Call Me “Aviva”

As my school webmaster, all of the form emails from the website come to me. I then forward them onto the person that can answer the question, and I always reply to the email as well, usually with something along the lines of,

Thank you for your email. I’ve forwarded it onto __________, and I’m sure [he/she] will get back to you soon. Have a great day! – Aviva

With this webmaster/email job, I usually receive 50-100 emails a day, especially at the beginning of the year, so to help respond to all of them quickly, I often check my email at lunch and before and after school. Yesterday, I received one of these form emails from a new parent, and just like always, I forwarded the email along and replied to the mom.

Yesterday was a little bit different though, as when I checked my email again, the mom wrote me back and thanked me so much for the “personal and swift” reply. The thing that really captured my attention about her email was that she signed this follow-up message with her first name.

It seems like such a little thing, but when I communicate with parents (either in an email, on the phone, or during face-to-face discussions), I always introduce myself as, “Aviva.” Usually parents then follow-up and introduce themselves by their first name too. With something as simple as a name, the interaction changes.

To me, a first name helps me form a connection with someone. I’m saying to that person that we are equals, and that I value what he/she has to say as much as he/she values what I have to say. I want to form this bond with parents, as ultimately we’re working together for the same thing: what’s best for their child.

Please don’t get me wrong here. I know many fabulous teachers that always introduce themselves as Miss, Ms., Mrs., or Mr., and they still have wonderful connections with parents. In my experience though, this comes faster when we get on a first name basis.

What do you think? What’s the benefit of using your first name versus your last name, and what do you choose to do? I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Aviva 🙂

20 thoughts on “Call Me “Aviva”

  1. I have to agree with you Aviva. I feel a more personal connection to a teacher by being able to call them by their first name. I have interactions with many of the teachers at the school as I am so involved in the school, and all the teachers are great, and after a few years now I have a connection with those teachers who prefer to be call Miss, Ms. Mrs. and Mr.

    I do have to agree with you that for me, the connection comes quicker by being able to address a teacher by their first name. I have everyone address me by my first name, Principal, VP, Secretaries, Teachers, Students. Makes me feel comfortable and more at ease.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rebecca! I love hearing this parent perspective as well. Thank you too for all you do for our school and students. We’re lucky to have you!


  2. I think there is definitely value in this practice. I do this as well. I do not know why, as an adult, I need to have another adult call me Mr. I may be traditional in the sense that I still prefer Mr Moccio over the new trend of saying “Mr Eric” in elementary schools. I do feel that students should respect that gap with a Mr or Mrs/Ms/Miss. That said, if my high school students ask me what my name is I tell them. I am human, after all! But, I still require them to call me Mr.

    • Thanks Eric! Glad to know your thoughts on this as well. I do the same thing as you at school. I honestly don’t mind either option, but everyone else goes with Miss, Ms., Mrs., and Mr. and their last name, so I do too. I understand both sides to this.

      Thanks again!

  3. Thanks Aviva! I agree. First names are more personal I feel. And trying to make that connection with parents right away in Sept. comes easier if we make ourselves more “approachable” !


  4. At my school, a French Immersion school, by tradition most teachers go by only their first name to students as well. ie/ Janet, Sharon, etc. while a few are “Madame” Carol, “Monsieur” Georges, etc. No one goes by last names and the children who come to my library often have no clue of my last name. I know some people find this odd and may instill a lack of respect for the teachers but I think it is exactly the opposite. The children feel very comfortable with the teachers, but there is still the student/teacher distinction. Even our principal goes by her first name to all the students!

    • Thanks for the comment, Joanne! My parents run a private school, and all of their students call all of the teachers and the principal by their first names. It really does create a community atmosphere, and students there, have just as much respect for the adults even without using last names. It’s amazing to see!


  5. I’m always weirded out when my colleagues call me Mr. Buist when no parents or students are around. I have a first name, you know? As for my parents, I’ve started focusing on first names lately. I’m just as old or older than many of them. We are peers in terms of age, just because I’m your child’s teacher, doesn’t mean our relationship has to be divided by the walls of school. Now I may not go out for a glass of wine with them, but I can still be friendly and be respectful of their given names.

  6. Wow Aviva, your post really made me think… I’ve always used my last name with introductions at school. My teaching partner, ECE and myself decided to stay consistent with using our last names when we were meeting parents. It just seemed to make sense as that is what the students use as reference. Also, in the school environment, colleagues are conscientious about using last names when addressing each other in front of students. That title seems to mean “teacher” and refers to my school identity as educator. However, I was thinking about what you (and others) wrote and it makes sense to use first names. As a parent, I’d like to be considered equal to my child’s teacher, but am always hesitant to use their first name as I’m not sure it’s deemed appropriate. Well, I guess I’m comfortable using it when the students are not around, but am unsure if they are surrounded by students. I think I’ll start introducing myself with both first and last names and see how parents respond to me! Thanks for the insight:)

    • Thanks for your comment! I heard part of this conversation about first and last names when I was in your classroom before school started, and it had me thinking too. The funny thing is, I never really understood why teachers were so worried about calling other teachers by their first name around students. Does it really need to be a secret? I’m terrible with last names. In fact, first names come to mind for me more often, and I often stumble for a minute to think of a colleague’s last name. I often call colleagues by their first name if around or not around students, and colleagues do the same with me. It doesn’t bother me at all! All of my students have always known that my first name is Aviva, and in fact, when teaching students about being responsible online and not signing their last name, I always used to use my name as an example and sign my first. I told my students that at school, teachers are supposed to go by their last names, and students respected this, but they were used to seeing Aviva in print, and that was fine as well.

      I think there’s lots of ways to build “respect” with students and parents, and it’s not all in a name. Sometimes showing students that you respect them enough to have them call you by their first name, actually creates an even bigger bond with them. Just a thought!

      Glad this post got your thinking. I’m curious to know how parents respond to you when you use both your first and last name. I hope you’ll share!


      • I definitely will share as I plan to do this starting next week and at open house too! I’m not entirely convinced the first name will work on me, but am curious to try it on for size. I think I’ll take my cue from parents and if they respond to my first name, I’ll reciprocate with theirs. It just feels odd as I came from a very formal, British schooling system, where titles were very important. Also, in my family of physicians, the title sets a respectful distance and is strongly encouraged. I’m not sure why anymore – you know how sometimes you just do something because that’s the why it was done for so long? That’s why I’m glad you blogged on this topic – really has me wanting to put teachers to vote!

  7. It’s funny, as even though I encourage parents to call me by my first name, I have a much harder time calling them by theirs. I find this easier to do in written form (such as an email), but much harder in face-to-face or phone conversations. Many parents encourage me to, and I still find it difficult. I’m not sure why. It just sounds strange to me. To help with this though, I often call parents by their first and last names, or I just speak to parents without mentioning a name. This seems to work. 🙂


  8. Aviva – I secretly ( not so much now – I’ve outed myself!!!) stalk your blog daily and it always gets me thinking. This post has prompted me to comment. I *always* use my first name with parents. I am uncomfortable going by my last name with them. I am in a bit of a strange situation as I am teaching in the neighbourhood that I grew up in. I have had the chance to teach many children of people I went to high school with. I find it very awkward to have these parents call me by my last name. I feel that using last names makes things very formal and personally, I don’t like the distance that it creates. I would be just as happy to have the kids call me by my first name…or even something like Mrs. Amy. Last names do not equal respect. The community that you create equals respect. The respect that you put out equals the respect that you receive. All of that being said, I have had a few parents tell me that they are uncomfortable calling me by my first name….but I continue to greet parents with a smile, an outstretched hand and “Hi, I’m Amy and I’m your child’s teacher. So glad to meet you!”

    • Wow Amy! Thank you so much for the comment. What a wonderful surprise (both the comment itself and the fact that your read my blog regularly too). 🙂 I love what you had to say here, and I completely agree with you as well. Respect comes from so much more than a name.


  9. Great post, Aviva! My students, colleagues and parents, always call me by my first name. What’s more, students sometimes call me by my nickname or even come up with a new nickname for me.
    It’s very common here in Argentina. I must admit, that when people call me Ms. Sandler, it even feels awkward. =)
    I was asked several times if letting my students or parents call me Greta might lead to respect issues. On the contrary! Not only does it help us build respect, but also really strong connections. Thanks for sharing this wonderful read!

    • Thanks for your comment, Greta! It’s great to hear your experiences with this. I agree with you too: I think that the use of your first name can really help build connections and establish a great relationship with students and parents.


  10. Wow, so sorry I’m falling behind on your blog posts.

    I always introduce myself as Ms. Karen Lirenman and then continue with “please feel free to call me Karen”. Some parents take to it right away while others are more comfortable calling me Ms. Lirenman. I let them decide. I try really hard to call my students’ parents by their first names as well. I think it’s really important to build that relationship with them. As usual, thanks for sharing your thinking. 🙂

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