How to be a Great Student: Part Three

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
Albert Einstein


How to be a Great Student: Part Three

Just call me Bob.


This is part of a series, click the tag: Be a Good Student for more.


The great student shows respect to his teacher and fellow classmates by using their names. Using one’s name pokes a hole in the force field we build around ourselves and makes an interaction personal.

In the 1960s, the United States was stepping out of the crushing conformity forced on us by McCarthyism. We can thank President Kennedy for attending Spartacus and changing the nation. The people of the US were also outraged at the government for its involvement in the Viet Nam War. This started a wave called Anti-Establishment. To be part of the Establishment was almost a dirty thing.

Teachers, sensitive to this new thing, stopped asking to be addressed by their titles. We no longer called our teacher Mrs. Smith or Dr. Jones or Dean Wormer. The teachers stepped in front of the desk and tried to lessen the formality of the teacher/student relationship so as to get over the negative Establishment hump.

The same was true of medical doctors and many other work places. I have to say though, that I prefer the formality of “Dr.” with my proctologist or gynecologist. Being on a first name basis with a doctor removes that safe wall of distance from the intimate work on my body.

Lacking honorifics in the classroom and in the world around us makes it difficult to show respect for our teachers and leaders. There is a clumsiness and a fumbling when we do try to use a title and are faced with a correction. “That is Ms. Smith” or “Call me Pastor Bob”. We can further stumble with non-gender specific pronouns and our society is working on that issue.

To use a name has power in it. Listen to a politician in an interview and he will use the interviewer’s name often. So will a car salesman. It feels a bit like “How to win friends” but the truth is that it works. We can allow ourselves to get lazy and call each other dude or bro but, really, that is weak.

The great student knows that ultimately he will learn more in school from his classmates than his teachers. That the bonds created in school can carry strongly through his life and professional career. Using names on new and old friends erases the blur of everyday life and brings it into sharp focus.

3 thoughts on “How to be a Great Student: Part Three

  1. Mr. Kroth beat me me to the punch regarding your medical practitioners but also…

    I have always preferred the formal until asked or instructed otherwise. Even in my rabble rousing SHS days a few of the anti-establishment teachers would openly approve of being called by their first names. I would remain formal. Probably because everyone else was calling him Hank. To this day I still say sir and ma’am, Mr./Mrs./Ms, and even Miss when clearly acceptable and appropriate (I do live in the South). I happily use any title or pronoun, earned, claimed, or desired. In short, I try my utmost to be respectful, and in return I almost always receive reciprocal respect. Not only does it make for a good student/teacher relationship, it feels right and good. I like right and good.

    Thanks for this thoughtful series. And tell your gynecologist I said hi.

    Liked by 2 people

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