One of college supervisors’ favorite critiques of student-teachers is their use of the word “guys” when addressing the entire class, claiming that the word is gender specific and therefore inappropriate.
This critique is made for two reasons:
- College supervisors, in my experience, have very little to say that is critical of a student-teacher’s performance. They tend to heap an inordinate amount of praise upon student-teachers while rarely correcting anything that wasn’t written on paper prior to the lesson. I have yet to understand the rationale behind this culture of incessant praise, but it doesn’t make anyone a better teacher. So targeting the use of the word “guys” is a simple, non-threatening, and nearly universal form of criticism that supervisors can make without any actual critical analysis of the lesson or the student-teacher’s performance.
- As gender specific as “guys” may technically be, these college supervisors apparently spend no time with actual kids, who use the word “guys” in a non-gender way throughout the entire school day. Girls refer to other girls as “guys” all the time. Boys refer to girls as “guys.” Girls refer to boys as “guys.” Even my wife refers to her girlfriends as “guys.” It’s a word that is gender specific in definition only.
But here’s the real problem:
There is no decent female counterpart to “guys.”
“Guys” is a great word. It serves a necessary purpose and does so with skill and aplomb. It denotes a group of people. By definition, this group should be males only, but this is rarely the case, because the feminine alternatives of this word are nonexistent.
And please don’t say “gals.” It’s no good. Use this word in almost any context and you’ll sound like an idiot.
If you live in the South, you have the option of “y’all,” which I actually like a lot, but again, if you use it outside the South, you sound like an idiot.
I’ve heard people use the word “ladies” as an alternative, but “ladies” lacks the casual ease of “guys.” “Ladies” is like a pretentious brunch. “Guys” is a like a burger and fries.
And besides, there is a masculine counterpart to “ladies,” therefore maintaining “guys” singular status.
So when I am working with a student-teacher, my solution to the “guys” issue is simple:
I make sure that I use the word in the presence of the college supervisor before my student-teacher does. This will either afford my student-teacher permission to use the word (if the teacher is modeling the use of the word, how can I fault her?), or it will cause the college supervisor to engage in a discussion about the use of the word, which is always highly entertaining.