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Miss, Mister, Mrs, Mike, Mary?

Aug 29th, 2008 | By | Category: News

TE ARO SCHOOL principal Bryce Coleman has no problem with students who call him Bryce.

In fact, the school – with children from more than 40 different countries – promotes the use of first names for all staff, children and adults, to break down social and cultural barriers.

Parents support this approach, says Mr Coleman. He favours it because “it cuts down authoritarian boundaries”, and says it’s just too old-fashioned to demand students address teachers as Mr, Ms or Mrs.

Te Aro is one of several Wellington primary schools where first names are now the norm.

Felicity Bothamley is associate principal of Brooklyn Primary and head of the junior syndicate. She says “by removing traditional formalities, we allow for a more personal communication between teacher and student”.

Ms Bothamley says at preschool, children address teachers by their first names so it’s a positive transition to primary school if they can continue to do so. Most of the junior teachers at Brooklyn Primary choose to be addressed by their first names.

Owhiro School teachers are asked to choose how they would prefer to be addressed, with some going by full title, some first name, and some honorific with the first letter of their surname – eg, Mr T.

Principal Karen Hardie says people should be addressed in the way they feel most comfortable and says students have no issues with the variance between teachers.

However, Patricia Mazure, principal of St Patrick’s in Kilbirnie, insists there must be a “demarcation line” and opposes a change in the tradition.

Lyall Bay, Roseneath and Hampton Hill are other Wellington primary schools where teachers are addressed formally.

Hampton Hill principal Alison Cowan says she believes in old fashioned values and while at school, teachers are addressed formally as a mark of respect.

Dennis Thompson, principal of Lyall Bay School, says: “Teachers are the authority figure that children look up to for advice and guidance, and addressing teachers by their title is fine with me because of this.”

Houghton Valley School also stays with tradition, but principal Barry Schon says the matter is “reasonably unimportant as neither will make them more respected or liked – it’s how good they are at working with our children that matters”.


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is a Whitireia Journalism student. Her interests include travel, food and entertainment, music, and fashion. Sophie hopes to work in magazines. She is not into serious stuff like finance and politics.
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