Make it work.
– Tim Gunn
In one of my favorite essays, Robert Fulghum recounts his days as an art teacher, admitting he wore two buttons in the classroom.
One read “Trust me. I’m the teacher.” The other read, “Question authority.”
I first read the essay as a kid of 12, so I remember thinking it funny in an old people kind of way.
Now that I’m a teacher, I am more conscious of the image I exude in the classroom and the message of those buttons. At any point in the year, you might have walked into my classroom and found me in pressed chinos, a button-down and a bow tie or jeans and a sweater.
Today, as some visitors from another school entered my room, I saw their eyes flash to my feet.
We’re in the midst of a heat wave in Philadelphia, and I chose sandals as I got dressed this morning. I’m supposed to be a hippie English teacher, right?
My guests, as some do when they go visiting, were dressed formally.
I’m not certain whether or not they caught me catching them looking at my choice in footwear.
I made no mention of it as introductions were made – I do have some social graces.
Visiting SLA to discuss the integration of technology into the classroom, they asked if I could talk about what my students were doing in class.
I explained they were working on writing projects of choice, which they’d researched individually with peer review of that same research.
I spoke to the fact that students were exploring types of writing and writerly voices at a variety and depth I’d never have been able to match had I set such an ambitious agenda.
I talked about synchronous editing and how Google Docs afforded me the ability to watch not only my students’ progress as writers, but their progress as editors and revisers as well.
I expounded on how allowing for choice, setting basic expectations and utilizing all the available tools gave me access to more data and understanding of students’ needs and abilities than I’d ever have access to in a standard classroom.
And, I did it all wearing sandals.
I asked my guests to trust me as a teacher, but showed them it was okay to question authority.
I realize sometimes wearing the uniform of the realm makes access easier to obtain. I wore a suit to prom and will dress up for graduation. Tuesday, though, I wore a shirt with a skulls and crossbones as well as a toy sheriff’s badge with my name on it a student gave me.
You’re just as likely as not to find me dressing the part on any day.
Still, there’s something to be said for reminding ourselves that ideas have no uniform and that the shapes of creativity never are.
I’d hate to think I ever missed an amazing idea or person because I’d decided they weren’t dressed up enough.