Thursday, January 14, 2010

Titles

Next semester Preston wants the students to start calling us Mr. or Ms. So-and-So. I asked if I could have the students continue calling me Tim. I said I hated the use of titles. I said adults should have to earn respect. Preston said that titles weren't necessarily markers of respect for the person but rather for the job. Another teacher said that they marked respect for the adult. And I said, "Yeah, adult doesn't mean anything to me, though. I've always found Mr. and Ms. condescending." The other teachers argued that they hated being called Teacher, which I agreed with, but I didn't see titles as the way to avoid that. They also argued that if students ever went abroad, they'd have to know how to address people. All of which made me wonder again which kind of teacher I'm supposed to be, ESL or EFL. Several of the ETs have argued that there are plenty of great jobs in China for people who speak English. Several have said that they have no desire to leave China even though they've spent much of their education studying a foreign language. Are our student the same? If so—if, then, they're EFL students—what do we need to teach them about titles? Certainly, I'm not talking about not teaching titles; as much as I hate them, hate their distancing effects, it would be impractical not to teach them. Still, although we teach at an American school that teaches American English, I don't think we need to teach students to follow every custom. Too often titles mark entitlement. Age becomes entitlement. I hate when adults carry too much importance about themselves. As a student, I hated especially the stupid loftiness of some teachers I had, who I saw too often treat education as though students had to earn their right to it. I don't imagine myself to be the so-called cool teacher who wants his students to call him by his first name because he imagines that he's their friend. That's a different kind of stupidness, one of loneliness and condescension. I want to be called Tim because that's my name and because that's how I think of myself. Too often I find the argument for title usage a cover for something else, a restored balance for what we feel we gave away as children to adults who demanded so much of us, as though now it were our turn.

1 comment:

  1. I know that when someone calls me "Mr. Lantz" it scares the crap out of me. I think that my dad is standing behind me or something. Ey-goo!

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