As I sit here dressed like I’m about to sell apples at the local farmer’s market for teaching today, I want to take this opportunity to give a how-to guide on how to Dress for Success in Teaching.
Now, a lot of times you’ll find that dressing up guides are targeted towards evening wear or towards a more corporate model of success– business casual, the dos and don’ts of dressing for a high-powered job, etc. But no one ever really gives teaching instructors a good guide on how to dress for comfort and happiness.
I’ve noticed in my experience as a Teaching Associate at Zoomass that men can get away with a lot more than women can when it comes to dress (and dating their students, come to think of that). Now, not all women dress up ultra-feminine or super professional, but there’s a tendency among my colleagues to certainly clean up well and “dress for success.”
At Famous For Bad Reasons, I want to remind you, especially if you’re a woman or a less-than-“masculine” man, you have the total right to have fun with your wardrobe. One of my BFFs and I (the Cancer) recently got into a war over whether or not I’d wear a blazer to my interview. I ended up wearing an Elie Tahari jacket I got at a sample sale, which was très très très chic. And she caved in and admitted my jacket was too beautiful to forsake for a blazer.
I hate blazers. I am convinced they are residual angst from the 1980s when women wore power suits and attempted to break the glass ceiling. I mean, if you gave me a Rachel Roy blazer, I wouldn’t walk away from it, but I’d wear it sparingly.
Anyway, here are some guides to dressing for teaching (and any other profession where you may be dealing with people younger than you):
1.) Accessories are a must. It’ll distract them from trying to look at your facebook profile in class. “Why’s she wearing a bow on top of her head?” Wear so many layers of jewelry you clink like a cat when sneaking up behind them to see what they’re doing; they need to be warned.
2.) On days where you feel your class may be out of control, show up looking super sharp and sartorial. I prefer to start my semester wearing really nice clothes (read: designer clothes) for the first month before I gradually degenerate into a mass of Alternative Apparel tees and mismatched layers. And pigtails.
3.) Forego blazers and other corporate holdovers. Students know you’re a teacher. You don’t have to offend their senses with an off-the-rack trip to Adulthood. At the end of they day, they know you’re the jerk who tells them that it’s not time to pack up yet, what with fifteen minutes left of class. They know who you are. You wield a red pen and put their grades in and count their absences and hold that against them.
4.) Be transparent about fashion, in general. I like to tell my students how Anthropology Professors liked to wear jewelry from the countries they studied in, in addition to “ethnic” garb to perform a sense of multiculturalism. I like to tell them how that really short and insecure young women may try to dress up fake-androgynous to instill a sense of authority in the classroom– and fail. I like to tell them I bought a Rachel Roy tote to help out Pakistan, just so they know that I’m a victim to consumerist philanthropy. I roll with the punches. I let them know teachers are just actors, some better at it than others, with costumes.
I’m telling you guys this because I’m nearing the end of my tenure as a teacher. I don’t expect to do it again– I loved teaching; I loved the students; there has been no greater job, besides running FFBR with the Gemini, in my tenure in grad school. But that chapter of my life is over, with the greatest memories to hold onto. Other TAs complain about their students and feel frustrated and roll their eyes, but I just enjoy it. I just put on my bright red shoes, and I go dancing into the class.
Now, to help you along the way, my new favorite fashion site: What Would Emma Pillsbury wear?”