Speakeasy wrote:You raise an interesting point. However, is it possible that, owing to your having internalised the increasingly wide-spread notions of egalitarianism in Western societies that you have become uncomfortable with your own status in society? A status which, let’s be honest here, you deliberately sought out?Random Review wrote:FWIW I always ask my students to call me by my first name… Here in Indonesia, they insist on calling me "Mr" or "Mr Martin", which Indonesians feel is more respectful. I absolutely hate both of these. … Except from very young children, "Mr" feels actually disrespectful (the exact opposite of its intended effect) … Getting them to stop is impossible, because most of them refuse to call me by my first name …
As to what is respectful and what is disrespectful, these concepts exhibit enormous differences both across and within cultural groups. Would you not agree that your rejection of your students’ sign of respect (in addressing you as Mister) is based solely on your own notions of what is correct and that your reaction is a form of paternalism towards the students and to the culture from which such signs of respect are derived?
Nevertheless, you might appreciate the following anecdote. Many (many) years ago, my last assignment in the RCN was that of Instructor at the Fleet School. I remember, on the first morning of a new class, inviting my young charges, who were rapidly approaching the end of their training and who would soon be assigned as junior officers aboard one the RCN’s destroyers, to call me by my first name. I explained to them that, within a few months, we could easily find ourselves serving together and that, despite our differences in rank, we would likely be on a first-name-basis amongst ourselves (the ship’s Commander and Executive Officer were not included in such familiarity and we, as officers, would never address a subaltern by his first name both as a matter of military etiquette and as a matter of respect: doing so would be perceived as an unpardonable affront). To my surprise, during the coffee break, two of my students approached me and suggested that my invitation to the group was inappropriate. In their view, as I had successfully passed the examinations necessary to commanding a sea-going vessel, as I had served at sea, as I possessed greater knowledge and experience than did my students, and as I had been entrusted by my superiors with the responsibility of instructing them, I had “earned” their respect and that my invitation to an unwarranted familiarity with them was a debasement of my rank. Oops, I hadn’t seen that one coming! Here I was, being “called to task” for showing “disrespect” towards a codified system of hierocracy which my students (who were civilians only 12 months prior to these classes) had internalized. I gulped and replied (sheepishly): “Ahem, yes, I see your point.”
Well, I would agree that my dislike of their calling me this is a reflection of my own notions of what is correct, of course it is. However, I don't agree that my reaction is paternalistic, because in fact I haven't stopped them doing so. I don't like it and they know I don't like it, but I respect their right to continue doing so. I could, in fact, impose my views on them and insist they call me "Martin", which would indeed be both disrespectful and paternalistic. I haven't done that. They know how I feel and obviously after that the choice is theirs. Most choose to continue to call me "Mr" (with or without "Martin").
I've always had the similar views since as far back as I can remember (if anything I have moved even further to the left with age) and would strongly disagree with your students that your offer was inappropriate. To me it seems obvious that you have a perfect right to invite them to call you by your first name and they have the right to accept or refuse as they personally choose. Possibly this is starting to get a little political, though. Feel free to PM if you wish. I like you a lot and don't want to ruin your thread.
I think a measure of how differently we see things in this field is that you assume that I sought out status. An EFL teacher neither earns a lot of money nor has any real status (though if you work hard and do a good job, you may earn respect from your students and their parents). If I sought out anything, it was a job that challenges, that puzzles and that forces me to grow both as a person and intellectually. That's what I wanted.