Friday, October 10, 2014

What's In a Name? RESPECT

During a pleasant conversation over frozen yogurt yesterday with another newbie teacher at my school, I remarked casually how much I enjoy hearing "Yes, ma'am" from my students -- because I hear it a lot and it's new to me.

She smiled and said, "Oh, I expect that. It's a Texas thing." She has a student who just moved here from the north, and she has to keep reminding herself that the poor thing is not necessarily being rude when he answers her with a "Yeah" instead of a "Yes, ma'am."

"Ma'am" and "Sir" are the expected ways to address your elders in these parts, my friend tells me. Now I'm wondering if Texans find my daughters rude. (Although I doubt it.)

This discussion stirred up memories of similar conversations with friends in New Jersey about how our children were to address us, their friends' mothers. The standard among most of my friends was "Miss _____". As in, "Miss Sue" . . . "Miss Judy" . . . "Miss Marilyn." I had taught my daughters to call their friends' mothers "Mrs. So-and-So" right off the bat, because this is what I was used to. Some friends accepted that and got used to it. Others told my daughters to call them Miss Such-and-Such . . . which my girls rarely got the hang of.

"I figure, my kids hear me calling adults by their first names," my friends told me, "It'll just confuse them if they have to call them by a different name." Confuse them? Uh -- no. I grew up with this system in place and never got confused. The woman I called Mrs. Garnett my mother called Leona. Simple as that. In fact, it was very helpful; I learned people's full names.

But I willingly accepted whichever name these kids gave me, as long as they were spoken with respect. I never got offended at being called Miss Gwen. However, I did get offended when the "Miss" was left off.

There was one little girl living near us whom we had over for a couple playdates. When I first met that child on my front porch and she enthusiastically greeted me by my first name, I wondered what I was going to do with that. Since her mother didn't correct her, I decided to let it alone.

But as the playdate went on, I realized that this girl did not see me as an authority figure in her life; she saw me as her peer. When I told her to do something, she took that merely as a suggestion. She even asked me personal questions that I thought were ENTIRELY out of line for a six-year-old to be asking of an adult. (And this seemed to be typical of the other schoolmates my daughter had who called me by my first name.)

(On a side note: It wasn't surprising when her mother came to pick her up and had to say, "We need to go" twenty-three times before her daughter gave an inkling of response. Twenty-three times. Yes, I counted.)

By about the third playdate, my inward fuming got the best of me. I finally -- politely -- told the young lady that I preferred that she call me "Mrs". She looked at me as if to say, ohhhh, you're one of THOSE people . . . Whatever, kid.

The next time she called for a playdate, I answered the phone and she said (dripping with sarcasm and attitude), "Hi, Gw- . . . I mean . . . Missuzz Ka-" . . . and I immediately knew that I could not have this child in my home today or I might slap her cheeky little cheek. Fortunately, my daughter wasn't fond of her either. That friendship faded away quickly.

So, yes, I'm enjoying the "Yes, ma'ams" in my classroom. One of the many things I'm finding they get right in Texas.

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