Monday, August 25, 2008

Althusserian Hailing and the Freshman Mind

They could teach us how to set up Blackboard. How to put together a tightly worded syllabus. The relative virtues of guest lecturers. But what the freshmen should call us, no one knows.

Dr. Hedengren: Of course not. I don't have a PhD. This title is a lie.

Professor Hedengren: This is not a lie, but it's an untruth. There's no real hard qualification to being called "Professor." Most "Professors" are actually assistant professors or associate professors, but no one calls themselves "Assistant Professor Smith." That's silly.

Instructor Hedengren: So per above, I'm technically an "instructor." However, this is a mouthful, and somehow has a futuristic-battle-academy favor to it. Maybe that's not altogether a bad thing, but still awkward.

Master Hedengren: MA students joke about this, but it's just as much of a lie as "Dr." because I haven't earned that MA yet. PhD candidates can maybe use this distinction, but they don't, strangely.

Bachelor Hedengren: No. No, that's just... no.

Sister Hedengren: Strangely enough, almost every young person I know objects to this title. Is it because we sound like our mothers? Is it because we think we're too cool or too academic for a religious form of address? Probably. And shockingly I've heard people say (twice) that they think that this name would make students tune out. One cringes to think what kind of Sunday School they attended that they were always tuning out. Also they think it might introduce a religious expectation for the class (like that they're going to open with a prayer or offer grading mercy to their students...psshhw.) While I liked who I was on my mission a lot, I might slip into that as a teacher. Still, unlike others, I have no pressing objection to this title.

Mary: This is the one that most of my contemporaries go for. I'm hesitant on it, and not just because everyone goes for it. This is more casual than Sister Hedengren, although no one seems to admit it. I belong to that old, pre-1960s school that values authority figureship and professionalism over cool and casual. I'm the teacher here. I know more than them. Can't I assert it some how? (Ironically, this is also the year I start calling my professors by their first names, although they are surely further above me than I am to my freshmen, but they're probably secure enough to not mind.)

Sister Mary: This is the one I keep telling people I'll use, but honestly, probably not. I dig the nunness of it in theory, but it's not a great idea for an entire MA teaching career. But I think that if my name was something like Jane, or if I were a man, it would be fun to go the old-time-Mormon route of Brother Joseph and Sister Emma.

Miss Hedengren: Although I feel like this is very not-even-high-schooly, this is probably the route I'll end up going. This is no more an affirmation of my (limited) qualifications than Sister Hedengren or Mary, but my freshmen will understand it as authority figure language and it does set me apart from the real professors. I feel like a preschool teacher, but I can get used to it.

Comrade/Citizen Hedengren: is really what I'm looking for. Gender-neutral, respectful, formal, but oh so red. Dang.

Maybe I'll just not say anything, let them figure it out. My freshman teacher did that, Kylie Turley, so I spent the entire semester calling her Kylie Turley. "Kylie Turley, I have a question."

I also encounter the weird "I want to call you by your last name, but my parents/friends use your first name, so I don't know which is right" situation. I had that with Kim Johnson, whom I also call by her full name, but often I call her "Kimmy-poo," which I'm pretty sure is definately not okay. Can I give my students a silly nickname to call me and bypass this whole thing? No, not when I'm a short young woman.

When I took my dad's class I didn't know whether to call him "Dad" or "Dr. Hedengren" so I gave up calling him anything at all. In study group I think I said "our professor" and in class I just raised my hand. So I guess there are even more confusing situations. Maybe I could ask my students to call me "Ma."


xister said...

These are my votes:

1. Sister Mary
2. Auntie Mary
3. Mary Hedengren

You should call me. I heard a rumor that you have a new telephone number, which would explain why you haven't been returning my phonecalls.

Makayla said...

Why is this so hard? (And don't get me wrong, I'm kind of with you.)

And I'm going to respond in detail. Sorry about that, in advance.

Dr. Hedengren. If only the rules in English were like some of the rules in other languages, you could make this future tense and solve it all right there.

Professor... no. In my opinion, nobody should ever be dubbed "Professor" anything. I refer to professors as "my professors" but never, ever have I even once called somebody "Professor X." I'm not sure why. I think I don't like the way it sounds.

Sister... LOL. You know, a long time ago it didn't really bother me to be called Sister Steiner, and then I started going to church with my parental grandmother, and now, not that there's anything wrong with her, but that name belongs to her. Not me.

And, funny thing, I also called Kylie Turley by her full name the entire semester as well. Hm. That was a long time ago...

And you know... we also have another professor who never actually introduces himself or specifies what he is to be called (ahem...) but that is okay for two reasons - he IS PhD-ed, and he doesn't mind if you don't call him anything at all. Which I've now been doing for a year. :)

But seriously, my vote? Bachelor Hedengren. LOL. That was my favorite.

Jennifer said...

Hmm, these are my views.

Dr.--Save it for the real Ph.D.s in formal settings.

Professor--I used this for professors with whom I had a less formal relationship. It seemed respectful, yet casual.

Instructor--Just awkward. Makes me think of yoga or aerobics classes.

Master--Sadly, only works for 19th-century British men.

Bachelor--Bachelors are only men! Just like Reese Witherspoon is not an actor, but an actress, you are a bachelorette. Also, calling you Bachelorette Hedengren makes me feel like we're on the Dating Game.

Sister--Are we at church where we are all equals? No. This one is out.

First name only--You and I are on the same old-school boat on this one.

Sister Mary--The nunness is undeniable. Still, the previous note to sister stands.

Miss Hedengren--Okay, sounds a little youthful. That's why I prefer Ms. Hedengren. Are you a young thing trying to be taken seriously or a single 40-yr old? From a piece of paper, they'll never know.

Luckily, at the end of the day, I have no students, so I can enjoy the benefits of the debate without actually having to eventually settle on a title and hear people call me it.

Lobbie said...

COMRADE! COMRADE!!!! Then you can make vague threats and references to your "secret TAs."

ke said...

Miss Evans has changed my life. Withstood even fishnets and red shoes. (Though I have the benefit of their 14-year-old-ness which guarantees my authority indefinitely.)

Miss M?

Dave and Margaret said...

The point of Althusserian Hailing is to have a quick title that establishes a relationship. (At least that's how I use it, I think he was making some kind of point about repression.) As such it is totally appropriate to use the title instructor. You are their teacher and you, and you alone, give them a grade at the end of the day. That's what an instructor is. If that feels too awkward go with Ms. Hedengren.

However, no matter what you chose be sure to avail yourself of the "secret TA" idea. They sew the seeds of fear and order.

Kylie said...

How funny is this? I google myself about once every two years and just happened to do it today. What did I find? Your blog!

Usually I tell students what to call me. Every once in awhile I forget. Then I get to be amused all semester by the contortions students go through as they try to figure out what to call me. My favorite moment of all, by the way, was when a student walked across the entire room to tap me on the shoulder so he didn't have to call me. Very funny.

So what did you decide?