First Day Etiquette

Gal Smiley brought home a note from school yesterday from her teacher, asking parents to email her so she can put together a class news distribution list. Then she signed the note with her full name, like “Jane Smith,” and her email address is also “,” which left me with quite the quandry. Should I address the email to “Madame Smith”? Or perhaps “Ms. Smith”?

I have real trouble referring to the kids’ teachers by their first name. Sending an email saying, “Hi Jane!” seems way too informal, especially considering we haven’t really ever met yet. But we’re both adults, so if I did meet her, wouldn’t I call her Jane? The rules-follower and brown-noser in me just can’t do it, though. GAH.

Once I had settled on, “Hi Mrs. Smith…” as an opening, then I had to work on writing out, “Here is my email address” by sounding nice, and helpful, but not TOO bubbly, because that would be weird. And I struggled for ages on how to say, “And could you also add my husband to the list, here is his email” without implying that there was some sort of odd custody arrangement I was trying to work around.

At least I signed my own name correctly…I think. How is it that one can reach the age of 42 and yet be so socially inept?

I think it is my own ineptitude that made me be all freaked out about the first day yesterday. Just like last year, things went very well for two out of three (ain’t bad!), but crappy for the third. This year it’s Gal Smiley who has been cut off from all of her friends, and I mean seriously ALL her friends. GAH. She was brave-facing it yesterday morning which is THE WORST, and I consider it a personal triumph that I didn’t just come home and cry.

She makes friends pretty easily though, and her teacher seems really great, and when this happened last year to the Captain he did adapt eventually – it took a few months but by the end of the year he’d developed some awesome best buds, all of whom are in his class this year again.

So I’m clinging to the idea of a happy ending, assuming the Gal’s teacher doesn’t blacklist her for the crappy/weird/awkward email her mother sent in. GAH.

18 thoughts on “First Day Etiquette

  1. library girl

    The teachers at my kids’ school have funny little smiles when I call them “Mrs Smith” or “Mr Smith”. It’s like they expect parents to use their first names when talking to them directly, which feels weird, unless I know them better, and especially in front of the kids!

    As for the email thing, I probably would have written something like, please add my and my husband’s emails to your list.

    But no, I think the awkward thing never goes away. Some people have the social knack. I don’t.

  2. I practically LIVE at the school and I call all the teachers by Mme. or Mlle. or M. whenever in the school, or in correspondence about my kids. I’ve become friends with some of them externally to the teaching relationship and then, finally, I don’t mind calling them by their first name (e.g. when I got a bubbly email from one of them this summer with pictures of her new baby). Even then, though, there’s a weird transition the first few times I use their first names.

    Same with my doctor – I’ve known her forever and she came to my book launch but I still call her Dr. Goldman. The couple of times I’ve referred to her by her first name if mentioning something about her to my husband, he’s looked at me blankly, like “who?”, so I just give up and pretty much stick with Dr.

    And I had the best form ever come home from my younger son’s teacher yesterday – he had made two columns for parent information – name, phone number, email twice. This was actually the first time I put my husband’s email address down as well as my own. Not that I couldn’t have asked to have it added in other years, but it’s so much easier when there’s just a space for it!

    1. Totally agree about the doctor, too. I’m not even sure I actually *know* her first name! She’ll always be Dr. Jones to me.

      My youngest’s teacher sent home a form with two non-committal columns, one for mom, one for dad. It was MUCH appreciated.

  3. CapnPlanet

    Heh – I agonize over the wording in emails in exactly the same way. And I’m not comfortable calling teachers by their first names, despite the fact that we are totally fine with kids calling our grownup friends by their first names.

  4. I TOTALLY hear you. I never got used to calling Meena’s JK teacher by her first name, the communication book is a mish-mash. I remember somewhere along the way getting back in touch with my sixth-grade teacher, with whom I had also done a coop placement in high school, and I called her Mrs. C. She said “please! you’re a grown up! Call me H!” I mentioned this to my Dad who’s response was “but even *I* still call her Mrs. C.”

  5. We had a great first day yesterday! I was all sunshine and lollipops and today I find out that the classes are oversize – again – and it looks like the grade threes are going to be shuffled – again – and I just can’t take the thought of Jake getting stuck in an overflow class with a yet-to-be-determined-teacher-who-is-probably-a-first-year-one AGAIN. Beezus and Ramona.

    1. Ugh, hope the re-org doesn’t happen. In the meantime, “Beezus and Ramona” is my new favourite expletive. SO much better than f-word f-word f-word f-word, don’t you think?

  6. I came here from Nicole’s blog because I noticed from your comment that we are the same M-B type ISFJ. I should not have been even remotely surprised then that I have exactly the same internal struggle with what to call the kids’ teachers. My dad is a professor and growing up I was never allowed to call any of my teachers by their first names and my parents did not either. Now even though I’m an adult and am perfectly fine with my kids’ friends calling me by my first name, I feel really uncomfortable calling a teacher by his or her first name – heck many of them are younger than me and I still struggle every. friggin. time. Guess I am still waiting to consider myself to be a grown up (this . . . is not happening inside my own brain)

    1. I know, it’s almost creepy, isn’t it, how the Myers-Briggs types can call your personality so exactly. I think we’re both destined to be Rule Followers…and possibly permanently trapped in adolescence? Remember when you were like, 15, and your mom was like 40, and she seemed so totally together? STILL WAITING.

  7. I’ve been on our school council for seven years now and at the council table I usually use first names with the ones I have worked with the most/closest. In correspondence and in general conversation at the school I always use Mr./Miss/Mrs. Since I am in and around the school I find the teachers treat me the same way. I’m Mrs. R if we are in conversation around the students, but less formal outside of that.

  8. Yes to all the above. My kids, being in French immersion, tend to get teachers who go by “Madame” (since they’ve all been women to this point) plus their first name. So they’ve had Mme Melissa, Mme Martha, Mme Annabelle, and so on. Only one woman teacher so far has used her last name (though, oddly enough, all of the men French teachers in the school – none of whom we’ve had – go by their last name – Monsieur Vachon, and so on…) So we know all of their first names and none of their last names! It’s a little weird.

    And one son’s French teacher sent home a note on the first day addressed to me and my husband as Mr and Mrs and his last name. But I didn’t change my last name when I married, so how to correct that?

    1. I find that really odd, that the women are Madame FirstName while the men are Monsieur LastName. Do you think it’s because their last names are strange? Or are they just more friendly? Hm.

      1. There is one teacher who is Mme LastName and she wasn’t all that friendly with us last year… 🙂 But otherwise, it has been a weird division. I think the teachers get to choose – I am not even sure if anyone else has ever noticed this. But the Principal, who is female, goes by her last name….

  9. oh poor thing…we were spared this year from friend separation, but I know it can’t happen every year. I hope things turn out for her this year.

    Re: teacher’s names- I know it’s always so awkward trying to figure out what to call them (especially when they are 15 years younger than you!…)
    at least your teacher does a class list. Class parents have to do that at our school.
    which has been me for the past 5 years….I’m going to try to hold out this year and just say. no.
    I hope….

  10. I always call the teachers Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss Lastname as a general profession-based respect thing (as when I call doctors Dr. ___) (I find out if it’s Mrs., Ms., or Miss by hearing what the kids call her), but then I spend a lot of time trying to alter the tone of my voice so that if they find it weird that I do that, they will hear a tone that communicates, “I am doing this because it’s what my kids call you, not because I think you’re older than me, even if you clearly ARE older than me, OH YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.” In an email I often begin with “Hello!” or “Hello! This is Edward’s mom!” and no name for the teacher at all, after getting tied up with that part for 10 minutes.

    I struggle with the husband thing ALL THE TIME. If I’m talking to the pediatrician or teacher and refer to “his father,” it sounds like we’re not together; if I say “my husband,” it sounds like he’s not the child’s father; and if I say “Paul,” how would they know that’s my husband and also the child’s father? Ack!

    Also, the paperwork every year asks for each parent if they should receive mailings or not. I always wonder what to put. We only need one copy, but it feels weird to check the box that no, their father should not receive mailings. IT’S JUST THAT WE DON’T NEED TWO, NOT THAT HE’S A BAD FATHER.

    1. Exactly! And the weird thing is that they probably don’t care one way or the other, and yet I find myself constantly wanting to refer to “my husband and the father of my children to whom I am still happily married” in everyday conversation. GAH.

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