Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yes Ma'am

Day 13 of 31 at TWT!
This trimester I have a student who constantly calls me "Ma'am".  She's the second student I've had who does this, and it cracks me up.  (Remember, I live in Ohio, not the South!)  Consider the following conversation from before class yesterday:

me: "Wow, you're early today!"
M: "Yes, ma'am, our teacher let us out early last period."
me: "Did you have a good weekend?"
M: "Yes ma'am, it was real nice."
me: "Me too.  Did you do anything super fun?"
M: "Oh yes ma'am!  We went to the outlet mall and had a cookout!"

and so on...

On one hand, I think it's awesome that her family has obviously taught her to be very respectful to any adult.  In addition to the "ma'am"-ing, her whole tone of voice and body posture change when she talks to me (vs. how she addresses other kids).  Not in a bad, uptight way, but just a show of respect.  It's like the American version of using "Usted"!  There are many kids who could certainly improve upon the way they treat others (no matter their age!), and this girl is a fantastic role model of respect.

On the other hand, it makes me feel OLD!  This "ma'am" sounds like somebody way older than me... You see, I've always looked really young for my age.  So young that people are constantly misjudging my age: (yes, these are all REAL examples!)

  • Wondering if I'm a new student...when I went for my first day of a 5-week in-service during my M.Ed. program. (It was a K-8 school!)
  • Asking if I'm old enough to use the exercise machines at the rec center... when I was home from college one summer. (The age limit was 13 and up!)
  • Guessing I was a student teacher... when I arrived at School #2 during my first year in this position.  (It was my 3rd year of teaching!)
This has played into my identity for so many years that I automatically think of myself as the young one in most groups.  I'm pretty sure I still look really young, since most strangers middle-aged or older (cashiers, waitresses, the custodians at all my schools, etc.) still address me as "Honey", "Hon", "Sweetie", etc.

However, it's as if young customer service people suddenly know that I'm a "grown-up" now!  Lately, high school / college-age kids in those types of jobs have started calling me "Ma'am" instead of "Miss".  The first time it happened I wanted to run to a mirror!  Do I look older all of a sudden?  Nope, don't think so... Maybe it's the clothes?  Is this only happening when I run errands in my teaching clothes?  Perhaps I should start a scientific experiment tallying when and where... 

It's not that it bothers me, but it just feels really funny!  Of course, I suppose it could be a good thing that the outside world is starting to finally recognize me as a "real adult" -- considering I've been one for 5 years now!


  1. Could be the clothes, at least that's what my son always tells me. He says I have teacher clothes and I'm always carrying bags around. Do you still get carded?

    1. haha, good question, but I pretty much never drink alcohol so I wouldn't know! I'm sure I would get carded if I did though! :-)

  2. You make me laugh with your thoughts. Yes, ma'm is kind of hard to take (at first). But you get used to it. Then you don't even notice it. Oh the issues of aging!

  3. If you think you are old now - just wait. A student of mine tried to make someone feel bad this week by telling when they get old they will have wrinkles like the teacher! ( who me? I don't think so - I did check the mirror but can't find the wrinkles yet! It's a good thing.

  4. Ha! From one who doesn't get called Ma'am (mostly because I live in Colorado I think) this is funny, Jennifer. Going down south gives that strange feeling for everyone says ma'am to everyone, like when ordering at a restaurant. I suspect that it's mostly because there's no mistaking you are the teacher this time, and that rates a ma'am.


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