Thursday, February 14, 2019

Yo Mister?


A couple of years ago I was at a small screened Bloomberg high school in Western Queens.  The staff was mostly young and untenured and the Principal told the staff to have the students address them by their first name.  I am old school and I believe that children should address their teachers by their last name,  Well I had to take over a class for the rest of the year as a teacher quit.  The Principal was not happy to have me for the rest of the year since he liked young teachers and I did not fit his definition of a "good (young) teacher".  Worse, he was aware that I knew the contract and told teachers their rights as the Chapter Leader was untenured and was a waste of time when it came to representing the staff.

The first day I took over the class I wrote my name on the whiteboard, as the students slowly walked into the classroom, five minutes late, one student asked me what my first name was.  I told him that as a teacher I use my last name to the students.  He persisted and asked me again what my first name was. When I told him I go by my last name he told me teachers go by their first name.  Therefore, I told him my first name is mister.  The student finally stopped asking me for my first name.

As the week went by, I noticed students were calling me mister or "yo mister".  Eventually, the Principal got wind of my refusal to give the students my first name and called me into his office.  Interestingly, he sent me a letter asking to see me and my union representative before the school day starts since it could result in disciplinary action.  Normally I would be concerned but I knew it was about my refusal to give the students my first name.

The next day I walked in to the Principal's office five minutes before school started.  The Principal was pissed.  He wanted to know why I didn't show up earlier.  I told him he never listed a time and that making a disciplinary meeting should be done on school time.  He arraigned for a another teacher to cover my first period class.and started the meeting.

The Principal charged me with insubordination for my failure to follow school rules for not giving the students my name.  I responded by saying "can you show me in the contract or the Chancellor regulations where I am required to give students my first name"?  Clearly frustrated, the Principal screamed "its my rules".   I explained to him that its my choice and not his and I told him to call his Superintendent or DOE legal and get guidance before he gives me a letter to the file.  The Principal must have decided or given guidance that he should drop the issue since I was within my rights..

 For the rest of the year when students greeted me in my classroom or hallways it was always "yo mister".


Anonymous said...

There used to be a really cool NYC teacher blog page and it was literally called, "Yo Mista". I wonder what happened to the guy who ran it?

Anonymous said...

Chaz awesome post and another example of the zany non american principals in the system now that are so clueless and eventually they will all bring this country down. How did I know the principal was non american you say? Well I am pretty sure.

Anonymous said...

There is a music group called mista mista

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience during a tour of ATR duty at a very liberal high school in western Queens. Perhaps it was the same school you mention or maybe it was just another Leadership Academy trained principal. The principal told me, in a matter-of-fact manner, that "We use first names here." I replied that only my friends call me by my first name, and that I am known as M_ _____ to all others. I further explained that I felt very strongly that the use of my first name would confer a familiarity which I would find emotionally violating. You got a liberal, you dazzle 'em with liberal talking points. I struck for a compromise, which the principal reluctantly accepted. I would be addressed as M_ _, the first initial of my last name. I must say, as I walked away from this exchange, that I heard the theme song from "The Twilight Zone" playing in my head.

Of course the use of first names of teachers by the students destroys part of the separation between subordinate and authority figure, something that was drilled into veteran teachers when they were newbies. "Don't try to be their friend. You're their teacher." It is a way to render a teacher an equal, not someone to be obeyed. In my opinion, it is part of the socialist trend nibbling away at our country--everyone is equal. Well, I'm not ready to be an equal to 15 year olds. I don't feel it contributes to a productive classroom environment, a classroom where there is no authority figure.

"I'm your equal, and I don't feel like giving up my cell phone."

"I'm your equal, and I didn't feel that doing homework was important."

"Yo b___h, I don't have to do what you say. You're only our equal!"

Gee, do ya think stuff like this---trying to force teachers to go along with a misguided methodology where students feel they are equal to the teacher--has anything to do with the destruction of discipline and therefore productivity in America's classrooms?

Anonymous said...

While this principal was clearly wrong about trying to take disciplinary action, this sounds like a case where you decided to undermine the school culture. You simply said,"well. I don't want to do it this way so I'm not going to." If a student in your class decided to not follow a rule simply because they didn't want to, I'm sure you would have had a problem with it. I really do not understand the purpose of this post other than you demonstrating some sort of weird entitlement to go against the school culture.

Chaz said...

Anon 1:48

The school was not my choice to be at due to lack of parking and the late schedule of the school I hoped the Leadership Academy Principal would have sent me back to the ATR pool. However, there was no other available ATR in my content specialty.

More importantly, this Principal was a dictator and refused to collaborate with staff.
I ddon't nee to tell you that the teaching staff looked at me as a hero for standing up for my rights.

Anonymous said...

@8:48 Where does Chaz say this principal was non-American? Take your xenophobic bs somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

@8:48 you MUST be a nyc teacher because your an idiot! "bring this country down" this country is run by 1% of the population. Those fools you waste your time on aren't going to change a thing.

Anonymous said...

The guy who ran the "Yo Mista" blog quit teaching and now works for an educational consulting job. He taught in NYC for 6 years. Probably better off in the private sector considering how our schools are now micro managed hell holes.

Anonymous said...

Chad, this is anotber typical principals are horrrible post. Would you call yourself collaboratively because you exercised your right over a minor matter? Now when a principal exercises their right to do something that might inconvenice teachers but not necessarily against the contract you label them bad and non collaborative.
Then you vilify them in your blog.

That's quite hypocritical of you. I have a few crazy teachers who aggravate both the admin and fellow teachers in my school and when my principal stands up to them they want to call the UFT to say they're being harassed or bullied.

I just smh. It's sad chaz that you get a kick out of vilifying people. And the crazy part is you don't know the complete details and you conclude the principal is always wrong.

Chaz said...

Anon 5:43

To you its a minor issue. To me its about students respecting adults, especially teachers. My guess you are not a classroom teacher.

Anonymous said...

Thats not the point 5:43 was making, Chaz. But they are right. It's ok for a teacher to exercise their contractual right to go against a principals wishes. But of a principal exercises their contractual right in a way that teachers dont like, you villify them on this blog.
This causes skeptism when reading your blogs, because I like others know there is usually more to the story than your hasty conclusions. Just saying.

Chaz said...

Anon 7:11

The Principal does not have a contractual right to make teachers use their first name.
Moreover, there is no "more to the story".
Finally, you are really 5:43 and not a classroom teacher.

Anonymous said...

For those that have commented that the schools are being run by the 1%, that 1% (as you state 3:49) name adults by their last name to show respect. This is part of the reform philosophy so don't make it a racist, cultural issue. Although it may go against 'school culture' I have not fallen into being called by my first name no matter where I've gone as an ATR. Being part of the '1%', I value education as does my family in the US and abroad. Please do not generalize because in all races and cultures you will find those that do and do not value education.

NYC Educator said...

Great story, Chaz!

Anonymous said...

Unrelated but has someone else noticed that their new raise has been removed by an adjustmant reduction almost equal to the raise? WTF is going on?

Anonymous said...


I thought I was nuts when I saw that. Is that a pension deficit thing?

Shadiness by the Uft once again.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that some non teacher would question Chaz on his refusal to tell students his first name since he was a temporary replacement and will not be in the school the next year.

Too many principals are drunk with power, thanks to the DOE.

Anonymous said...

@7:46 WOW, and OMG!!! You MUST be a nyc babysitter. You make NO point and NO sense.

Anonymous said...

After communist revolutions in Cuba, Russia, China, Cambodia, etc, traditional structures were attacked, educated people were killed or imprisoned and their societies were turned upside down.

Who were the shock troops? The younger people who were brainwashed and manipulated by peer pressure and 'equality' mumbo jumbo. Even the socialist revolutions of Hitler and Mussolini relied on brainwashed young people.

In our schools, anyone with eyes and a brain to think can see the constant chipping away of authority. Teachers are vilified as out-of-touch racists who fail their 'diverse' students for racist reasons. Teachers are increasingly being called facilitators and coaches, and we are told now the students must 'teach each other.'

Do you see all the brainwashing and where it will lead in 20 years? It is sad to live at the end of a once vibrant nation, but our time is up an the evils of socialism/communism are already taking firm root all across the land. 1984 is just the tip of the iceberg.

Anonymous said...

TO 6:30AM



Anonymous said...


We are not seeing the birth of socialism/communism. We are seeing the dawn of fascism, the corporate takeover of a political/cultural system.

Anonymous said...

@11:30 - You have nothing better to write so you have to capitalize and add explanation points. You know exactly what is being written. Move on.....

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to ATR Supervisor Justin Stark? He got booted from Edison HS after a year, then got booted from Port Richmond HS in SI the following year. I guess admins recognize an incompetent dirtbag when they meet one,

James Eterno said...

I taught at Middle College where it was a bit of a culture schock for me to be called by my first name James after 28 years at Jamaica High School where I was Mr. Eterno. However, it didn't impact on my classroom authority at all to be called James. I got used to it and came to really enjoy it. After a while, I noticed that it was a mystery what teacher last names were! When the kids discovered the ICE blog that had my last name on it, some of the students would call me Mr. Eterno in a kind of a mocking way. We kind of all laughed about it. What was I going to do, demand that the students not call me by my last name?

It is great you made a stand against a dictatorial principal, Chaz, but sometimes school cultures that are less formal work and should be respected. I don't gather that was the case with this school.

Chaz said...


Your school and Principal welcomed you and you were part of their staff for years.

By contrast, the Principal did not like veteran teachers and I was only going to be there the rest of the school year.

Our circumstances were different.