Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 12 2011

Paper clip to the rescue!

I wore a paper clip in my hair all day. I have kids that show up an hour before school starts for math help, and they wait outside my door and harass me when I’m two minutes late. This leaves me with very little time for things like managing my bangs, and this morning it somehow left me without time to remember to clip them back. Luckily, office supplies come in handy for anything, and it turns out a big paper clip can hold back bangs. All day long.

One of the biggest luxuries of teaching is not having to care what I look like. It started at the beginning of my first year, when I was trying to figure out how to look more like a mom and less like 22-year-old-girl. I didn’t want to wear anything that could be even vaguely construed as sexy, because I didn’t want to get hit on by hormonal little boys and I decided to err on the side of caution. Then I found the added benefit of kids leaving me alone about my appearance, since they only try to torment teachers on things they seem to care about. It became funny when I started going out dancing with teachers from my school, and realized they were stunned to find out that I don’t dress like a frumpy mom outside of school hours. My outfits have since hit some epic high points, like hobo elf day, or when I rock a fanny pack full of math manipulatives, or the time I got cold while wearing a knee-length blue dress and black flats and decided to put on some huge fluffy pink socks too.

My Teacher Self is my math nerd alter ego. I get to go from bed to work with minimal effort in between, and there’s no such thing as a bad outfit when I’ve already worn the ugliest things possible. I get to embrace math and all things dorky, and in a building full of image-obsessed teenagers, I get to be the one person who doesn’t give a damn. (My bravery with outfits outside of work has also skyrocketed, since I look absurd and still survive middle school unscathed every day.) I need to repeat again that it takes me six seconds to get ready for work, and my kids love me like a mom rather than like a girl barely older than them. It makes life easier for me, it creates hilarious inside jokes with my colleagues, and my kids focus on my teaching. But I do look terrible every single day.

And the upshot to the whole thing is that, of all the detail-oriented and judgmental students I see every day, exactly two even bothered to mention that I had a paper clip on my head. Two. They’re used to me by now.

3 Responses

  1. Loved this post. I actually went shopping yesterday for my “teacher” clothes and am trying to figure out a balance between cute and conservative, but I like your approach a lot better. I might have to make some returns today :)

  2. Wess

    I tend to put off haircuts chronically, and our friend the paper clip always has my back. :)

  3. elsa

    I love this – so much, I can’t even describe!

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