I grew up watching Doug, one of Nickelodeon’s original “Nicktoons” and have always remembered his closet. To the best of my knowledge this is one of the only cartoons that acknowledges the fact that characters wear the same thing day in and day out, which leads me to our discussion last week about what to wear when one teaches. Well, let me backtrack. Dr. Fowler said something to the effect that Steve Jobs and Gardner Campbell alike wear similar things each day, to closet, to Doug. And back to reality.
A short story:
I am currently teaching in a classroom where I teach 50-70% of the time and the instructor of record teaches the remainder. I started the semester sitting in the back row answering questions when we did problem based learning. I wore jeans and a t-shirt (pretty much like you all see me Wednesday nights). I wear that same getup to office hours and around campus so when students saw me, that’s how they saw me. The first time I was asked to teach I ironed a shirt, wore slacks and nice shoes. I walked in, set my stuff up, and we had class. At the end one of the more vocal students mentioned in passing that I didn’t need to fake being a professor. I could teach in what I wore before. Which brings me to my “personal self.”
Students looked at me as if I was faking something that I wasn’t. They knew from interactions that I knew my schtick and when it was my turn to actually teach them that is all they wanted – to gain what I knew. That large delta (my life is all about the “delta” but that’s another long involved blog post) between TA Dan and Teacher Dan was more disconcerting to the students than their instructor wearing a t-shirt. My authentic self is pretty laid back. Relaxed. I shouldn’t NEED to dress up for the sake of dressing up. Heck, look at Mark Zuckerberg. Looking the part does command respect and I do feel that it is appropriate but more often than not it tells students they must respect you whereas respect should be earned with how effective a teacher you are. Not the clothes on your back.
When I start teaching full time I promise not to wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. Pinky promise.