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!