Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Is it Deaf Culture or Lack of Respect?

Jay Krieger brings up a common debate on how we should be calling our teachers or professors by their names. By their first names? By their last names? By their signed names that include their last names?


SDA said...

In ASL, Deaf do not usually greet other people by their names. We don't say "Hello Mary" or 'Hello Mr. Smith". We greet each other simply with a hello. That's it.
Greetings with reference to names are used by hearing Americans.
Deaf Americans do not observe or practice that.
Deaf children, for years, obviously have been educated 'the hearing way' where the hearing values were imposed upon us. That's why we grew up calling our teachers, principals, etc. with the so-called "proper greeting". Again, this is by the hearing American standards.
Our American Deaf culture does not emphasize heavily on that kind of greeting. It is not found in our everyday conversation. We do not say "How are you, John?" or "Honey, I love you."
Since the late 1980's / early 1990's, we, the Deaf, have attempted to take back our Deaf education and own it once again. I think that's where the shift has taken place.
I do not see this change as a lack of respect. It is just a cultural thing when the community has become empowered.
Maybe consider reading this book _ "Reading Between the Signs" by Anna Mindness.

Jay said...


You are correct, I may have over-emphasized on the greeting part, but the point continues beyond the greetings.

For example, Let me introduce you both (assuming that you are student, and Jay is a teacher, of course in ASL not in English), this is SDA, and this is Mr. Krieger. Or do we go with: this is SDA, and this is Jay.

Going further, when you talk among yourselves, and you refer to the teacher, do you tell your friend: Darn, I have Jay again as my teacher, or do you say: Darn I have Mr. Krieger again as my teacher.

NOTE: I am not saying we necessarily sign "Mr.", "Mrs.", or "Miss", as they could be buried into a single "sign name".

Anonymous said...

Out of respect no matter what it will be, deaf children should learn how to declare the last name such as Mr or Mrs or Miss.......out of courtesy.
Among children and friends they can call by their first names. Do not blame on ASL's upbringings They should learn to respect the proper announcement. Would you call US President Bush by his first name if you come across him saying hello George...no you wouldn't instead you will say Hello President Bush. Proper greetings should continue in practice among the deaf children out of respect for elder people.

Anonymous said...

door to what?
your recreation room?

common practice is that,
"when in rome, act as romans"

of course, with guests or visitors, you would want to show some respect...

e.g. in courtroom, you say to the judge, " your honor"
not, "yo billy no time no see"

you know what will happen
of course, some of us had to find out...

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a deaf school and I always called my teachers (Deaf or hearing) by their name signs, but interesting thing is that the Deaf teachers had either both of their name initials within their name sign OR their first name's initial for their name sign. BUT the hearing teachers usually used their last name's initial.

My daughter goes to the deaf school here in the area and all of the teachers are called by their first name or name signs (which uses their first name's initial), and they are Deaf and hearing teachers. This school practices bi-cultural and bi-lingual.

I do agree that Deaf children should be taught the hearing culture of Miss, Ms, Mrs, only for their knowledge of understanding the hearing culture.

I believe it is because Deaf people, we consider each other more than friends, more like family so we don't call our grandparents Mrs.XX.

If I sign in my daughter for an doc appt, I would say (with interpreter there), "ME HERE SEE ADAMS", the interpreter would interpret saying "I'm here to see Dr. Adams."

Michele said...

Interesting! We call Bob Davila by his last name "Davila" with his "D" sign. When I went to college, I would use the last name sign for teachers. As for IKJ, we would call him King Jordan, use the lettering JKF. I notice we don't use Mr/Mrs/Ms in deaf culture. But where I work in a public school, kids call teachers by Mrs/Mr/Miss last name, never by first name but I call staff by their first names, my co-workers call each other by first names too, even we call the prinicipal by her first name but when it comes to children, we use our last names with Mr/Mrs/Miss for formality and to show who is in authority and to instill respect in children. What do deaf children call their teachers in deaf schools today? Do they call them by their frist names or by Ms/Miss/Mrs last names?? I am curious

Jay said...


Yeah, and Bob wants us to know him as Bob as well -- Look at how he called his vLogs as "Bob's vLogs".

Hmm, maybe our first names need to be more unique as our last names, so we can be known by just our first names, heh.

Aidan Mack said...

I tend to call my professors "professor". I tend to say last name until my professors or anyone in authority level tell me to use their first name.

My friend had to go to court for some reasons. I told him to say to a judge starting with "your honor". He didn't know that. I told him to trust me that the judge would appreicate it if he said " your honor". He tried. He saw how much difference it made when he said, "Your honor."


David A. Martin said...

Mr. Kreiger...I mean Jay!

See my response.


Wacky Taz said...

Back then in school, I used the teacher's last name in a sign name and calls my classmates by the first name in a sign or fingerspelling.

Then as we grew up into adults and we call our former teachers by their full names along with familiar sign for their names while digging up memories. At work, we call our coworkers even top management by their first names as if they are part of our family but if we are dealing with outsiders visiting my company, we salute them by "Mr./Mrs./Ms." last name to show respect and courtesy.

I think it depends on the social norms on how you call out their names.

Jessica said...

My hearing daughter calls her teacher and the aide by their first names. She is in preschool. So not only in deaf culture but some hearing teachers are allowed to be called by their first name but not many that I know of though.

Jessica said...

Oh, I forgot to add but I am taking a graduate course at a university close to home and my professor prefers that we call her by her first name. Felt strange but that is what she wants.

Lantana said...

First of all, it is not a "deaf culture custom", it is a trend all over. Personally I think it stinks.

Apparently the custom of using Mr. Mrs. or Miss went out about the same time that high school athletes stopped wearing jackets and ties to their games.

Todd said...

SDA is correct. This is one major reason why I keep forgetting names! I would meet a new person, be introduced, and a few minutes later, forget his/her name. (The name sign may stick a little bit longer, though!)

In mainstream society, names are called A LOT, and this helps reinforce people's memories as to who is who, etc. I don't have this reinforcement mechanism (not that I so torn up about it!), so it takes me a lot longer for me to remember names of people in my daily lives.

Barinthus said...

I'm old fashioned - I feel that persons in positions such as teachers should be referred to Mr/Ms/Mrs in English and last name in ASL.

For instance on my classroom door I would want it to say Mr. Boucher and I would prefer students to at least refer me to as Boucher in their ASL conversations. Whenever they write my name, they should refer me as Mr. Boucher.

Of course we don't usually greet each other by names. That's cultural.

Back to names, it's part of being bilingual. Students need to know that in English speaking world, that's how things are done and at same time learn what is culturally appropriate in Deaf community.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Barinthus and Lantana. In writing, it should be Mr/Ms Thisandthat, while in ASL, it should be fingerspelledlastname or namesignincorporatinglastname. SDA is right in that we never use names in greetings, but I believe we use names when referring to someone who isn't present. Speaking of hearing domination, an arrogant hearing teacher tried to force my whole department to fingerspell Mr and Ms, AND TO REQUIRE the students to do it too!! The administration gave in for reasons I still don't get, and we are still recovering from that mess. So I'm all for reclaiming our education system.
It is a nationwide hearing trend to use first names only, and in my opinion, it correlates with a growing lack of respect for teachers. And in deaf schools, I believe this is exacerbated by the "home" feeling so many students have about their school because some students live at the school, some parents are friends with some of the teachers, and all that. I think we need to fight harder to reclaim that respect, or at the very least, shore it up. I insist that my students call me by my last name for that reason.
My principal has a first name that could be a last name and said principal announced in the beginning of the year the expectation was to fingerspell the last name, no signs, no first names, nothing. Most of the staff have ignored that and fingerspell the principal's first name with the students. This has resulted in a very confused student body and most of them think the principal's first name *is* the last name. I think the other staff members are being disrespectful by not honoring the principal's expectations.
Bottom line: it's about teaching the students boundaries in a Deaf-appropriate way and by using last names only (without mandating signs/fingerspelling Mr and Ms), we model respect.

Carl Schroeder said...

Social graces! When I was in school, I was lucky to have a social graces class where our teacher discussed manners and etiquettes. I was raised to call all my teachers with prefix titles: Mr. Phelps, Mrs. Yates, etc. I continued my manners throughout my college years. However, when I became a doctorate student, my professors, all of them, asked me to call them by their first name. I had a hard time at first but sized up that we are partners in higher learning. When we are in some situations where etiquettes are called for, I would call them by their title, Professor. My doctorate professors do not like to be addressed with the prefix title, Doctor. They very much preferred to be called professors. They are calling me Mr. Schroeder till I earned my doctorate degree.
Today my students call me Professor Schroeder.
If I were a school principal today, I would prefer to be called Mr. Schroeder. My name sign would remain the same but they need to mouth "MR SCHROEDER." That's just my preference.

Anonymous said...

Jessica - I worked in preschool for many years. It is almost standard that teachers in preschool are known by their first names. It's always "Miss Katie" or "Miss Pam" because some last names can be really hard for the kids to pronounce at such a young age. First names are shorter and simpler. Depending on how young the children are, it could be with no "Miss" in front at all.

ASL said...

For first time introduction, begin with This is Mr. Krieger....
Then it is rest of their comfortable to calling you whatever they want. I know Deaf culture don't calling names at all.

Dr. Davilla only inside the building Gallaudet well not only but i mean for student, worker so they honor him. And Bob's vlog to outside in the world like friends, gally alumni and so on.

Nick Vera said...

Your topic is good discussion and gave my personal thoughts.

I remember when I was a student at NTID. One night, I emailed my message to deliver to my hearing teacher with her first name. Next day, she outraged with me by her resistment of my calling her first name.
I realized some teachers at colleges and universities are flexible or preferrable for their students to call etiquettes approaches by their choices.
Rules for each cultures that we follow through the mannerism approaches respectfully.
I agreed with you all above of the comments including Jay's opinion in his expression.

Anonymous said...

My hearing neighbors and I have talked about this. In the 1970's we used to call neighbors, Mr/Mrs. last name, etc.

In the modern times, in the 21st century, we taught our children to call Ms./Mr. first name. We have discussed the diversity and foreign names, that is where we are having some difficult to speak. Especially, children are having some difficult to speak.

White Ghost

Nick said...

I think it depends on the situation. For example, with my business associates, elders, etc that I meet with for the first time, Ill sign Mr. or Mrs.... sometimes Ill even sign with "sir" or "ma'am".

If the person tells me that they wish to be called by their first name, then I will. This is out of respect for the person's preference.

But in most cases in business or to my elders, Ill stick with "sir" or "ma'am".

Jessica said...

Anonymous 3:06 AM,

That would make sense. I thought abt that since her teacher's name was rather hard to pronounce. I asked her this morning how she calls her teacher, is it DeAnn or Miss Deann or Sherry or Miss Sherry? She says it is just DeAnn or Sherry, that is all. She is in the older preschool class. My daughter explained that her teacher prefers to be called just "DeAnn" and not add Ms. In her first year preschool class last year, her teacher expected them to call her Mrs. Watembach.

Most teachers I know have us acknowledge them by Mr./Mrs./Ms. last name. My son's 1st grade teacher does.

So I am assuming that it is not just a Deaf culture thing.

Jay said...

A friend pointed out another article on this same topic written by Trudy Suggs. She wrote on this back in May 2004. Go on over there and I think you will enjoy reading her analysis.

Truly My Thoughts and be sure to scroll down to Name Signs.

grace said...

I would say for a deaf teacher, maybe just last name sign will do. Even tho if that deaf teacher really goes by signing his first name. In a classroom, I would make up a last name sign. It is a way to enforce respect and proper training. Other than that, I laughed when you used Mrs. Wall and Mr. Weiler as examples. We got same teachers! Grace Shirk

jwomick said...

that's true u have good point but MY OPINION we should called that person who are office : as president, vice president, or teacher, or whatever that more CAREER formal name as show them as we are respect cuz they are show who they are if FRIEND OR FAMILY that's different story. if out of the world we should respect them by name as mrs, dr, or whatever is it. unless if they tell you rather call her or him simple as josh or whatever is it as i rather people call me joshua i dont' matter know what i mean? that's my opinion

W.F.T. said...

As a soon to be teacher, I just might change my mind on this: I call all adults I encounter in my field by their title and last names until told otherwise; however, I personally do not care for this. I would rather students call me Belle, because I am not about to call my students by their last names. As a student teacher, I feel that I am a guest of the high school so I DO have the students call me Ms. MyLastName. Not only that, but I doubt the college supervisor who evaluates me would be on the same page as I.

I am really fortunate in that the initial of my last name is the same as my first, so I really never have to grapple with this sign-wise!

W.F.T. said...

I would like to add that if students feel uncomfortable with calling me Belle, they certainly can call me Ms. MyLastName because, frankly, I do not give a hoot what they call me, as long as it is in good taste.

W.F.T. said...

One last comment: I definitely think it is a sign of the changing times, with a soupcon of deaf culture thrown in in this case.