Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's in a name?

Some schools have made the change. It's radical. It's cutting edge. It's hip. Students calling teachers by their first name. How can a relationship based on respect be expected when a student, not only knows your name, but is actually allowed to call you by it? Surely anarchy must follow?
I just don't know. I really don't.
With a name like Bede, which most people assume is a nickname, there could be problems. I for one am big on names. I've had years of people mishearing, mispronouncing and replacing my name. I'm Steve, Pete or Bedee to some over the phone. Because of that I'm big on names. I'm good with names too. I make it a point to know parents by first name. I call colleagues by their name, "Hi Peter, " I would say. I find it interesting that some reply to me without using my name. I'm not asking for a Mr Gilmore, just some recognition that it's me you're talking to you. The power of the name. It can be a weapon, silence someone in one word, or bring personal praise when used in different ways.
I'm Mr Gilmore at the moment. We are all on that formal name basis. There's a big part of me that would like to change. After all, I'm Bede. Mr Gilmore is my father. I like being Bede. My name suits me. Mr Gilmore has a whole other layer to it in my opinion. It's formal. It carries mystique - you may not know my real name. What's the big secret?
I'm not sure what your school does and does it really matter? Would it make a difference to a student's learning if they could call me Bede?
I understand it's a culture thing. It's about breaking down barriers. Respect can and perhaps should be earned other ways. I dunno. I grew up calling my friends' parents Mr and Mrs. Not by their first name. Have times changed? Have they changed enough?

I'd be interested to hear from you about this. What have I missed? Are you going by first name at your school?
If you do reply, please call me Mr Gilmore though. Show some respect, please.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Oh dear, my comment was published twice for some reason and when I deleted one copy of it... both disappeared. Here it is again: I am not sure how I feel about students calling teachers by their first names. It doesn't really sit well with me. At our school our teacher aides like to be called by their first names, while our teaching and admin staff are all addressed as Miss/Mrs/Mr. I know a number of schools who find first names work really well for them though. So Mr Gilmore, can I ask a (hopefully not disrespectful!) question? How do you pronounce Bede? I'm a stickler for getting names right ;).

    Mrs Watkins aka Bridget

  3. Well, Mr Gilmore, I always encourage my (tertiary) students to call me by my given name, but a few years ago I realised that was creating problems for some of my international students who weren't so comfortable doing so. So I explcitly say at the start of each class that I prefer "Deborah", but I'm fine with them using my title and family name if that's easier for them. It's about making it easy for the students to approach me. I think that using my given name also emphasises that we are learning together, not just me up front teaching and them silently writing notes and "learning". (Scare quotes because I think that very little learning goes on with that style of teaching.)

    A bit different at school level, perhaps? I wonder if using teachers' given names might be much easier for little new entrants and for many primary school children, while a more formal approach might be better at secondary school.


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