Thursday, February 14, 2019
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".