Yesterday a colleague questioned my informal style of communicating with the parents of my students. (I address parents with their first names in emails and sign off with my first name.) My colleague, however, reminded me that when we go to see other professionals like Doctors, we use Dr. Last Name to address them. Why should teachers be any different? I don’t know if using my first name versus my last name really affects others’ view of me. Partly why I’m so informal is because I taught up north in New York and Cambridge, MA. Up there everyone is on a first name basis. In some cases, the students even call the teacher by their first name. I even called my principal by his and her first name. Here, however, everyone goes by last names, almost exclusively. It was quite the adjustment for me, when I moved back to the area.
It got me thinking about whether I am seen as a professional in my industry and more importantly did I see myself as a professional. When N started working as a doctor, everyone, including his administrative assistants, call him Dr. Additionally, when he calls a patient or a pharmacist back, he refers to himself as Dr. Yet I always have referred to myself with my first name. Especially when I meet with parents, who are like my version of patients.
What does professional really mean? [My answers follow in particular order.]
2. Others trust your opinion as a professional on the topics connected to teaching.
5. A certain unspoken respect from your colleagues in the industry and other professionals (i.e. parents) in your society.
I think on one hand my wardrobe screams professional and my teaching too. And yet, my opinions about curriculum and testing aren’t always heard or trusted by parents or others above me. How much does me using my first name versus my last have to do with it? Is it me or our society that allows people to view teachers as not as professional as doctors?
Is something as small as my name making parents see me as unprofessional? And why is it that we as a country see doctors automatically as professionals, yet can’t see teachers in the same ranking? Are we not all in the same tier? We are expected to work long hours for lower wages. We are expected to meet with parents for 51/2 hours after teaching for 6 hours. We are expected to teach curriculum that someone who hasn’t been in the classroom for years has written and when we share our experience, it is not heard. I mean when my husband shares with his colleague who is a dentist his diagnosis of a patient, the dentist and patient listens. What is the difference really between doctors, CEO’s, and teachers? If another doctor came into my husband’s practice and told him that from now on he had to perform surgery a certain way, he would and could easily say no as the professional. Yet in my profession, this happens daily–others come in and change curriculum. In fact, parents have more of a say in curriculum than teachers, in some cases.
While I am not oblivious to the vast difference in the two jobs, there is something to be said about how one gets treated as a professional and the other doesn’t. So I ask again, how much of this has to do with my name?