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#teacherstyle: A Discussion of Decorum



As a person who never used Instagram before I started this podcast, the idea of typing in #teacherstyle_______ and whatever month you are looking for advice on to get dressed in the morning never occurred to me. What did occur to me was what was staring me in the face: the TA's fuzzy house slippers as she handed out papers in 6th grade English class. She had been called out of retirement to help out for the day and it showed. The 5th grade math teacher got called in because he was wearing ripped up jeans under his button-up shirt.


Many administrators say "keep it professional" and a lot of teachers have taken that to mean business-casual. But in recent years, that has come to be a bit heavy of the "casual" and a bit light on the "business."I am no exception to this. I am not what you would call "savvy" when it comes to work clothes, especially when the expectations are vague, and I have to dig myself out of a foot of snow before coming to school.


So this episode, I turned to Dr. Karen Sparrow Prior, whose personal style has been described as "Victorian steam-punk" (if you don't know what that is, you should definitely look it up!). Still, she has rocked the conservative higher ed arena for over 25 years! If there was anyone I needed to talk to about being yourself while still staying professionally competitive within workplace guidelines, it was her!


What does this have to do with ESL? As ESL teachers, we are representatives of our nation, our educational system, how we culturally handle relationships in school. This episode discusses expectations for student-teacher relationships around the the world as an emphasis of sensitivity in this area of our work-place apparel. As many ESL teachers have discovered, we quickly become confidants for our students as the first welcoming North American and translator of their new world. It is important that what we show through our apparel says two things: 1. I am safe 2. BUT I am not family. Boundaries are tough in this field and if not established, we can quickly get burnt out. Dress professionally, come clean, come with a smile.

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