Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

When you were growing up what did you call your teachers?

Have you ever called a teacher by their first name?

Do you ever find yourself feeling confused as to what you should call a teacher in English?

We’re going to talk about how you decide what you should call a teacher, and what sort of things to consider in this.

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Today we have a question from a teacher about titles that touches on this directly.

Hi Lindsay, what’s up?

I’m an English teacher in Brazil and I have a question. What’s the best way to address a teacher? Should I encourage my students to call me Mr. Figueredo? Would it be better to just go by my first name Marcelo? (My name’s Marcelo Figueredo).

What should I do to make it more natural?

By the way, in Brazil it’s pretty common for kids to call us teachers “uncle” “aunt” or just “teacher”.

And last but not least, I’ve been living vicariously through your show.

Have a good one.


Considering The Culture

This is really interesting because it seems that it is so different between cultures.

While the listener would call teachers “aunt”, that wouldn’t happen in the US as a whole.

So how should Marcelo (in the example) decide what students should call him?

This comes do, down to culture, comfort level, and relationship as well.

You want to consider what feels natural, but there are also other considerations here.

Some Considerations In Your Decision

You want to think through a few things when you consider what you should call a teacher.

The teacher tends to set the tone, such as in the example.

The student typically goes for the more formal option first, and then lets the teacher decide.

Here are a few things to consider in this situation to decide what’s right.

  1. How old are the students? If you were teaching university students, then you may be more likely to go by your first name. if however you are teaching elementary school, then you would likely go with the more formal name.
  2. How formal do YOU want to be? If you like feeling more formal, Mr. Figueredo would be good. If you want to be a little less formal, Mr. Marcelo would work. If you want to be even LESS formal, just Marcelo would be good. This depends on what your preference is, as that’s important here.
  3. What do other teachers do where you work? It may be weird if you are called Marcelo when all other teachers go by a more formal title. 

You have to consider what works best for you personally, as well as the atmosphere that you’r’e in.

Options For Students

So what about on the student end?

When in doubt, it’s good to go with the more formal title first.

If a teacher feels comfortable with something less formal, then it’s up to them to decide and let you know.

As a general rule, here are a couple of good options for what you could call your teacher as the student.

For University

  • Miss
  • Professor
  • Mrs.
  • Mr.
  • Dr. (if they have an advanced degree)

For Other Schools (Younger Students)

  • Miss
  • Mrs.
  • Mr.
  • Teacher (though this is not a typical one and can be a bit too formal)

If you think of it this way, then you can ensure that you use the appropriate term.

Set The Tone

If you are the student, then wait for the teacher to say what to call them.

They should do this on the first day, but if you are unsure, always start more formal and then see what happens.

It can’t hurt to be more formal, but if you call a teacher by his or her first name when they want to be formal, it may be a little bit awkward. 

It’s always best to go with the more conservative option, and then you can change it up if needed.

It’s easier to go more formal and change, then to go not formal enough and then be embarrassed.

This is something that applies to teachers, but it can also be part of a bigger picture too.


This is so cultural so it’s a great question and thing to think through.

As a teacher, you should use a variety of factors when deciding what you want to be called.

As a student, go with the more formal title first and wait for the teacher to decide the title that fits best.

This will vary by culture, but you can’t go wrong if you think it through and consider the relationship and situation.

This will help to set the tone, and it will help to make a very important connection.

If you have any questions, please place them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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