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Teacher Talk, ‘Kids,’ and the Power of Advertisement

By Liana Loewus — November 19, 2011 1 min read

Live from NCTE in Chicago

A few musings from the last two days.

• One of my favorite things about being here is listening in on English teacher side chatter. Between sessions, on the shuttle, and at meals, there’s talk of allusions, metaphors, and most of all books—from A Tale of Two Cities to Speak. These teachers live up to the fairy-tale image many of us still hold of them as passionate literature devotees.

• Yesterday in a session on formative assessment (an excellent one, which I’ll write about in a bit), the presenters showed a clip of a 10th grade teacher re-teaching a writing objective. Throughout the lesson, the teacher addressed her students as “kids.” I realized at some point that I was wincing every time she said it. Her use of the diminutive term was strangely bothersome. I know I use the word in my own writing when referring to students, but for some reason it struck me as harsh when used to address 15- and 16-year-olds--a group that generally is being asked to behave maturely and prepare for adulthood.

I know teachers who call their students “friends,” “scholars,” “boys and girls,” and “ladies and gentlemen.” I’m pretty sure I vacillated between the last one and the all-encompassing (through probably not politically correct) “guys” as an elementary school teacher.

How do you address your students? Do you think some designations are better than others? Are there grade-appropriate names or should teachers just use what comes naturally?

• Also, I just had to get this in the blog one way or another. While sitting on the train from O’Hare to the Hilton downtown on Thursday, I noticed this banner advertisement just above my head. Serendipity? The look on that teacher’s face made it seem more like a bad omen. I have a feeling cartoonish caricatures such as this are working against efforts to make teaching a more respected profession.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


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