“Good Morning Mrs Smith, good morning everyone.” That was the way every day at primary school would start and that is the way I, and many others have always addressed teachers.
This week, Professor Jennifer Coates said that calling teachers ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’ is sexistbecause they do not match.
Well, it’s true they are not equal. ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ would be the equivalent terms to ensure ‘women in schools a lower status than their male counterparts’ but if this is an issue, surely it is not entirely to do with names.
I do not think the thought of calling a teacher ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ being somewhat supposedly sexist would have crossed the minds of many students in this country. It’s not a conscious decision regarding what you call your teacher, you just do as you are told. There are ‘more important’ things for teenagers to do like playing games and socializing after all.
Calling your teacher Sir/Miss, Mr Bloggs, Mrs Bloggs etc. is a mark of respect and sets a precedent for the way to behave throughout your school life. Although, there are many female teachers who will correct children when they are called ‘Miss’ saying that is not their name.
According to Professor Sara Mills, some UK schools are now letting children address their teachers by their first name.
School is like a hierarchy and I think the use of a teacher’s title rather than their first name gives a sense of structure and place to children.
Being on first name terms with teachers, as students are in some sixth forms and in universities is a sign of maturity for older students. In a way, it shows that they are now old enough to be equal and not to abuse the privilege of calling a teacher by their first name.
There is a professional relationship that comes with the way pupils and teachers interact and the way they refer to each other in schools. It is when this professional barrier is obscured that problems can arise.