Early elementary students' perceptions of teachers in relation to teachers' titles of address
This study examines the relationship between social titles used by teachers and students' perceptions of teachers' attributes. There are no reported studies of early elementary students' perceptions regarding titles of address used by teachers. This study addresses a current and relevant topic and provides a voice for early elementary children not previously available.
The questions addressed in this study are: (1) Do early elementary students rate teacher attributes differently based upon the teacher's social title of Mr., Ms, Miss, and Mrs.? (2) Are there differences in students' perceptions of teacher social titles based on student gender, language, or student primary language?
A survey was administered to 339 second grade students attending Park Avenue Early Childhood Center, located in Westbury, New York. Of these second grade students, fewer than half of the population was bilingual. Twelve classes were randomly selected to view one of the four videotapes. In each case the video instructor taught a lesson about community helpers which included firefighters, doctors, and police officers. Approximately seventy-five percent of the study group viewed identical videos featuring the same female teacher with one exception: in the first video, the female teacher used the self-referent "Miss"; in the second video the same female teacher used the self-referent "Ms," in the third video the same female teacher used the self-referent "Mrs." The fourth group of students viewed a video tape which contained the same content as the other three but featured a male teacher who used the self-referent "Mr."
Teachers who use Ms as a title of address were perceived to possess favorable attributes by both monolingual and bilingual students. There was conscious evidence in the preferences as indicated by remarks such as, "Yes I would like her to be my teacher. She is smart. She is friendly." Teachers who elected to use Mrs. or Miss as a social title were not perceived as favorably as the Ms teachers, and they received less uniformly positive responses. Bilingual students presented the outstanding finding. Ms received the most uniformly favorable rating. The social title does exist in Spanish, French and Creole. This finding has received some support by Henderson and Bergan (1976). They contend that young students parrot words and expressions of their teachers. The students are exposed, over time (five days a week, and six hours per day, 180 days a year), to the teacher's influence. When a teacher uses Ms as a self-referent, the term becomes part of the student's daily vocabulary. Similar to bilingual and monolingual females, girls perceived the Ms social title more favorably than the other social titles included in this study. While student gender did not factor into the selection based on social title, girls provided more uniformly positive responses than males to all conditions.
0518: Preschool education
0524: Elementary education