Saturday, 22 June 2013

On becoming a Miss

 I've loved reading more personal stories recently from NYC taught me and Nothing but Bonfires. I thought maybe I should get a little more thoughtful that I often am.
This is something I wrote about my changing identity as a teacher.

I've always been kind of political.
In secondary school I was known for having strong feelings about human rights and being vegetarian. I took A levels in English Language, Philosophy and Government and Politics so semantics and systems of power were pretty important to me. I then went on to do a degree in Peace and Development studies
My best friend used to send me letters and postcards addressed to Miss H Stoker (because writing letters brings out the traditionalist in her) and I'd get slightly annoyed about the "Miss" part.
Why should me title, part of my name, be decided by my marital status?
I always used Ms
My first full time job happened without any planning on my part. I got a temporary job through my landlord and became a teaching assistant in a local primary school. I hadn't been back into a school since I'd left mine about 12 years earlier.
School children call their teachers Mr (last name) or Mrs (last name) if they're being polite or formal and Miss or Sir if they want attention quickly.
These are pretty much the rules without fail.
An older female who was not married was regularly called Mrs (last name) by children who thought they were being respectful.
I tried going by Ms but it wasn't something that at all familiar to the children I was working with. You can't necessarily hear the difference between the iss of Miss and the uzz of Ms, especially in Bradford where I was living and working.
Primary teachers in particular tend to get called Miss anyway, regardless of age, marital status or gender. I've seen several male teachers respond automatically to Miss
There are not many times in my non-working life when I need to use a title but I've been Miss in my work for nearly fives years now. For two of those years I lived very close to the school where I worked so I was also Miss in the local park, in the supermarket, on the bus and walking the dog.
Being Miss is part of my identity. It's not something I chose for myself or planned but when I'm working it's who I am, it's how I sign my name for children and parents and how I' referred to.
I don't really know how I feel about that.

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