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Monday, July 30, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name

According to my birth certificate, I am Anthony Mario Lucchese. My father is Catholic and when my parents had trouble conceiving, they prayed to Saint Anthony for a miracle. I can only assume that he is the patron saint of awesome, because here I am. Mario is my father's name and his father's name. My mom flat out refused to have a III, and for that I thank her. I get enough Nintendo induced flack as it is. Lucchese, of course, is my Old World Italian familial. It is also one of the big names in organized crime and boot manufacture, though I'm sure not by the same folks. My friends call me Tony.

What's my point, you might inquire? Simply that I am going to be standing in front of a classroom in a few years, and I'm wondering what name to write on the board.

When my parents divorced (evidently not all their prayers were answered,) I was but six years old. Within a few years, I had two new step-parents, whom I love dearly. From the beginning, I called them by their first names. When I was twelve, I got my first summer job, and I worked predominantly with adults. I called all of them by their first names. For as long as I can remember, it just seemed natural to call all people, regardless of age, by their first name, assuming at least a passing familiarity. I know many people find this disrespectful. My father, for one, still has my friends call him Mr. Lucchese, even though they are all adults. But I am not a Mister; I'm just me.

As I grow older, and find myself reaching the other side of the generation gap, it still feels unnatural to be anything but Tony. I have worked with high-school age kids for several years now, and I allow them to call me by my first name. I have never had any trouble commanding respect. Do I really need to add what feels like an artificial title now? Do I have to be Mr. Lucchese, or can I leave that to my dad?

I understand that some students might feel uncomfortable calling me Tony, and for those I'll accept a more formal address. But for the rest, I'm inclined to allow anything that isn't vulgar or disrespectful. Coach, teach, chief, oh captain my captain, or just plain Tony. Will my school allow me to do this? Are there rules that I must follow? What does everyone else do?

Just something on my mind.

9 comments:

Jackie said...

Tony...Mr. L... Teach,

I think it largely depends upon the school in which you will be working as to how the students will address you.

F.Y.I. - I just finished my student teaching. Professionalism was very important to my university supervisor (he frowned upon wearing jeans on Friday with school colors - as was the standard teacher dress at that school). I'm not sure I would have passed had my students called me by my first name.

The school at which I'll be working in the fall - calling staff by first names is highly frowned upon.

If this is something that is important to you, you should keep this in mind when you're looking for a job.

afm said...

Maybe it is my incredible love of Dead Poets Society or just that you mentioned a W.W. quote but I think that if you have gained the respect of your students, any name will suffice. Respect doesn't necessarily mean just calling you Mr. ?; it will be years from now that you know the meaning you had on your students.

BSB said...

FWIW, my students are in college, but they all call me Brandi. It's never been a problem and my department chair has never commented. Obviously, there are likely to be more "decorum" rules in secondary education than in a public university, but as far as having students respect you, it's got nothing to do with what they call you. The most arrogant disrespectful little piss-ant I ever had to deal with always made a point of calling me "Dr. Snow-Bozarth" which I don't even put on my syllabus. How pretentious would that be?

afm said...

BSB, What I was referring to in my comment was directed to the writer's article/blog piece. Somehow your name of "disrespectful little piss-ant" makes one wonder about the respect you have for your students.

BSB said...

(Sigh) Somehow I think I've stepped on toes without meaning to. afm, my comment was also addressed to the original post - I'm not sure I take your meaning. As for respecting my students, as I said, they're college kids. So I treat them like anyone else - I treat them all with respect and professionalism and actually respect most of them. They're adults, though, so there are exceptions to how I feel about them, just as there are in any setting.
My point was simply that in my six years of teaching college kids, I've only had three that referred to me by anything other than my first name. Two were obviously insincere in their "respect" of my position. In essence, I think we were making the same point, which was that it doesn't matter what your students call you, as long as they take something from what you've tried to teach them.

Tony said...

I'm glad to finally have an argument here at Pencils Down, even if it stems from a misunderstanding. It's pretty clear that most of us agree on this issue. I'll just have to take it into consideration when I start interviewing, as Jackie suggests.

BSB said...

That was a goal? You should have said so! I start them all the time (I'm fortunate enough to get paid for it), and I could have actually done it on purpose instead! It feels a little weird to be accidentally arguing with people for a change.

afm said...

"Mr. Anderson! Don't think that I don't know that this assignment scares the hell out of you!"..........DPS

Rebecca said...

When I was a graduate student, I had a fellowship that paired me with a high school teacher. That teacher had his students call me Mrs. My-last-name, but some of the other fellows at other schools were called by their first names. I believe all the teachers were referred to as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so, though. Like your other commenters said about their experiences, it seemed to depend upon the culture of the school.

Personally, when I was a teaching assistant, the students called me by my first name. Now that I'm out of school, when I teach a class that isn't graded, I go by my first name. But if I get the opportunity to teach a class that's graded, then I will expect them to call me Dr. My-last-name, because it keeps a professional distance between them and me. And for a woman in a male-dominated field, I think it's particularly important to leverage any kind of authority you can get. I can't afford to appear to be at the same level as my students.