Culture, Languages, Multicultural Kid Blogs, School

How Do Children Address Their Teachers Across the Globe?

A BBC article back in May relayed that Prof Jennifer Coates stated that calling males teachers ‘sir’ but addressing female teachers as ‘miss’ gives female teachers a lower status than males in British schools, and is sexist. In general, British teachers are indeed referred to as Miss or Sir or Miss/Mrs or Mr and their last names. Apparently (and those of you in Britain can clarify better than I can) some schools are moving towards pupils addressing teachers by their first names, trying to close the distance between teachers and their students, which is how it is in the Netherlands.

In the Dutch education system children address teachers by their first name, using juf or juffrouw in front for a female and meester for a male teacher. When I was in school it was quite the game to try and find out our teachers first names – and if we did it was an occasion for hilarity. Looking back I have no idea why – maybe a sense of taboo in that we weren’t supposed to know their names. No such fun for Dutch school goers.

But it got me wondering. How do children in other countries address their teachers? So I asked the amazing Multicultural Kids Blogs bloggers…. and this is how teachers are addressed in countries across the globe – showing that how we address our teachers is truly cultural.

Australia

“I’m a teacher in an Australian primary school (ages 6 to 12)and we always are addressed Mr/Mrs/Ms and surname. Sometimes if a teacher has a long or difficult to pronounce name it is shortened to Mr P etc.” Anonymous

Brazil

“Generally in Brazil students use the first name of their teacher. If the students are still quite young they often put ‘tia/tio’ (‘aunt/uncle’) in front of the name. Tia/tio is a universal term of respect that young young people use for their elders, regardless of relationship.” Stephen Greene, Head of the Herd

China

In China children use teacher’s last name and add Lao Shi (teacher) after it. If it is a foreign teacher then they say “teacher” and add teacher’s first name (e.g. teacher Varya – well, I go by teacher V because no one can pronounce my name properly!). Varya of Little Artists

Equador

“In Ecuador they say Miss _____ (first name) an Mister ________ where I went to school.” Diana Limongi Gabriele of Spanglish baby

Finland

“In Finland it’s first names or even nick-names all the way with teachers, no titles or surnames. The whole society is very informal – I don’t think that even the president would flinch if someone called him by his first name.” Rita Rosenback of Multilingual Parenting 

France

“In France, it depends on the teacher. It can be “Madame/ Mademoiselle/ Monsieur X” or it can also be the first name and adressed as “vous” or first name and tu (=you) (but the last one is more for the kids in pre-school)” Eolia Scarlett Disler

“My niece in France uses the polite form “vous” and mrs C: Madame C. She is in primary school.” Annabelle Humanes

“It’s also very common for kids to use the terms “maîtresse” and “maître” for female and male teachers respectively, meaning simply “teacher” (for primary school age 6-10). Pre-school (3-6) usually use first names and secondary use Monsieur and Madame.” Phoebe from The Lou Messugo Blog  

“In France students will say simply -maîtresse or maître (meaning teacher – femine/masculine) by itself when asking a question or trying to get his/her attention. In Maternelle (Pre-school) the teachers went by their first names for the students. Beginning at Elementary..it changes to to Madame or Monsieur (plus last name of teacher).” Jennifer Poe-Faugere

Germany

“In Germany at kindergarten, kids use the first names and Du.”Annabelle Humanes

“In Germany, students adress teachers by using Herr/Frau and surname, using “Sie” as the polite form (Herr Schmidt, koennen Sie…). Teachers address students by their names, but when the students are over 16 years old, they also get “sietzt”- address using “Sie”. Sometimes teachers would use first name and Sie.” Olga Mecking

Italy

“In preschool (3-5) in Italy children use just teachers’ first names.” Galina Nikitina of Raising a Trilingual Child 

Korea

“Similar to China, my students in Korean added the word for teacher – seonsaengnim or the abbreviated saem – after the full/first name. Or sometimes they just used “saem.” It felt strange to have students address me by my first name (I’m American).” Marielle

Latvia

“In Latvia you commonly avoid using name or surname but simply address them as teacher (skolotāj) and use the polite form “jūs” which is akin to the German “Sie” or French “vous”. Talking to a third person you’d say teacher and then add the last name, though by high-school when talking with other students you’d just use the surname or name of the teacher. But you’d never address a teacher that way as it would be considered disrespectful.” Ilze Ievina 

Morocco

“In Arabic class it’s usted or usteda and French maitresse. No names just the word teacher.” Amanda Ponzio Mouttaki

Poland 

“In Poland, it’s Pan/Pani (Sir/Madam) and the pupils get called by their names. In secondary school, the students sometimes adress their teachers with, “pan profesor”, or “pani profesor”- even if the teachers are not professors” Olga Mecking 

Portugal

“In Portugal, in primary school, children refer to the teachers as Sra. Professora(female)/Sr. Professor (male)or by their first name. In high school they call them ‘stora’ and ‘stor’, which is an abbreviation of Professora/Professor.” Joanna

Russia

“In Russia children use full names to address teachers: first name + patronymic. How does a patronymic form? Let’s say a teacher’s name is Ivan, and his father’s name is Mikhail. His full name will be Ivan Mikhailovich (which is rather like “Mikhail’s”). Last name + first name + patronymic is what you will find in Russian documents. It is very common to use full names when addressing an older person, co-worker or a stranger, though less common than in the past. In the last couple of decades there is a tendency to use only first names, but not for teachers.” Liska Myers at Adventure in a Box 

“In Russia we address by first name with patronymic (a variation of father’s name that is added after 1st name in our passports -it is a general official way of calling people).” Varya of Little Artists

Spain

“In Spain our kids just use the teachers’ first names.” Kara Haberbush Suro of Our Whole Village

USA 

“When we lived in the US kids used first names but we lived in San Francisco and it really varies by region. In other parts of the US, kids use either Ms./Mr. and the first name or the last name.” Kara Haberbush Suro of Our Whole Village

“Ms. First Name in Berkeley California.” Stephanie Meade of InCulture Parent 

“In the US, children (elementary school age and up) typically refer to their teachers as Mr. or Mrs. My children go to a French International School where the elementary school English teachers are referred to as Mr. and Mrs. and the French teachers go by their first names.” Aimee, of Raising World Citizens

“My children go to a Mandarin immersion school in California, and they call Chinese teachers their name (given or surname depending on teachers’ preference. I believe in mainland China they would always use surname) + Laoshi, which means Teacher. Their English teachers use Miss/Ms/Mr + given (first) name.” Sophie Beach

“East coast US, more old-school: Mrs./Dr./Mr. (Last Name). I think calling them by first names would get them in big trouble!” Homa Sabet Tavangar

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17 thoughts on “How Do Children Address Their Teachers Across the Globe?”

  1. In Portugal, in primary school, children refer to the teachers as Sra. Professora(female)/Sr. Professor (male)or by their first name. In high school they call them 'stora' and 'stor', which is an abbreviation of Professora/Professor.

    Thanks, Joana

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  2. Similar to the China, my students in Korean added the word for teacher – seonsaengnim or the abbreviated saem – after the full/first name. Or sometimes they just used “saem.” It felt strange to have students address me by my first name (I'm American).

    Like

  3. In my daughter's school in France, kids called the teacher ” maitresse”, while their referred to their male Italian teacher as “maestro.”

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  4. It's so fantastic to see the cultural differences around the world. It's also interesting to see how it varies by age and even regions within some countries.

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  5. I'm a teacher in an Australian primary school (ages 6 to 12)and we always are addressed Mr/Mrs/Ms and surname. Sometimes if a teacher has a long or difficult to pronounce name it is shortened to Mr P etc.

    Like

  6. As a Brit, it felt wrong when we first came to the Netherlands to call teachers Juf / Meester + first name. Teachers' first names? How shocking! It's partly to do with informality, but doesn't imply disrespect. It's also very practical; my children's primary school had umpteen Meneer Jansens or Janssens and there was more variety in the first names. Rather unusually, the male teachers were called Meneer, e.g. Meneer Paul. I'm not sure if this is the same for all schools in this town, or just this particular school. As a parent, I was never quite sure if I was supposed to talk about Meneer Paul when I was talking to another teacher, or if I was allowed to call him Paul.

    Having got used to this, it then seemed strange when my children moved on to senior school and the teachers were referred to as Meneer or Mevrouw Jansen. At college level, it seems to be the teacher's own choice.

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  7. Same sentiments here and I also struggled about whether to drop the juf or meester when talking to other adults like teachers about them! It was weird! And interesting to read it changes in senior school – I hadn't heard that before. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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  8. What a great article. I find it odd that our boys, in French primary school, could call their teachers by their first names although more generally they just used maîtresse. In England I used to work in primary schools on environmental projects and as I am not a teacher I allowed the children to call me by my first name, which they loved. One child however insisted on calling me Auntie Rosie as she said it felt wrong calling the person leading the class just Rosie.

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  9. Great idea for an article, Amanda (or should I write Mrs Mulligan?😉) I remember, in high school in Netherlands, we had married couples teaching different subjects. Amongst the students they were usually referred to as Pa + familyname or ma + familyname. Just to make clear difference to other teachers with similar familynames.

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