Please address me as...
Paul Deck brought up and interesting and important question about relationships in general and the student-teacher specifically.
Paul's comment was about the growing use of M.(Given Name) as opposed to M.(Family Name).
As an American over 70, I've found this a bit weird but my travels outside the USA have taught me that other cultures have a broader range of terms of respect. The use of M. (Given Name), in some cultures indicates a slightly closer degree of familiarity than M. (Family Name) while still being slightly formal.
Americans tend to be either M. (Family Name) versus a direct reference to your given name with some exceptions for professional credentials.
The question becomes: what do you prefer and have you communicated that with the people you deal with?
My impression is that the "Mx. FirstName" convention started with Gen X. To us, "Mx. LastName" refers our parents, and it felt weird to be addressed as such. But just a bare FirstName seemed to be too informal for children speaking to adults, and so "Mx. FirstName" became a common convention.
I have found that hospital nurses seem to use the Mx. FirstName format and I find it somewhat offensive - especially after they have retired and are in a social context. Be familiar or formal, either way, I don't care - that's what I think but this middle path can sound like an attempt to stress dominance - at least in American culture. I would not take offense were the other person from a different culture.
Indeed, tradition is usually quite a poor reason for doing just about anything. The safest thing is to just ask people how they'd like to be addressed. My violin teacher prefers that his young students call him 'Mr. (first name)'. Because I accompany some of his other students on the piano, I'm introduced as 'Mr. Paul'. I would prefer just 'Paul' but I acquiesce because (a) it doesn't really matter, and (b) he's just being self-consistent, and (c) it's his studio and those are his rules. Likewise, if I'm at a party, say, with colleagues, and there are some children there, I don't insist on being called 'Paul' if I know that the parents are trying to teach 'Mr. Deck.' I have an acquaintance who insists on 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.' for everyone, and he prides himself on getting all those titles right. But he insists on calling me and my wife 'Dr.' and 'Dr.'. Well technically that's correct because we both have PhD's, but in our field (chemistry) the title is not used in private life so it's almost a little embarrassing to be addressed that way. I cringe a little inside, but I move on because I know he's only trying to be respectful, albeit in rather idiosyncratic fashion.
Mx.FirstName seems to me to be much more prevalent in the southern United States than in the north.
If I were beginning lessons with a new teacher I would ask them how they want to be addressed. Most of this seems to fall in line with the culture and area a person is located coupled with a feel for the individual preference.
The north-south distinction is much less than it used to be, especially in urban centers where the populations are more blended and where the local public schools have more basic disciplinary issues to deal with than whether a student is saying "sir" or "ma'am" and such. Still, even where I live, which is a college town and therefore heavily populated with not only northerners but also immigrants, I don't have to drive very far to find myself in places where "sir" and "ma'am" are useful conversational lubricants.
I kind of figured this might be the case Paul with the Homogenization of large areas down there. Good to know it hasn't all gone away. You're in Virginia?
Timothy, yes, the "deep south" still exists. 500 miles south would put me in Brunswick, GA. But ANOTHER 400 miles beyond that and I'd be in Miami...
I used to have an Argentinian girlfriend. When we were in Spain she would address a person as either Senior Deck or as Don Paul. Perhaps the latter, or the Japanese Paul San, with the help of Family Guy's Mexican cleaning lady all goes towards making this form of address popular.
I would have been about 180 miles west of there. The dialect down there is modified Queen's English.All prim proper and mannerly...with a slight twang.True southerners have class.
Indians often use Mister as a way of expressing anger, so it may be best just to be relaxed about it all.
"When in Rome..." does not always apply. You will never learn how to properly bow to a Japanese person. If you attend church because your friend invited you, call the office beforehand to find out what their policies are for taking communion. Etc.
A lot of interesting responses. I do note that just about all the respondents translated my given and family name designations into the Anglo/American First and Last.
I've taught in 4 different environments: Elementary classroom, university tutorial, adult group lessons, and private 1/1 sessions.
I grew up in Dubai, where a lot of people are from South Asia. In South Asia it's common for people to be addressed as Mx Firstname in any social setting. (There are practical reasons for that: English is a lingua franca there and last names may be especially difficult to pronounce; and in some regions last names were not used historically are a relatively recent introduction.)
Perhaps similar, when I was a kid I insisted on being called Andrew, not Andy. But most people have always called me Andy, and I've learnt to accept it.
One of the things I've always loved about music is that age,sex etc. don't matter in the slightest. To go back to youth orchestra days, I played with someone who played with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 14. At that stage, our conductor had been 1st trumpet in the L.S.O for 5 years. Both were just known (and addressed) by their given names. It's been the same always. To make me feel really old, in one of the gigs I did recently, I was chatting to a girl in the section who said she'd been at school with my youngest daughter.
To specifically reference a pupil / teacher relationship, children would tend to refer to "Mx XXX" - as they would outside music. In more adult situations, I'm just "Malcolm" to everybody. The same goes for every student an teacher I know.
I agree with those who say you should ask how someone wants to be addressed. It is not just a matter of cultulre, but personal preference plays a role as well. I know some people, for instance, who go by their first name because their last name is weird, long, or hard to remember. Some teachers will let students go by Mx plus the first letter of their last name. I know a school teacher whose students address her by her first name because her last name is long and complicated and it starts with P and calling her Mrs. P is just weird.
Here's another thing I've noticed. When I get emails from students I've never met (including graduate students at other institutions inquiring about postdoctoral opportunities in my lab), they say things like:
I am probably in somewhat more uniquely unusual situation than most of you. I have been living with (and still live with) a name problem all my life.
One of my teaching colleagues has her young students address her as Ms (first name) because she knows they will grow up and eventually address her with her first name! I still go with Mrs. Niles though!
In my culture people are just called with their first name, without the Mx. If you call someone with Mx Family name it means that they are very old or people are being very formal (like banking, internet shopping mails etc) and there is only Mrs and Mr, no Miss.
Here in France, it's rather complicated.
Vous and tu are complicated. It may depend on locality. In Montpelier 25 years ago a friend introduced me to a friend and her daughter down from Paris, and I asked the mother, did you have a good journey, using vous. She immediately took offence, so I wriggled out of it by saying I meant her and her daughter.
The egalitarian socialist in me has always regarded titles as a subtle method of pulling rank on people because you haven't been able to earn the respect you think you deserve. Just call me Michael.
In Barcelona "tu" means "you", singular, and should only be used in informal speech among friends and family. Even the Latin American students when I was teaching knew to use the word "usted" when speaking to me, as that is the example I set speaking to them. "Usted" is a more formal "you", singular. Only the hard core gangster who "recovered" the tools stolen out of my private vehicle was allowed to us "tu" when speaking to me, and by politely returning the usage informality he earned by recovering tools, we never had an in class conflict. Teachers found that amazing, but the other two facilitators on the faculty just smiled knowingly and respectfully, and the gangster never messed up in their classes, either, granting respect by witnessing the looks in their eyes and the honesty of their smiles and handshakes. I think this story substantiates you pint, Mr. Darnton. I sort of agree.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.