Excuse Me Miss...



I've bumped into a few teachers since leaving school, stopped for a chat & still wondered how an earth to address them. I've found myself waving whilst collecting family members and shouting 'hello Miss!' before it registers how silly this may sound 12 years on.  Respect for authority and my elders taught back then is now so deep-rooted that I probably couldn't count the first names of my educators on one hand. For years 'Miss' & 'Sir' have undoubtedly been the way to grab your teacher's attention from across the classroom, but is it time for change?

It's understandable why there is a call for change, the idea of calling an individual 'Miss' is seemed sexist in comparison to 'Sir', with it being the term you call any unmarried woman. With this taken into consideration, it would seem that the correct name would be 'Ma'am' but would this catch on? We can see why many suggest the system is outdated. First names have been used in sixth forms and colleges for many years and has not led to any lack of respect or discipline issues. Some behavioural issues come from the fact that kids have an inbuilt need to rebel. If you humanize teachers rather than making them authoritarian and superior, then what is there left for children to rebel against?

There is the point to consider that many children find it difficult to speak out or confide in teachers when they have a problem, we try to assert as much authority as possible in the classroom but this can sometimes result in pupils feeling segregated. I do understand how Hannah instead of 'Miss Tuck' could make me more approachable. With everyone addressing each other on first name terms it suggests that we are more or less on the same level. I know what you're thinking, that this could cause problems with the lack of respect but surely it is earned by the ways in which we act, not by the names we give ourselves.

However it is greatly argued that staff have a professional role to uphold. They are not there to be their students’ friend, but their teacher, and it’s important that a degree of professional status is still maintained. Teachers are there to educate, of course they should be friendly but there will always be a certain amount of distance between both them and their pupils. First name terms can create problems in more ways than one. Names can be shortened & abbreviated which in due course can result in a lack of respect?! Rebecca could become Becks, Emily could become Emz and before you know it children have the power to address their peers in whichever way they please. Not only this, but take into consideration that we all have a private life outside of the school gates, first and last names make it easier to track down individuals when at home or on social media and this could inevitably cause problems.

Maybe it's because of my own upbringing but I see nothing wrong with instilling proper language and etiquette at schools, I still call those in positions of authority Sir/Ma'am to this day; as my parents always insisted growing up, it doesn't cost you anything to be polite. From the moment we enter the school gates we are no longer the person we were when we woke, we do not swear, loose our temper (we save that for the car journey home) and we certainly don't talk about what happened on the weekend. For teachers it is understandable that they will have more than one identity and that different situations dictate how much they share with others. Doctors have all been called by their full names, my bosses were sometimes called by their first names, sometimes by their last. The point is, in all the settings that we are placed in, there are a myriad of ways to address the people in different situations and with all professionals respect should be shown.

All in all, irrespective of whether school uses first or last it should all be about consistency, as long as the rules are set in place, respect will be given.  I feel that it doesn't matter what we call ourselves, what is important is making a connection with each child so that they feel like they want to learn. So whether it's Miss, Ma'am, Sir, Margaret or Maggie is up to you, all that I know is that a pupil will never forget that teacher who made a difference, inspired us, motivated us, regardless of their name.