Good Morning Class! My Name is…

Good morning class! My name is…

I struggled all throughout summer with how to end that sentence prior to my first day of teaching. Though I’m a GTA, my face would be the only face students would see in the classroom. My youthful, smiling, pretty, 22 year old face was the only face that was supposed to hold some sort of authority within the classroom. My Public Speaking class is a mix of freshman who probably took this class thinking they should just get the requirement over with and seniors who put taking this course off until their last year. I’d be the same age as some of these students. Though I wasn’t intimidated by this, I was unsure as to what they should call me. With such a close approximation in age as most of my students, I didn’t want them calling me by my first name. That was too “chill” for my liking and gave off an impression that I just wasn’t willing to work my way out from under after the first day. So, just use your surname you’re thinking. To many, that’s an easy solution but for me it was not. I’ve always loved my last name. It’s an easy name to remember, to pronounce, and to joke about. However, it’s not a name that conveys authority, professionalism, and expertise in any arena that I would like to be associated with. Friends suggested I use my mom’s maiden name since it was my middle name. Again, a logical answer. However “Ms. Friend” didn’t convey the right type of impression I wanted to give off either. I eventually sucked it up, told myself that my students were going to have to deal with it and that I would take no shit for it. So, on my first day of class, I walked to the front of the room and said, “Good morning class! My name is Ms. Hotter.”

screen-shot-2017-02-18-at-2-27-42-pmI’ve only taught four classes so far, but I have never received any sort of backlash for my name by my own students. The only time my last name has been commented on was by a colleague’s student that I had substituted for. His comments were addressed quickly and nothing more of it was said by him or any other student.

Thankfully, the atmosphere I wanted to create with my classroom is something my students have praised me for in my SPOT evals. They love that I play music before class starts so there’s not awkward silence. They appreciate my relatable and approachable manner. I’ve even had a student comment on how he/she enjoyed my sarcasm and that it made PS his/her favorite class to attend. There’s definitely a lot of issues that can arise when teaching at such a young age but I’m trying to take this as the opportunity to really learn how to communicate and relate to my students (in a professional manner of course). I try not to shut off my own personality too much when teaching. There are a few things I have to catch myself from doing in front of my students but that’s all a part of the learning experience. One thing I have learned is that when I see a student downtown at a bar, it’s best to just duck, cover, and move onto the next bar. It’s not worth having them give you funny glances the whole time.

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10 thoughts on “Good Morning Class! My Name is…

  1. This post brings up a really good point about being young and professional at the same time. I hadn’t thought about the name question until just this semester actually, when I started advising students in my department, and some of them are actually OLDER than me. Pretty awkward. I always have them call me by my first name, but I can absolutely understand wanting to be called something more professional. Since you have both Ms. Hotter and Ms. H on your card, do you get called both evenly?

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  2. I love your story, and I found myself relating to so much of it. I’m no longer 22, but I did get my first teaching job at 23. I was working at a community college teaching mostly algebra classes and one stress management course. I think at least half of my students were older than me. Unlike you, I was quite intimidated by this! I did decide to let them call me by my first name. However, something that I employed to maintain professionalism was dressing formally (always with a tie) for every class. I dressed nicer than many of the full time faculty members, so they gave me some grief for that. But it was something I felt was necessary to increase that level of professionalism and stand out from the rest of the students. I had been a student myself there less than two years earlier. So in reading your post, a lot of these challenges of teaching at a young age resonated with my experiences as well. I may have handled them differently, but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who has faced those decisions. And yes, I did encounter students at a bar from time to time (some who were very keen on talking to me about class), so I also did my best to find a smooth way out of the building. Oh the memories!

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    1. I’m always the “best dressed” within my classroom. I do my best to look as put together and “adult-y” as possible haha. Some of my office hours are on days I don’t teach and that’s when I’m dressed a little more casually.

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  3. This is a great story! I’m glad that you didn’t have as many issues as you expected. Students can be surprisingly mature sometimes!

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  4. Well, I probably would have been the smart-mouthed student you corrected. I commend you for being true to your family name. I am trying to place myself in your shoes, and I think I would probably make light of it at first, but tell them the joke(s) is stale after 22 years.

    Oh yes, I am going to nab your use of music. Thank you for the post.

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  5. Similar to many of our fellow classmates on here, I can also relate with your experience. Being a young, attractive (not stating this to be boastful, just from comments previously made about my appearance) female who holds a position of authority causes one to be overly anxious about how they will be received by others. This is especially true when in a male dominated or STEM field. I know I’m always paranoid about my peers receiving me as the professional and competent scientist that I am. This normally isn’t a problem thanks to my INTJ (Myers Briggs) personality type. Unfortunately, my personality traits (those that are traditionally more masculine) causes me to come across as cold, intimidating, and even “bitchy” making me seem incredibly unapproachable. Those who have gotten past my imposing presence and gotten to know me will tell you I’m an incredibly warm and caring individual who has a passion for helping others. However, while teaching, I constantly struggle to maintain my professionalism while not intimidating my students so badly they won’t approach me. I’ve come to be expect the general reaction to my persona, and thus attempt to convey my more personable attributes through a fun activity when beginning to teach a new course.

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  6. Reading through your experience and the above comments have really hammered in the privileged position a male presence at the pulpit commands. I’ve had the reverse issue because I’ve never liked my last name so I’ve just gone by Alex in ever class I’ve taught. The informality concern never crossed my mind especially because my first department at Tech (Philosophy) cultivates a first name student-professor relationship. But reading your post and relating it to some other concerns shared by our authors this week has given me an appreciation for the struggles of my female colleagues. – Thanks, Prof.

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  7. I enjoyed reading your stories. And I believe it is important to think about how would us introduce ourselves to our students, that is like the first step of how we would like to form the relationship with the students. You bring out such a nice topic. And the second thing I like about your blog is you insert your name card. That is a cool idea. The name card is a more solid way to give out a self-definition in front of others. I get inspired by your idea, I think I would like to take some time to design a name card for my future class. Thank you for sharing and inspiration.

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  8. Thanks for sharing your story! This is something that I hadn’t thought about yet. I have only been a TA for a course where I just held homework help session. So for that class I just went by my first name, mostly because I didn’t really think about it but that’s probably because I didn’t feel like I needed to show authority. I was a TA my final semester as an undergrad and most of the students were sophomores but I remember there was one grad student in the class who was definitely older than me which made me feel a little weird at first. I probably still have another year before I will actually teach a class on my own, so I guess I have some time to figure it out but to be honest right now I’m not sure what I will end up doing.

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