So . . . what is respect anyway?

My oldest son, Gabriel, is now in High School.

(Ack! How did that happen? Be forewarned those of you with very young children. These endless, repetitive, harried, hurried and paradoxically excrutiatingly slow, treacle-bogged days of preschoolers will be over in the blink of an eye and you will be wondering where the time went.)

My husband and I were a little concerned about the tendency of our son and his friends to speak of their teachers by their last name only, as in ‘Wassmer wants us to ____ ‘ or ‘Wassmer says _____.’

I use this particular teacher as an example because he is the one they refer to most often. Kirk Wassmer is my son’s High School Band Teacher and has done amazing things with the music program. He is especially important to my son, whose passion is music and performing.

Anyway . . . my husband and I, unhappy with this apparent lack of respect, expressed our concerns. Mr. Wassmer was an adult and in a position of authority. Gabriel and his friends were teenagers and referring to him as Wassmer was not appropriate. He was Mr. Wassmer and should be addressed as such as a sign of respect.

We were greeted by blank stares and the assurance that even the teachers referred to each other by their last names and often did the same for their students.

Still, we persisted, it was not respectful for a young person to address their teacher by last name only. We weren’t going to force the issue (and we certainly couldn’t enforce it), but wanted Gabriel to know where we stood on it.

Our little conversation did absolutely no good. The boys continued to refer to Mr. Wassmer by his last name only.

Then, a few weeks later, we attended the Fall Band Concert. The principal, with apologies to Mr. Wassmer, interrupted the program to read a letter he had received from a university professor and musician who had spent time teaching and performing in our school. He was so impressed with Mr. Wassmer, the students and our ‘world class’ band program that he actually took the time to write a letter singing their praises. Our beloved band teacher was clearly uncomfortable with the attention. We gave him (and the kids) a standing ovation anyway.

The next morning, when Gabriel’s friend, Matt, picked him up en route to school, I commented on what a great concert it had been the night before.

Matt said, “Yeah, and the best part was when Wassy hid behind us when Mr. Dagg read that letter.”


We had dropped even further from Wassmer to Wassy?

But the thing is,

he said it with such warmth and obvious–

–dare I say it, considering we’re talking about 15 year old boys?–


Yes, love. These kids love their music teacher.

So what appears disrespectful to us, is actually great fondness and deep respect.

Go figure.

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4 Responses to So . . . what is respect anyway?

  1. Karla Ferguson says:

    Sure, I get that. Mom and I just had a conversation this morning about my old band teacher, Mr. Aulinger. We all called him Mr. A, and wouldn’t have done that if we weren’t totally into him. Similarly, in university – my voice teacher and her husband were ‘The R’s’. Is our leaving in the title and reducing their name to a single letter any more or less disrespectful? Probably not. Funny thing about Mr. A – he was, and is, a truly lovely man, and kind of old fashioned – called us ‘dearheart’ and said ‘isn’t that ducky?’. So ‘Mr. A’ was maybe outside of his sensibility (mind you, he was also known to huck his baton in the direction of anyone who was misbehaving, so maybe not).

    • maxinespence says:

      Ouch! I don’t think Mr. Wassmer throws anything around (other than his wit). Maybe it’s those charmingly human idiosyncracies (sp?) that elevate a teacher from respect to love.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Mr. Wassmer was my band teacher too! I love love love love loved him! I think of him often and even sometimes have dreams of being in band class. Definitely the biggest influence on my life from that time.

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