rooted in something deeper than a name. On the other, it has to have a foundation somewhere, and how you address someone is often a significant indicator of how you view them. It used to drive me nuts that my father-in-law would insist that I refer to him as either “dad” or “Mr. Emokpae.” In my mind, I have my own father, and my own husband is Mr. Emokpae, so the distinction wasn’t there. I came to realize, however, that both terms were held in high regard in his culture and that either would be acceptable in maintaining the distinction between generations and thus ensuring that the utmost level of respect was maintained.
What do you think? Should teachers be referred to as Mr./Ms., or is it acceptable to be on a first name basis with students? Does this have an impact on the atmosphere/overall management of the classroom?