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In the UK, it's very common for secondary school teachers to be referred to as one of the following:

  • Sir/Miss
  • Miss/Mrs/Mr Surname

This would be both when the students are talking about the teacher, and when talking directly to the

Can you help me with this question Miss?

Mr. Smith, what does this mean?

Please Sir, can I be excused.

However, all of these are quite clearly gendered.


When introducing themselves to a classroom, which forms of address could a teacher instruct their students to use that are gender neutral?

Instead of calling me "Sir", please refer to me as "X"

or

Instead of calling me "Mr. Surname", please refer to me as "X. Surname"

Note, this would be for day-to-day in-person classroom interactions, and not specifically written communications (although my gut feeling is the same terms would work equally well).


I've looked at professional titles, and academic prefixes. However, in the UK these have very specific meanings and requirements to wield them:

  • Dr (Doctor), should only be used by those with a Doctorate qualification, or who work in the medical profession as a Medical Doctor

  • Professor, should only be used as a academic professor at a university. It does not apply for high-school level teachers.


Ideally, what I am looking for is a gender neutral term or title, that can be used in place of the above "Sir", "Mr Smith"; that also does not specifically identify the user as non-binary.

That is; is there a form of address which works similarly to "Dr." that would be applicable to a non-doctorate educated teacher, working in a UK highschool?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Oct 19 '19 at 21:04
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In part of your reply, you describe a couple of titles that would be inappropriate for teachers to use: doctor or professor. While that is true, there are other titles that may be appropriate at the high school level: teacher or teach.

Teacher is sometimes used as a proper noun in American English, so I decided to try to find it in British English. The British National Corpus gives one example of "Teacher" as a proper noun, from what appears to be the start of a letter:

Dear Teacher I am glad to have the opportunity of welcoming you to WISE V ...

Of course English rock band Pink Floyd was doing this decades ago in "Another Brick in the Wall":

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone

I've also seen this abbreviated to Teach, as this example from (American) TV show The Good Place, Season 3, episode 3:

Hey, teach, I've been having so much fun here, but I didn't plan to stay in Australia this long, and I'm super broke.

Teach feels informal and colloquial; teacher more formal.

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    I like this suggestion. Of course before suggesting it to your students, check it with your superior (principal, headmaster,...) – GEdgar Oct 19 '19 at 18:54
  • This answer fits exactly what I asked for, and although there were comments discussing whether it's fitting in BrE/commonly in use - the fact this answer still maintains a positive vote suggests it can't be all that egregious. – user274438 Oct 21 '19 at 12:45
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It's not widely known, but it is recognised by the UK Government:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mx_(title)

(pronounced Məks) eg Mx Smith. It could presumably be used in the form "Please Mx, can I have some more?"

Edit: I have never head this title actually used, but it appears to be the title that could be used if a person insisted on a gender-neutral title.

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  • But the Wikipedia article makes no mention of the uptake of this term in the schools sector. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 17 '19 at 15:44
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    For the specific (technical) question asked, this is a good answer. But in reality it is likely to cause more problems than it solves: I would recommend the teacher discuss the matter with the head. – Tim Lymington Oct 17 '19 at 16:39
  • This is a very good answer for what I was after, it's one I was not aware of and especially that it is now recognized by the UK Government makes it fitting. @TimLymington Don't worry, regardless of the answer, I believe that would be a sensible human approach - despite badly wording my question; I am here for the technical side of what's possible with our current language. – user274438 Oct 18 '19 at 11:29
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    @Bilkokuya Considering "the technical side of what's possible with our current language" can lead very quickly into sounding unnatural or even outlandish. 'Grammatical' and 'acceptable' are often far from being synonymous. "It is I" is still arguably the grammatically correct form, but Pullum, perhaps the most famous grammarian alive today, is scathing about its use in conversation. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 18 '19 at 11:52

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