Knowing the right way to address your teacher or your child’s teacher can play a crucial role in making an excellent first impression. While this is easier in the case of male teachers, especially at the pre-tertiary levels, the situation is quite different with female teachers.
It’s easier to address male teachers, especially at the pre-tertiary levels as Mr. As this does not signify in any way their marital status. This is different at the tertiary level though as most teachers at that level expect their students to address them formally based on the teacher’s academic achievement. ie Professor, Doctor, etc.
In the case of female teachers at pre-tertiary levels, teachers are commonly addressed by Ms., Miss, or Mrs. This is completely different from male teachers as students need to identify the female teacher’s preferred title.
Difference Between Miss, Mrs., And Ms.
Miss, Mrs., and Ms. are titles that can be used to address female teachers but these titles should not be used interchangeably as addressing a teacher by the wrong title could be unintentionally offensive to the teacher.
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The title “Miss” is used as a title of respect for a female child or an unmarried woman not only inside school environments but in societies in general. It can be used as a standalone term to address an unmarried teacher or combined with their full names or surnames depending on their preference. A typical example includes:
Miss Ava Robinson or simply Miss Robinson
This title is appropriate for young women and includes both children and younger female teachers. That said, the use of this title may not necessarily represent the teacher’s marital status in our modern society as some married women may still prefer the use of this title.
The title “Mrs.” is used as a title of respect for married or widowed women. Similar to Miss, its usage comes before the full name or last name of the female teacher. In some cases, the title can be used along with their partner’s first and last name. That said, this practice is becoming less common in our modern societies.
The title is mostly used in formal settings which include school environments. That said, it’s essential that you ascertain the teacher’s preference for the title before using them as some married women may still prefer the use of a different title. A typical example of how Mrs. is used include:
Mrs. Robinson or Mrs. Ava Robinson
The usage of Miss and Mrs. when addressing teachers revolves around insight into their marital status or the teacher’s preference. But what happens when you have no idea whether your teacher is married or not. Or even when the teacher wants the use of titles that do not indicate their marital status.
This is where “Ms.” becomes essential as it can serve as a suitable equivalent to “Mr.” which is used for males. “Ms.” is a title of respect that can be used in the case of married or unmarried women. It can be used followed by the teacher’s surname like below:
Since Ms. can be used as a respectful title to address both married and unmarried women, it’s highly preferred by female teachers.
|Used for females regardless of their marital status
|Used for females (young and old) who are unmarried
|Used for females who are marrried
|Pronounced “miz” or “mizz”
|Pronounced like “mis-is” or “mis-iz”. May also appear as “miss-iss”, or “miz-iz”
|Used for both married and unmarried women mostly in official context
|Used to address young or unmarried women
|Used to address married women
|Mss. or Mses.
|Originated in the 20th century as an alternative to Miss and Mrs. which were associated with marital status
|Originated in the 17th century, as a contraction of mistress
|Mrs. originated as a contraction of the honorific Mistress which fell into disuse around the late 14th century
When To Use Miss
Let’s say you want to contact your teacher over a particular issue and want to remain formal in your email to the teacher. You might not have a close personal relationship with the teacher but you’re aware she’s not married.
You can use the title “Miss” in this case as it’s appropriate. It’s however recommended that you determine the teacher’s preferred title before using this title.
When To Use Mrs.
Mrs. should be used in cases where you’re aware of the teacher’s marital status. Let’s say your parents want to write a letter to your teacher and you’re aware the teacher is married.
Your parents can use the title “Mrs.” followed by the teacher’s full name or surname. It’s also recommended that you identify the teacher’s preferred title as some married women still prefer the neutral Ms. title or Miss in some cases.
When To Use Ms.
In cases where you’re unsure of the marital status of the teacher, using “Ms.” becomes the safest alternative as it’s a respectful term that makes no assumptions about the teacher’s marital status.
It can respectfully be used to address married, unmarried, and even widowed teachers. It’s also advisable in this case to ascertain the teacher’s preferred title if possible before leveraging this title.
Are teachers Miss, Ms., Or Mrs.
Now that we have a better understanding of the individual titles used to address female teachers, let’s answer the question of addressing teachers with Miss, Ms., or Mrs.
Most teachers have their individual preferences even in the cases where they’re married as they might want to be addressed by the neutral Ms. or even Miss in rare situations. So to answer this question, we’ll say
While you may refer to married teachers as Mrs., Miss, or Ms. when addressing unmarried teachers, and Ms. when you’re uncertain of their marital status, it’s advisable to determine the teacher’s preference before addressing them by any title.
Addressing Female Teachers As Sir
While Sir is a title used for male teachers, there have been reported incidents of the title used for female teachers. This can be seen as disrespectful to the female teacher who should be addressed by the appropriate title.
In cases involving children at the early childhood education level, this is easily a mistake as they learn to navigate when to use various titles. However, it can be seen as intentional and disrespectful in the case of older students.
Female teachers should be addressed by their preferred title or Ms. in cases where you’re unaware of their preference or marital status.
Calling A Teacher Ma’am
While it’s rare to hear a teacher called “Ma’am” in most parts of the world, there have been reported instances where a female teacher was referred to as “Ma’am”.
This isn’t appropriate as most female teachers are referred to as “Miss, Ms., or Mrs.” depending on their marital status and personal preferences.
“Ma’am” is a short form for “Madam” and is mostly used in business-related situations. A typical example is a salesperson may refer to an older woman as Ma’am. While it’s appropriate for such business scenarios, most teachers wouldn’t recommend its usage when addressing them.
Another title that is sometimes inappropriately used to refer to teachers is “Mam”. While both “Ma’am” and “Mam” may seem similar in pronunciation, both are abbreviations for different words. While “Ma’am” is a short form of “Madam”, “Mam” is another word for “Mum” or “Mom”.