Classroom clothing Jill Carroll

October 15, 2003


Classroom clothing

Jill Carroll writes about in-class persona and the way we present outselves.

I think I need to videotape one of my classes and see how I handle myself these days. I tend to have different problems than the person Carroll uses as her example - I am male, bearded and in my 30s, in other words I look a bit like Dad to many of the kids. This helps. It also helps that I learned that you dress to teach, if only to show respect for the discipline. I teach in jacket and tie, slacks, and polished wingtips. I am one step less formal than a lawyer, but still dressier than most office workers. Of course, office workers no longer dress as they once did - downtown Philadelphia is mostly shirtsleeves and dockers.

Appearance is only part of your classroom persona. Carroll suggest that, on the first day of class, you answer syllabus questions with simple yes and no rather than going into detail. I might try that. I already work on presenting a LOT of energy. I walk around, I make excellent eye contact, I project as needed, and I use my hands when I talk. I should probably dig up one of the 19th century elocution manuals that Kenneth Cmiel talks about in Democratic Eloquence because I am sure I could be using my arms better. There is a very important middle ground between being stuck behind a podium and sliding around like Billy Sunday.

I agree with Carroll on a lot of what she says about teaching as performance, I certainly do think of teaching as a form of performance art. When the clock swings around to class time I break off my chat with the students in the front row, take a deep breath, and tell myself "Showtime!"

The wonderful thing is that teaching is largely improvisation. Especially for US history, I know the stuff. All I need is a brief outline reminding me of what I am going to say and, for some days and some classes, a few numbers or data to write on the board. Other than that, I just go. I really really like the classroom part of teaching.

Speaking of which, I have finished prepping tomorrow's outline, which is what I came up to the computer to do. Time to go back to grading, and eat lunch, and so to continue my day.

Posted by Red Ted at October 15, 2003 12:48 PM | TrackBack