Thursday, February 24, 2011

Too Familiar?

I always wonder where you draw the line when, as a parent, you address a teacher--and vice versa.

I've known Little Brother's teacher since he was an infant, and we've been on a first-name basis, which is fine until I'm in the school building, and suddenly, though we are about the same age, I want to call her "Mrs. [insert last name here]." Even when there are no kids around!

The familiarity is fine, I think, when you've known the teacher for a while, when you've volunteered side by side with the person.

But over the past couple of days I have had occasion to email Middle Sister's algebra teacher. I've only met this teacher once--at Back to School Night. He doesn't know me from any of the other parents of his 75 students (or his 75 choir members). He never taught Big Brother. And he's young enough that he could have been one of my students, back when I was teaching.

Yet despite the fact that I addressed my email to him: "Mr. [insert last name here]," he responded back with "Barb."

I did sign my email with my first AND LAST names. Perhaps he didn't feel like typing my whole last name. I'd never in a million years, though, think that it's OK for me to call him by his first name--and I'm at least 10 years his senior.

Really? Is that OK? If you were a teacher, would you do that? I've received emails from several other teachers in the same school in past years, and this is the first time this has happened.


Denise said...

This may be a generational thing. We have always raised our children to say "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am" (or yes sir and no sir). With my older three children this always won kudos from the teachers. There is a four year gap between my third and fourth child. My youngest has been directed by young teachers (teachers young enough to be my child) to drop the formality. In fact, he had an elementary school teacher who made fun of him in front of the class for calling her "ma'am". Never one to be shy, he told her that he was raised in a military family and such titles were a sign of respect.

Aimee said...

Yes, it's too familiar for him to address you as Barb. I also definitely think it's a generational thing. I regularly have friends who want my children to address them by their first names instead of "Mr." and "Mrs." I have to explicitly tell them that I do not want my children calling adults by their first names because adults are not their peers. My friends seem baffled by this concept.

Last year, Francie's school got a new music teacher, right out of college. She came home talking about "Justin" said this and "Justin" said that . . . I thought she was talking about a new student! When she explained that the teacher told all the kids to call him "Justin" I told her that under no circumstances would she do so. Luckily, our prinicipal actually spoke with the teacher privately and asked him not to let the children call him by his first name. She's old school, like me. ;)

Denise said...

Aimee, a compromise that seems to satisfy the need to respect elders as well as the desire of some adults to be called by their first name is to have your children call them "Mrs. Julie" or "Mr. Mark". Even in my own childhood (mid 60's) there was an older couple that all the neighborhood kids called "Bob" and "Ruth". We called them "Mr. Bob" and "Mrs. Ruth". When I went back to visit them twenty years later I still couldn't bring myself to call them by their first names. I called them "Mr. Bob" and "Mrs. Ruth".