My students call me by my first name and I kind of like it

I’ve changed my position on students calling teachers by their first names.

During my first placement was at an intermediate school where I went by Ms Lastname and was reasonably convinced that this was the way to go. I didn’t particularly want to be on a first name basis with my students due to always having to be ‘on’ as a teacher. For this placement I am with year 1/2 class at a school where everyone in the school is on a first name basis with their students and having now experienced the practice of being called Stephanie, I kind of like it.

I thought it might be weird, and it was for the first hour or so, but after that I quickly got used to it because it was simply the culture of the school. In fact the rooms in the school aren’t numbered at all but rather referred to by the teacher’s name classroom. So if I was teaching at my placement for real I wouldn’t be teaching in room 3, it would be Stephanie’s classroom. This sounds a bit egotistical at first glance but the practice seems a lot more warm and welcoming than an impersonal numbered space.

I don’t think the issue of students respecting teachers is a major one. I haven’t noticed any difference in students respecting teachers at my current placement then there was at my last placement. But I discovered that alongside not feeling so detached from my students another unintended benefit when a student talks about another teacher I no longer have to think about who Mr/Mrs Lastname is because I automatically know the teacher’s name. I also like that when I bump into my students outside of school (I live within easy walking distance) the students call me Stephanie as the alternative seems so contrived once you are out of the classroom. So why do most teachers insist on keeping up the practice inside the classroom?

The issue of teacher names isn’t something that I would go to the matresses over. However if I was given the choice, I think I would opt to be on a first name basis with my students. Nevertheless I can’t help but think that school culture might play a role in my decision as perhaps the reason I enjoy students calling me by my first name is because they call everyone by their first name.

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7 thoughts on “My students call me by my first name and I kind of like it

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  1. I agree and do not agree with that your conclusion.
    In my opinion we need to separate 2 thing, young student and mature student. If you are teaching young student, I think they need to call you teacher. It is a training for them to for respecting older citizen, leaders and etc. This is a moral training for them. We need to differentiate between professionalism and emotional. Even it better to have faith/ emotion in one job, but keep it in your heart. A young student mind is still young to absorb this kind of philosophy.

    But if you ate teaching mature student, their mind are almost fully develop, they can differentiate between respect and freedom. Even a teacher being call by name, in their mind they can understand / know how to respect others.
    Job as a teacher is not only teaching but also guide to right path.

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    1. I wonder how you explain ECE teachers then – who always go by their first names? The children must have totally lost the plot by the time they start primary by that logic.

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  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I agree that context is important in making this decision, I know there are some contexts where using first names would be in appropriate and some where it wouldn’t be age, country and culture all play a part.

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  3. Stephanie,
    I am glad to see that you enjoy having your students call you by your first name now. On that note, my high school still uses last names for teachers (even though I have been arguing for first names almost since I started; I got in trouble for it at 09/09/09), but two of my teachers last semester allowed me to call them by their first names (both of which I had had in a previous semester). It didn’t cause any problem.

    This semester I noticed a peculiarity. Not one but two social studies teachers started to introduce themselves by their first names when I introduced myself but then corrected themselves to their last names. (This had happened before with substitutes, but not full-time teachers as far as I can remember.) I’m not sure whether this matters, but both are female. When I started asking questions as to why they corrected themselves, one responded with the traditional answer of respect while the other said that the administration was against it. (This is true for the most part, except for the one administrator who lets me call her by her first name.) I asked the one who gave the respect answer why last names were considered respectful; if they instinctively introduced themselves by first name, then that must be what they really want to be called, and the school system has forced the last-name address for teachers on students and teachers alike, under the guise of respect for the teachers, some of whom would have originally wanted to be called by their first names. She couldn’t come up with a good answer; all she managed was to say it was tradition.

    I question the motives of whoever is still enforcing the last-name policy; are they trying to make us feel powerless?

    I hope this gives everyone some food for thought.

    Stephen

    —————————————————————-
    “But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.” – Matthew 23:8

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