A Facebook group amuses members by posting historic photos from my hometown of Tomahawk,
Each post usually touches off a string of comments. Most of the writers are men
and women who were in grade or high school in the 1960s or 70s.
A picture of a grade-school classroom in a rural school appeared last week. It touched off a lengthy discussion of people known to have been on the faculty. The 60- and 70-year-olds writing comments referred to the teachers this way: Mr. Obey, Mrs. Leverance, Mrs. Sparks, Mr. Schindler, Mrs. Jackson, and Mrs. Wurl.
Notice anything? An old friend once told me that growing up in a small city in
he and his friends seldom knew the first names of adults--because it was
completely unacceptable for kids to use them. I'm told that was true elsewhere,
and it was in my hometown, especially in the schools. If we knew the first name
of a teacher, we did not use it, at least openly.
As youngsters, we often created derogatory nicknames for other kids and a few adults. It frequently was a form of bullying among school children. But in the case of adults, the labels stayed just between us kids. We were extra-careful about using the names in the grown-up world.
Teachers got an extra measure of respect. Beautiful wife Sandy and I carefully searched our memories and could come up with only one case in each of our school experiences where a nickname was coined for an adult. One of
teachers got the honor. In my school, only one administrator was tagged. Both
insulting labels had to do with a shortage of hair on the heads of the victims.
The geezer no longer is in direct contact with practices in our schools, but a brief internet search reveals differences, and some controversy, about how students address their teachers. Apparently, in the early grades some teachers encourage use of their first names by the kids. That practice continues into the higher grades in some systems. Other school districts change the protocol as students advance.
Several stories spoke of school districts changing policies to force a return to the old "Mr., Mrs., Miss," or perhaps "Ms." titles of respect at all times. I didn't find any accounts of school administrations endorsing, "Hey, Dude."