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Jeff Hess

Shalom Dr. Kirk,

When I was a young journalist I always addressed the people I interviewed in a formal manner, as I had been taught by my grandmother. After a few months so many had invited me to use their first names that I let the practice lapse.

Years later when I became Editor, I decided to go back to using proper titles. What I noticed was that people actually became more open with me when I addressed them in a formal manner.

And I found the respect I gave came back to me many fold.

Sidney Pottier wasn't wrong.


Mr. Hess

Delaney Kirk

Thanks for the comment! I do believe our students are searching for people to respect and are a little uncomfortable with how informal many people are today.

Leslie Madsen-Brooks

Because I'm young and because I'm an adjunct and not a professor, I tell my students they can call me either Leslie or Dr. Madsen-Brooks. That said, I often end up giving them a talk about academic titles because some (usually male students) insist on addressing me as Mrs. Brooks or Mrs. Madsen-Brooks.

Rather than feeling chastised by my insistence that they not call me Mrs., I find the students are fascinated by my 5-minute talk about gender, married names, professional titles, and the structure of the academy. I explain, for example, the difference between a professor and an instructor, and they usually find this interesting--and brand-new information for them. (Also, in the context of my American studies courses, such a talk makes sense.)

Delaney Kirk

I've done this too...the students are fascinated by the whole hierarchy of degrees, titles, the tenure process, etc.

Tammy Lenski

Hi, Delaney -

I use my first name and have for the 15 years I've been teaching. I doubt any of my students think I'm not in command of my classroom, either.

That said, I teach in a discipline (conflict studies) that lends itself to a bit more informality because we're talking about difficult stuff and informality eases the hard edges. I've also taught in institutions that are quite informal in their own cultures and where most other faculty also used their first names.

If I chose to teach in an institution with a different culture around informality, I could see myself changing my decision on this.

And on an aside, I do make a point on the first day of telling students I'm a Dr. and of titling myself Dr. in my syllabus.

Dr. Delaney Kirk

Hi Tammy,
I think the subject matter, culture at the university, and maturity of the students do all make a difference in this decision.

Paul Kenyon

When I was a very green TA in training 25 years ago, we had a presentation that included this subject as a part of an orientation. We were advised to wear a tie everyday (if you were male) and to insist on being addressed with your most appropriate professional title. The rationale being that this definition of boundaries would make us more effective as teachers.

Over the intervening years, the ties are gone and I am now a mid-level administrator. Still, I have found this subtle reinforcement to be helpful . When a student assumes more familiarity than I deem comfortable, I simply ask them to use my title during school hours on our campus while they are still students. I tell them that they can call me whatever they please after they graduate or when we are away from campus. When I also explain that I believe this helps me teach more objectively they seem to receive it in the spirit it is given.

Dr. Delaney Kirk

Hi Paul,
I like your reasoning: "I believe this helps me teach more objectively." I agree. Thanks for commenting.

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