DEAR MISS MANNERS: Inevitably, at the start of every semester, a professor will introduce themselves and ask the class to call them by their first name.
I was raised to believe that elders, especially teachers, deserve respect, and that addressing them by their first name is very rude. As a result, I am uncomfortable doing this, and tend to just address them as "Um."
Should I just put my discomfort aside and use first names, or should I stick to calling them Mr./Ms. regardless of what they asked to be called?
GENTLE READER: What these professors intend to convey puzzles Miss Manners.
That you are all equals? Hardly. Equals cannot flunk one another. And while professors should be open to informed challenges from students, they are presumably more knowledgeable about the subject -- otherwise, the students are wasting their tuition.
Perhaps it is to assert that they are young and -- to use the old-fashioned expression -- "with it." Can they be sure that the students are not snickering at that claim? Anyway, voluntarily forgoing respect is not a youthful attribute.
But your question is how to deal with it. Try just saying "professor," but without the surname, so it is descriptive rather than a title. Or if you really want to make the point, you could use "sir" or "madam."