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Is 'yo!' next? And what if it is?


A few years ago, when a student began an email to me using just my last name, I got huffy and replied, "You don't know me well enough to address me by just my last name."

This greeting is common now, though, and students also do it when they talk to me, but it doesn't bother me anymore. They show respect in other, important ways: not missing class, taking part in discussions, turning in their work on time, doing the readings, etc.

How I reply to such emails, though, puzzles me. I just replied to an email that began with my last name, so in reply, I referred to the student by her last name, just to keep the exchange casual and comfortable. Does being casual work both ways, or do students think I'm not being age appropriate?

This may seem like a minor matter, but good teaching is very much about getting the small things right as well as the big things.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2015 02:04 am (UTC)
I'm old school - I still think proper communication etiquette is the best. :)
Apr. 24th, 2015 09:10 pm (UTC)
It sends a message in itself.
Apr. 25th, 2015 12:04 am (UTC)
I don't teach in the classroom though - I'm tasked with getting them ready for employment. We have to frequently discuss such things as your answering machine message and the music you have selected instead of a ring tone... that fact your email address is sparklepants69 - that won't cut it. My favorite is you can't write an email to people with text message slang.

I'm old I know. I still wear hose with my heels and skirt to work.
Apr. 25th, 2015 02:39 am (UTC)
"Sparklepants"—isn't that a reference to Ziggy Stardust?

As for wearing hose to work, you'll always be ready if a fire breaks out in the office.
Apr. 25th, 2015 02:55 pm (UTC)
Apr. 24th, 2015 12:37 pm (UTC)
After reading this post I can't help but wonder if I'm living in a different dimension. Surely I'm not stuffy, and that explains it all.

If I was a student, I'd expect the teacher to address me by my first name or by a title of respect preceding my surname (Mr./Ms.) If I was a teacher, I'd address the matter of my name during the opening remarks of my first class and repeat it at the second class if there are new students. "This is English Composition 101. I'm e_d_young, associate professor in the English Department. You can call me Professor Young." If I wanted to attempt humor, I'd add on "Or you can call me Marchioness d' Youngsborough."

Also, I haven't seen Americans address each other by surname only. When did that start? Or are you not in the U.S.?
Apr. 24th, 2015 08:53 pm (UTC)
I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to this until it began to occur regularly, and then I noticed students often called each other or referred to each other by last name only.

Being Sicilian, I know disrespect when I see it and hear it, but I don't pick up a disrespect vibe with this. I'm sure some/many/most faculty members might get all hackled up about it, but I was a journalist for 23 years. It takes a lot to offend me.

In class, I call students by their first names and always ask at the start of the course if they prefer "Kath" or "Kathi" or something else over "Katharine" or even prefer another option. A few years ago, a young man named Jarrell took a class from me and said he wanted to be called "Diddy." So I did. A colleague had failed him the semester before, but I think calling him by the name he requested may have overcome any misgivings he had about taking a course in the same department.

I like your ideal of using titles for nobility, but all that comes to mind is Frank Zappa's "The Duke of Prunes," and I'm not feelin' that one.

And oh, yeah, I'm in the U.S.—the southwestern corner of New York state, which is the among the state's poorest areas on a per-capita income basis. In fact, we may lead (?) the list. Many of our students come from within a 110-mile radius; many others come from the New York City/New Jersey area, and this area is a (cliché alert) culture shock for them.

Apr. 29th, 2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
I think it is weird that they call you by your last name only and that is not something that happens here in the colleges or universities. I may be old school but I think it is disrespectful for them to call you just "Vecchio", even if that is an acceptable form of address among their peers. You are not a peer. I would consider it rude for the people I supervise to call me by my last name even though I have a relaxed approach to my management style. To me form of address is a common courtesy. A few very close friends address me that way but that is about it.
Apr. 29th, 2015 09:51 pm (UTC)
Not that long ago I would have dropped a Sicilian hammer on any student who did that, but I don't have the inclination or energy for it anymore. Should I, if only to give them a taste of unacceptable workplace behavior? I guess so. And I understand your idea that I'm not a peer. But the last-name thing doesn't seem to be a gateway drug for further disrespect, so I let it slide. However, if a student is shamelessly texting in class (to name just one behavior), the hammer does come down. Except for the last-name thing, Papa don't take no mess, as Mr. James Brown said.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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