I taught elementary school in five states and eight schools over 34 years. Usually my roles as teacher and church member stayed totally separate, but occasionally they overlapped. Because it was rare, I remember them.
First was when we were living in Pittsburg, Kansas, and I was teaching fifth grade. I had a charming, roly-poly student named Jeanne Middleton. As it happened, the Middletons attended “our” church.
Also coincidentally, we often arrived in the parking lot at the same time. Jeannie would roll out of the car, blond curls bouncing, and shout, “Hello, Steve! Hello, Mrs. Boyd!”
We were amused that she felt free to call Steve by his first name but maintained classroom formality with me even at church.
Though we live and I taught in Kentucky, our church now is in Cincinnati. Two of our church children also went to my elementary school and called me “Mrs. Boyd” until they were teens, then followed the lead of the other teens to switch over to “Lanita,” or, for some with Southern roots, “Miss Lanita.”
When Central sponsored a youth rally and teens from neighboring congregations gathered at our building, I overheard an amusing conversation. The Central teen was talking with a visitor who had been in my fifth grade class years earlier. As they passed me to go up the stairs, our local teen said, “Bye, Lanita!”
His friend echoed, “Bye, Lanita!” and I returned their farewell. But as he rounded the corner and started up the stairs, I heard him say in awe, “I can’t believe I called her ‘Lanita’!”
I really answer to any of the above—even to “Lantana” and “Latina” from well-meaning older women in my past. I was reminded of what children call adults when Steve and I recently facilitated a parenting class at Central.
The people who wrote the material feel strongly that adults should have a title with their names, whether it’s “Uncle David” or “Mr. David” or “Mr. Miller.” There should be a line of respect between children and adults. I love it when I hear the little ones calling my daughter “Miss Kelsey,” a sign of respect.
It’s just something to think about. We’ve been told that “YHWH,” the Hebrew term for God, was not pronounced aloud because his name was too holy. Today hardly anything is too holy or worthy of great honor and respect, but I would love for us to go back to a more respectful time.
I’m not a manners Nazi, though I do appreciate good manners. I’d just like to see “respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor.” Maybe I’ll put these thoughts into action by introducing myself to children as “Miss Lanita” or “Miss Nita.” Or maybe not. I’d take a chance on offending nearby parents or other adults.
Recently I’ve started calling my friend Louise “Miss Louise,” which makes sense. She is 90—plenty old enough to be my mother.
I think I’ll just stick with showing respect my own way—Miss Louise, Miss Lillian, Mr. Clancy.
Maybe it will catch on.