Here follows a rant.
On the BBC news today is an article, presumably to soon be tucked away in the file labelled “Stupid Things Said By People Who Have No Idea What They’re Talking About”, is this:
These labels give female school teachers “a lower status than their male counterparts”, according to academic (not teacher) Prof. Jennifer Coates. This academic (not teacher) goes on to say that pupils should be able to speak to their teachers on a first name basis.
I have some questions: did the good professor actually go to school? Does she know what school kids are like, how they are prone to behave given half a chance? The titles of “Sir” and “Miss”, which may have demonstrated a hierarchal gap in distant days of yore, are there more as a sign of respect between pupil and teacher. I suppose you could promote the female teachers to such titles as “Lady” or “Dame”, but to go as far as to let pupils use refer to their teachers by their first name is just asking for trouble.
I actually worked in secondary schools for a year or so and saw one prime example of why this first name basis not only destroys the respect between pupil and teacher, but also renders the lesson they’re teaching a complete waste of time. The teacher in question, whom we shall refer to for these purposes as Mr. Jones, was a history teacher. He was a nice teacher, laid back. Probably too much. He’d just started the new term thinking his kids deserved the chance to call him by his first name. At the same time it seems that all of the pupils in the school had recently rediscovered the classic black comedy The League Of Gentlemen. The show featured one particular character, Papa Lazarou, famous for a number of choice catchphrases, including “Hello Dave’s”.
Guess what Mr. Jones’ first name was.
Guess what he constantly heard in class!
When I was a school kid just a short time ago *coughs*, our history teacher never let slip his first name. He did, however, have a nervous tick that became more obvious the more stressed he got. During his lessons he would stroll about the classroom, talking passionately about important events of the past while moving his head back and forth in a similar style to that of a street-wise chicken. Only slight at first, but within 10 minutes of a lesson starting with our class, which had a reputation that could’ve turned the Dalai Lama to anti-depressants, he looked like he was properly “funking out” to an old James Brown tune. This earned him the name Funky Chicken (B’dum-TSH!). This mantle soon got changed when we saw him play drums in the school pantomime (and to his credit he was bloody good) which altered his name to – wait for it – Chicken Drummer! He quit the teaching profession at the end of that year.
I’m not saying every kid is as bad as my old school collective, but put them together and kids can be little buggers when they want to be, and they will use any hint of a chink in a teachers armour to make their lives difficult. Removing a line of respect like a title is at best an open invitation for classroom mockery. Yes it depends on the teacher and how they deal with the situation, but even considering this is another battle that they would have to face and don’t need.
One of my old teachers, David Balazyck, firmly believed in that line and enforced it too. After previous years spent mocking every teacher we came in to contact with, Mr. Balazyck became our year 9 form tutor. We spent the first 30 seconds of our first day under his rule mocking him, and he spent the next 3 months destroying us (in a nice way!). He enforced silence in the room, he commanded respect at every turn. And even though his first name was common knowledge, to us he was either Sir or Mr. Balazyck. One kid, Shayne, tried to mock him on our second day. He was soon made an example of, aided by the fact that he had a hairstyle resembling that of a rats carcass on his head.
I don’t know of any female teachers who have a problem being referred to as ‘Miss’. I think, as with many of their male colleagues they may prefer their title and actual name, but if the pupil has no idea what the teachers name is, ‘Miss’ appears to be fine.
People who have no real experience of the industries they discuss or even govern (Hello Mr. Gove. Hello Mr. Hunt.) should have no business in making these kind of recommendations. Leave it to the people who actually know what they’re talking about.