Friday, February 29, 2008

Mail Bag: Fun Teacher Wear

I am a housewife who has started substitute teaching at a middle school. I am having a hard time figuring out what to wear. Compared to the other teachers I am very young, and the students have already noticed this (and the older boys think they can flirt with me). What can I wear that is fun and interesting (befitting my personality and my youth), but still modest and something that will help me be taken seriously?


I actually came to Cincinnati with the intent of finding a teaching job (with my newly earned M.Ed.), but I ended up in the corporate world instead. While I was still pursuing a teaching profession, I, like you, worried about appropriate dress. You don’t want to be taken for a student, but you also don’t want to dress like your mother. You want to be modest and comfortable and professional, yet express your personality.

Modest: Avoid low-cut tops, short skirts, short shorts, tight clothing, sleeveless styles, and low-slung pants (unless paired with a l-o-o-o-ng top). Use caution when incorporating elements that may be interpreted as “sexy,” like open-weave stockings and lace tops. Layering is a great way to make a revealing outfit less so.

Comfortable: You’ll want to wear comfortable shoes. Your clothing should be comfortable sitting at a desk, standing in front of the classroom, and doing any light manual labor required (erasing the chalkboard, moving chairs, etc.)

Professional: Avoid clothing and accessories that are associated with your students (i.e. hoodies, backpacks, flipflops, logo wear, etc.) Take a cue from business casual wear and incorporate blazers, blouses, skirts, and slacks into your wardrobe. For instance, top a sundress with a blazer and add ballet flats and a smart bag for a youthful, yet pulled-together look.

Faking Good Breeding also addressed this topic in her Appropriate Outfits for a New Teacher entry.

Enough with rules. I assume you already knew those. I think what you are really looking for is INSPIRATION. I turned to Wardrobe Remix and searched for some stylish teachers. My hands-down favorite goes by the handle “Middleagedteacher.” I gather from your message that you are not middle-aged, but women of any age can take some inspiration from this lady! She’s a bold pattern mixer and makes much (if not all) of her own jewelry.

You can check out her entire Wardrobe Diary 2008 on flickr.

As a substitute, you aren’t teaching every day and may be asked to teach with little notice. I can imagine it is stressful to put together an outfit different from your usual style at the last minute. Instead, plan ahead. Take a half day to put together some basic teaching outfits you can use next time you’re called in. Ask a friend to help you. She can give advice, tell you if you are revealing too much when you bend over, and take photos for reference. Don’t worry if you’ve only come up with four or five outfits. With infrequent exposure, and possibly a different group of students every time, no one will notice!

Admittedly, I’m not a teacher, just a wanna-be-teacher. Are there any teacher readers out there who can also offer advice? Links to pictures are a bonus.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice! The other links were very helpful as well. I'll still be checking back if anyone else has any hints... :)


Della Street Dreaming said...

thank you so much for your wonderful comments, I so appreciate them. I've been teaching on & off since 1982 & will turn 55 in two weeks. I'm a high school English teacher & I teach at a Catholic girl's school in Sydney. I teach from grades 7-12, as we don't have a middle school system. I absolutely love my job. I didn't always, but it seems the older I get, the more I like it. There aren't many jobs that can create that feeling. It's wonderful that you are teaching. I worked for a number of years as a substitute teacher & learnt so much. Most people hate it & think of it as babysitting, but it is a fantastic opportunity to learn. I wouldn't have the skills I now have without that experience.
Also, looking good at school is something that people of my generation (at least in Australia) have never paid much attention to. I think it's really important to look good & create your own individual style within a professional context.
I love all your outfits - particularly the accessories & the colours!
Will take ages to get through all your 3000 photos
thanks again
Sue Kennedy - middleagedteacher.

Sheila said...

Yeah, your feed is working again!!!

rccalyn said...

Love your blog. I have an early childhood degree, although I got pregnant before I could get a job. However, during my student teaching, I had some trouble getting the respect I deserved from some of the trouble-making boys! Your tips are awesome.

Anonymous said...

I have viewed your blog a few times before (it's fabulous, I love it!) but I am glad I looked at it today.

I start my teacher training this September and I have already been freaking out about what is appropriate to wear. Your words have helped me, a lot. Thanks!

Meg said...

Thanks for the link!

I did a teaching practicum a while back and even I was unsure about what to wear. My look was a bit bohemian (which was actually quite trendy at the time). The kids loved it as I was at elementary and middle schools). Looking back, though, I probably should have worn sturdier/thicker fabrics because they look more professional.

I think your advice is right on.

Get a good business casual base going and then have fun with accessories. It can be very fun, while still appropriate.

one-hit_wonder said...

I'm a 30-year-old teacher.

I'm noticing many teachers wear jeans. To me, this looks too casual. Dress pants with an adequate rise are good. Teachers do a lot of crouching, and so you want to avoid the exposed g-string.

I wear a lot of patterned or dark-coloured tops, because the odds that I won't get marker, chalk, and food on them are slim to none. If I really want to wear a lighter colour - especially in summer - I bring along a Tide pen.

I usually keep a change of clothes at school, actually, because I never know what will happen!

Heels aren't the best idea, especially with younger kids. It's pretty tough to run after them if I'm wearing uncomfortable shoes.

No tops that show cleavage if I'm bending over. And for parent-teacher, I'm sure to add a jacket (otherwise the male parents/guardians look more than listen). I like layers, anyway, since temperatures in a classroom can often be wonky.

Hope that helps!

Candycane said...

I realise this is an old post but I thought I'd dd my two penneth justin case anyway - I'm a 26 year old who teaches part time in a class of 4 and 5 yr olds - so I find its v active and need to be comftable but also smart - I also don't like the fact that some teachers wear Jeans these days!!

Check out my blog as I ut outfits on there that I wear to work and out of work .. hope it helps ...

Candycane said...

sorry my keyboard is missing letters off for some reason!!

Anonymous said...

Dear Kasmira:

I like your blog very much. Just to throw in my two cents: I am a 35-year old university faculty with two young boys. My work wardrobe consists of shirts, lots of button-up shirts with short and long sleeves (but no sleeveless), and lot of dress pants (both full length and cropped). In cold weather I would wear a cardigan or V-neck sweater over short sleeve shirt (long sleeves are too bulky to layer). And the color is only: light blue, dark blue, black, and white.

I used to wear jeans during my first year at the university but then I realized they are not professional enough. I also got through two pregnancies, and I sticked to my shirt+sweater combination.

It sounds really boring. From your blog I can see a lot of colorful but very professional outfits. I think I will follow some of your ideas at least for my non-teaching days.