PARENTS

No More Yes, Sir. Calling Teachers By Their First Names

14/08/2014 17:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

No more Yes, Sir: calling teachers by their first names

When I asked my seven-year-old daughter what she did at school today she replied, "I practised my times tables with David". Confused, I said "David? Who's David?" and she said "He's my teacher, silly!"

Our primary school is introducing a first-name policy in the class room. Up until now it has only applied to teaching assistants and office staff but now the powers that be want to extend that courtesy to teachers and even the head.

So instead of Mr Thomas and Miss Wilson, it will be a more relaxed Jerome and Rachel. While it is a very liberal school, with no school uniform and no homework, I can't help feeling that this a step too far.

"It's the middle classes gone mad!" says Ruth, a former teacher and mother of two at the school. "Children are already treated like pseudo adults. What happens when they realise that society is structured on authority? It will come as quite a shock when they have to interact with it effectively."

And Ruth is not the only parent to feel this way. "It's ridiculous, I would be furious if it happened at my son's school," says Karen, mother of one. "It's a barrier-breaker too far and totally undermines the teacher's position."

I must admit, part of me agrees with them. My son is in year six and starts secondary school in September. So after two terms of "Yes, Petra" he'll be thrown back into the world of Sir and Miss and at such an impressionable age, I think it could really confuse him.

But on the flip side, this is the 21st century, shouldn't we should be shaking off the shackles of enforced authority? First names have been used in sixth forms and colleges for many years and has not lead to any lack of respect or discipline issues.

"I'm absolutely fine with it if it suits the school. What's the point of having a liberal, relaxed school, if you have to call the adults Miss or Sir?" says Lindsey, a mother of one.

"On the other hand, if it was introduced at my son's school it would totally undermine its ethos, which along with a smart uniform, has a strict emphasis on respect and that includes for elders."

Of course, there has been a real change in society since I was at school. I recently bumped into one of my old school teachers. We had a lovely chat, but even now, 20-odd years later, I couldn't bring myself to call her Barbara, even though she insisted. It's because the respect for authority and my elders taught back then is now so deep-rooted that I almost bow when I meet someone older than me!

"First names is the norm in a private school close to me," says Gillian, a former teacher and mother of two. "Over the years I've tutored children who have attended the school and they regard it as perfectly normal, I don't think it affects discipline in any way."

But is it teaching kids the wrong message or does it create a more comfortable environment between student and teacher?

While some parents are in the camp first names is another nail in the dumbing down of our education system while others agree that ditching Sir and Miss will help create teachers create more of a bond with their students.

I asked my son's teacher what she thought about the new policy. "For me, it will take some getting used to. But I've spoken to my class about it and they've responded very positively," says Petra. "I think it will depend on the class, but I can't envisage any respect or discipline issues from it."

As David, my daughter's teacher, very sensibly put it "to be honest, it doesn't matter what we call ourselves, what is important is making a connection with each child so they want to learn. That's what it's all about." And I'm inclined to agree with him.

What do you think about first names policies for teachers in schools?

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