Yo, teach! Why do we have to call you by your last name?

Teachers have always been addressed by their last name (please don’t check the accuracy of that statement, just go with it). This tradition is age-old and has a good, logical foundation: Using a teacher’s last name–preceded by Mr., Ms., or Mrs.–is a sign of respect. We all get that, right? But, what if you throw out tradition for a second and really ask yourself if it is disrespectful for a student to call you something else? What if the whole “that’s Mr. Teacher to you, young man!” thing is just another one of those traditions that doesn’t actually warrant being followed any longer (right up there with changing your seating chart every few weeks)?

I have always allowed my students to address me with the various off-the-wall nicknames they come up with for me. These nicknames often include the first initial of my last name, or use parts of my last name that sound like other words. Some of the nicknames even include ‘Mr.’ The great thing about this is that it’s completely organic; I am not giving them a nickname to call me. Instead, they are coming up with it and just going with it. I think it’s great! It strengthens our connection and, in an easy, fun way lets them know that I value them. Shooting down their creative name for me is like saying, “Your creativity is not valued here. Please sit down and stop having original thoughts. You’ll never need them in school, anyway.”

Now, I’m certainly not saying that you should allow or encourage any nicknames that are demeaning in some way. Squash those like a bug. And then squash the student like a bug. I’m just saying, the endearing nicknames that are cute and funny can stay. And when an administrator insists that you’re allowing your students to disrespect you, remind them that you’re building a deeper rapport with your students. And, as a bonus, you’re having a little fun along the way.

Tell them that teachers can smile too!


I have a unique perspective on teaching. As a young guy, I still have that “world is my oyster” perspective on life, so I am more than willing to try new things in the pursuit of happiness. I have always been a naturally happy person and don’t shy away from trying to make others see that it’s easy to be happy! Thus, the blog you’re reading. The main impetus for actually putting all the work in to getting this blog up and running? A coworker stopped me in the hall one day and actually reprimanded me for being so smiley all the time. They actually said that I shouldn’t be so happy as a teacher! My response? Screw that! I SHOULD be happy. I now smile at that coworker EVERY time I see them…and usually say something like, “Isn’t this such great day to be a teacher?!” They don’t usually smile back… Don’t be like them.

Posted in Positivity Tagged with: , , ,
2 comments on “Yo, teach! Why do we have to call you by your last name?
  1. Jessica says:

    Hi, I just started reading your blog, but I find this very interesting! I’m a student teacher, and I just had this conversation with some other student teacher friends of mine. Then, yesterday, a student of mine (2nd grade) asked why we call teachers Ms & Mr. Interesting topic! I don’t mind the nicknames, as long as they stay the respectful sort.

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