Courtesy PD Photo.org
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – William Shakespeare
Evening Standard columnist, Frank Furedi, believes that the educational crisis facing Britain today is in part due to the way objective academic standards are being defined and asserted in the classroom.
His claim is that society seems “to have given up on adult authority and the idea that the person who knows best in the classroom is the teacher.” He believes that “education requires the conscious and regular imposition of adult authority.”
I was reminded of Furedi’s opinion when learning recently of the debate over the move by principals and teachers in some New Zealand primary schools to have pupils call them by first name. Some teachers believe that learners bond better with their teacher when they call them by their first name.
Anthropologist James Urry claims that removing the age-based hierarchy empowers children before they have the social skill to cope with it.
Canterbury College of Education associate dean, Barry Brooker, was reported as saying that using formal titles develops a demarcation between teachers and students that gives teachers the authority to do their jobs properly.
Do teachers need authority to do their jobs properly?
At The Correspondence School of New Zealand (TCS), a distance education centre, learners always refer to teachers by first name.
When I first took up a teaching post at TCS, this idea was new to me. I’d taught in different secondary schools for many years before then.
In all the schools where I taught, in Scotland and New Zealand, students called their teachers by their surname: Mr Roberts, Mrs Gill, Miss James, etc.
When I graduated PhD, the principal of the Edinburgh High School
I was teaching in announced to the school that I was to be called
Dr Allan, from now on. I've been addressed as Dr Allan, or Sir, by students in every face-to-face school I’ve taught in since.
But I had no problem when my students called me Ken at TCS.
The policy of the school was that students always referred to teachers by first name.
Other distance education centres do the same. And you know, it seems to work. I find that learners relate to me with at least as much respect as I had earned while teaching in face-to-face schools.
Are face-to-face schools so different that students calling their teachers by first name can damage the potential for effective student–teacher relationships? What do you think?