Mrs Schneider or Elke


I used to teach in a Canadian college (tertiary) & all students & teachers called me “Elke”.  In the past 4 years during all my practical experiences in Queensland High Schools I’ve had students call me “Mrs Schneider”.  This is not surprising considering the traditional hierarchical aspects that still persist in the Qld Education system. I understand that when I teach at a school I also need to follow the school culture which of course includes this hierarchical and “respectful” naming convention.  There was one particular private school that I went to that blasted a teenager publicly during an assembly because they had the audacity to call a teacher by her first name!

The thing is I don’t personally like being called Mrs Schneider!  I have never liked the formality of it and it doesn’t fit with the student-centered teaching & learning culture that I believe in.  I believe that creating/promoting a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom is important to allow for getting to know students thereby gathering knowledge about individuals to allow for situated practice.   I lean towards the social equity possibilities that schools theoretically can achieve (we can only try!) and I guess it just doesn’t sit completely 100% right with me that I insist/expect that students call me Mrs Schneider.  Or maybe I just don’t like that this has been expected of me and not something I am supposed to even challenge.   I can’t help but wonder IF there would be a loss or gain or neither by having students address me by my first name – just like students do in Finland!  I can’t help but wonder if this would be a small step towards avoiding the “banking system” that Paulo Freire warns against to overcome an oppressive society/education-system.

This is a minor thing and it won’t concern me too much either way when I start high school teaching.  I do think it’s something to think about though.  What do you think?



8 comments on “Mrs Schneider or Elke

  1. Margaret says:

    I guess in our society it is the first and a fundamental custom to offer respect on meeting. True respect follows later when relationships develop and blossom into …


  2. icelandpenny says:

    Hi — Your post reminds me of the reverse experience that a Parisian prof told me about. He described arriving from France to teach at UQAM (Universite de Quebec a Montreal), and his culture shock at seeing students in jeans, who addressed him by his first name. Like you in Qld, he knew he had to work with the prevailing culture, not reject it, yet like you (albeit the other way around) he was at least initially uncomfortable and had to negotiate common ground with the students. It’s probably a lesson for all of us — seeking common ground, in a way that still respects our core principles.


  3. NovaNews says:

    An insightful post, but somehow, unless those running the school – Principal, School Admin or School Board – think along these lines too, I am not hopeful that change to this deeply embedded school culture will occur. I’ve worked in schools where ‘formality’ and ‘informality’ have ruled.

    Quite a few years ago, after teaching in one school for a number of years, an Acting Principal took it upon herself at the first school assembly of the year to introduce all staff by their first names. With no consultation with staff, I was aghast! Initially I felt very uncomfortable, but soon after, quite liked the idea. My next two schools took me back to having a Mrs title slapped on me. When I moved on to my next school though, first name basis was the norm, so for the next eight years I was just plain Bev. Recognizing that the use of formal titles have no influence on the respect shown to you by students, I’ve taken a little while returning to the formality of my present school.
    It’s an interesting issue. I’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’. Arguments you present here though are valid and worthy of consideration.


  4. elketeaches says:

    Thanks for the replies. I also posted this within a private University forum and the replies generated some interesting views on this topic. It seems that the school culture will dictate what students’ will call me and like you wrote Bev, I will simply have to just ‘go with the flow’. Still, it’s interesting since many *know* what you wrote above, that “Recognizing that the use of formal titles have no influence on the respect shown to you by students” and yet it continues! oh well 🙂


  5. Margaret says:

    Now I say; go get em!


  6. Missriete says:

    Here in the Netherlands I teach primary school and I used to be called Mrs. Somewhere in the past decades however the rule changed and we found a middle ground. In primary school the children call me Miss Riete (not Mrs, even when you are married you’re called Miss as a teacher here).

    In secondary schools (12-18 year olds here) teachers used to be called by their first name since the roaring sixties, but now we are back to Mrs. and Mr.

    I personally wouldn’t want young children in my class call me Riete. We like each other but I’m not their friend (as in a friend they play with). But the fun part is that Miss Riete is now one word … my name is Missriete 🙂


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