Being Missed

September 3, 2009 at 10:50 am 3 comments

On the first day of school, one of my Latino students called me “Miss” to get my attention. It caught my attention because it was such a sweet-sounding thing. I’ve never been called “Miss” before. It makes me think of little children, calling their preschool teachers Miss Susie and Miss Anna. I wasn’t offended; sure, I’m an old married woman, but I’m not easily worked up over titles. Plus, it was the first day of school. They didn’t have to know my name right off the top of their heads.

Then it happened again. Someone – again, one of my Latino boys – got my attention in the hallway by calling me Miss.

I mention the fact that both boys were Latino because I suspected this was either a linguistic or cultural thing. When I realized I’d be teaching in this district, with its significantly higher Latino population, I wanted to be prepared to be a good teacher here. The Latino students at LMS were tough nuts to crack, and I wanted to learn how to interact more effectively. And, I’ll admit, I was concerned about what problems I might encounter. My new district has a (mistaken, I believe) reputation for disciplinary problems, mostly centering around the Hispanic population.

So I read up on the area, on issues facing Latino youth, on things teachers do wrong because they misunderstand the culture. And I learned that, culturally (and generally) they have a very different relationship with teachers than their non-Latino peers. Often, they avoid classroom participation, eye contact, etc., out of a sense of respect rather than apathy. Typically, they are taught to treat teachers with greater respect than we see in a lot of kids.

Plus, I grew up feeding my brain on stories about British school children, to whom calling any female teacher “Miss” appeared second nature. (This is confirmed by a colleague of mine from the UK.)

My point, if I have one, is that I took these two “Miss”s as a simple sign of respect, rooted in a cultural difference that I hadn’t encountered before.

And then it started to snowball. It seems like every time I turn around, another student – usually male – is calling me Miss. It’s ALL of them.

I spoke to some of the other teachers. They nodded as soon as I said it – apparently it’s not just me.

One of them, also married, forbids it in her classroom. She figures that she’s a Mrs., not a Miss, and that they’re largely being lazy. I’ve already encountered students who don’t know their teachers’ names – including their teachers from last year. (Maybe I should amend that to say that they don’t know their FEMALE teachers’ names…)

The other teacher, who is, in fact, a Miss, doesn’t mind. She told me that it stems from the ELL students, for whom it’s a respect thing. The other kids pick it up, but they also pick up the respectful undertone. So long as it’s not disrespectful, it doesn’t bother her.

I feel… not at all disrespected. It bugs me to think that they’re thinking of all female teachers as nameless – but then again, I don’t think of myself as Mrs. Bees. I think of myself as [Firstname]. And “Miss”… well, it just sounds so dang sweet. I can’t bring myself to tell them to knock it off.

Now, the kid who randomly belted out a monkey scream in the middle of independent work time… THAT I’ll tell them to knock off. Even though it was HELLA funny. 🙂



SRSLY OMG The Following Events Are Only Dramatized a Little Bit

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stixen  |  September 8, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Actually, that happened to me at a HS in downtown LA. The band director told me to insist on the kids calling me by either my name, or “Miss Stixen” – because even though they sounded respectful, the fact that they didn’t know what my name was is a sign of DISRESPECT.

    I’d thought it was cute, til he esplained it to me that way. Then I noticed that the ones who were working hard knew my name, and the ones who were just hoping to skate by didn’t.

    I found that (and it may be a low income CA thing) that a lot of the parents were IMPOSSIBLE to get involved – and that the kids needed a lot of positive comments on their work and for me to demand that they live up to their potential. My kids had never had anyone think they COULD before, and some (but not all, unfortunately) absolutely RAN towards success when they realized that I truly believed in them

  • 2. Miss  |  April 19, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I find it incredibly disrespectful and a waste of time to call me Miss. I have a name. I learn the students names, learn mine. I will even agree to a Mrs then first letter but Miss – please. That ship has sailed. I say it is a waste of time because I don’t answer or hear miss – it doesn’t reach my ears because IT IS NOT MY NAME.

  • 3. Angela  |  November 17, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    My friend taught in Honduras for a while and she said that’s what all the kids called her all the time – only for her it was more “Meez.” You know, accent and all. It’s the same as in French class when you simply call your teacher Madame. In another language and culture, the title can sort of become that person’s name. So…I guess it depends…Are you accepting of that piece of their culture or do you require them to change to meet that piece of your culture that finds a strong name and a firm handshake desirable forms of respect?


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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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