Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Student Apparently Punished For Calling Teacher ‘Ma’am’

Parents of a North Carolina boy say their 10-year-old was actually punished for calling a teacher ‘ma’am’ in the classroom.

When I was a kid, we called our teacher Ma’am or Sir, depending, of course, on their gender.

In my experience, it never bothered anyone. It never offended anyone.

It certainly never caused anyone to have faced any kind of punishment. That’s why a story out of North Carolina left me scratching my head.

The story, reported on various sites that all link back to WTVD-TV in Raleigh, explains that the fifth grader was instructed to write the word ma’am over and over again on a piece of paper. That exercise was punishment, apparently, because the child called the teacher ma’am after the teacher had instructed the child not to do so.

What’s not clear from any of the reports is what the teacher preferred to be called. Or, for that matter, why ma’am could have possibly been such a problem.

Because it’s such a hot-button issue these days, I have to assume if it was a case of a teacher who appeared to be female but identified as male, that would have been mentioned. If it were something along those lines, I’d also assume the school would have addressed it.

I’m assuming. I may be wrong on that.

With that possibility set aside, we’re left with the possibility that this woman just doesn’t like the title ma’am. Apparently, some women do dislike the word.

They feel it makes them sound older than they are.

In taking offense for that reason, they seem perfectly willing to ignore generations of instruction in manners, which specify, just as was taught to me and my contemporaries, that it’s a show of respect and nothing more.

There’s no intent with the use of sir or ma’am to insinuate things like old age. There’s not even an intent to signify marital status, which is another reason I’m told some might object.

There have been times when people have referred to me as “Mr. Patrick” when they want to refer to me by my first name. It happened just the other day at Chick-Fil-A when I was ordering lunch. I find “Mr. Patrick” somewhat annoying. They ask me for my name, I give them my first name and they add mister to the front of it. 

I don’t care for it. But I’m at least smart enough to recognize that it’s also a show of respect. While I wish they’d just call me Patrick and get on with it, I know they’re trying to be polite.

I can’t imagine why I’d be so upset as to complain about it. To borrow an old saying, it that’s the worst thing that happens to me all day, I’ve had a really good day.

The student was told to take the page with the word ma’am written over and over again and have it signed by his folks.

His parents say they added a second page: that page included the definition of the title.

Ma’am came into English in the 17th century as an abbreviation of madam. Today’s primary definition is quite simple: “a term of respectful or polite address used for a woman.”

With all of the myriad ways we find these days to intentionally offend each other, I can’t believe we’re not choosing to get upset about words meant to actually show respect.

Fortunately, the story mentions the school agreed with the parents’ request to move th child to a different classroom.

The school, naturally, won’t say how it dealt with the situation internally. But I certainly hope there was a lot of discussion and a lot of realization that this was a “disciplinary action” that should never have happened to begin with.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.