In the past year or so I've been pondering quite a bit the place and use of titles such as Miss, Mrs., Mr., etc. This is mainly because I am now at that age when I am an adult (and a college graduate), yet I still don't fully think of myself as one. If I meet anyone remotely older than me who is married, then I automatically call them by their last name, Mr. or Mrs. ______, yet more and more often I meet married adults who are 10 or 20 years older than me, and they ask me to refer to them by their first name.
My confusion has increased over the past semester as I am now teaching for a homeschool program that I have been familiar with for quite some time. Although I never attended there, my family has known the headmaster (and other involved families) for years, and I still refer to him as Mr. Meents; I would not feel comfortable doing otherwise. The other woman who teaches math for the program, though, is older than the headmaster, yet I call her by her first name when not in the presence of students.
But the saga continues. You see, I know several homeschool families who send their children to the program. One of my Algebra I students (obviously several years younger than myself) grew up with me in the same homeschool group, yet she now has to call me "Miss Garrison" instead of "Susan". Her older brother still calls me Susan and thinks it's funny that she now refers to me, even at home, as Miss Garrison. There was originally a strong possibility this year that two girls who I know very well - one I consider a friend, the other is one of my sister's friends - would be in my statistics class, which didn't end up garnering enough interest to materialize. That would have been even stranger to be in a position of authority over two girls with whom I have such a close acquaintance (and are closer in age) and to have them call me Miss Garrison. I know several other students in the program, but only the one girl whom I actually teach, two counting the sister of one of my sister's friends.
Then there is the tutoring I do on the side. Do I introduce myself to my tutoring students as Miss Garrison, as Susan, or just leave them to guess? I've been introducing myself as Susan, but I can see that it is strange or uncomfortable to some students.
And ah, yes, the Mrs., Miss, Ms. controversy. I avoid Ms. since it is a product of the feminist revolution :). In college all female instructors without a doctorate, even if married with their husbands' last names, were referred to as Ms. _______, pronounced "miss". A few wrote their name "Mrs.", but most opted for the elusive "Ms." in both writing and speech. I spent a good deal of time in the public schools last year observing and teaching, and never was a female teacher verbally referred to with the title "Mrs". The high school teachers, unlike the college instructors, did not mind writing their names "Mrs.", they were just never referred to by this title; it was always verbally "Miss", whether married or single. I'm not sure if this was from feminist influences or a product of southern culture. . .
I have found it very amusing to observe the differences in which my students and their parents refer to me in writing. I introduced myself to my classes as Miss Garrison and the same was written on my syllabus and all mass parent-student e-mails. All of my students verbally address me as "Miss Garrison". By e-mail, though, I have had students refer to me as "Mrs. Garrison" on numerous occasions, as well as the most popular "Ms. Garrison". Rarely (I hazard to guess never) has a student or parent addressed me in writing as "Miss Garrison", although I sign every mass parent-student e-mail with this title. To individual parents I often sign my e-mails "Susan Garrison"; some reply with Mrs, most with Ms, and one or two with Susan. To the two parents whom I have long known, I always sign my name "Susan", and they respond in kind.
What brought on this long meandering was the recent slew of progress reports I just e-mailed today. I individually e-mailed an Excel grade spreadsheet to each student, with grades and averages, and wrote a short personalized e-mail signed "Miss Garrison". One of the parents has already e-mailed back to "Mrs. Garrison", which I find amusing since in the e-mail to which she was replying I signed my name "Miss Garrison". Granted I am not offended, nor will I lose sleep over this. I really don't care if all my students and parents refer to me as "Mrs. Garrison" - though that is my mother's name ;). I just find the whole situation interesting to ponder.