Monday, November 15, 2010

Student Conference Attire, Take Two


Earlier Draft:
I wore this dress for a conference presentation in the spring.

faux turquoise beaded necklace (Kohl's)
pale turquoise cardigan (Target)
brown printed jersey dress (Target)
brown stretch belt (Kohl's)
teal mary janes (Seychelles)
nail color (OPI You Don't Know Jacques!)

After reading your comments on my suggestion that I was going to dress casually for my student conferences, and after reading A-Dubs's explanation of why she "feel[s] the need to bring it, sartorially" at this point in the semester, I had a change of heart.  I decided that those of you who suggested that meeting the students in the library created a neutral enough environment were right, so I decided to dress as I normally do when I teach.  It also occurred to me that I'd also be more comfortable in my regular "teaching" clothes than in a more casual outfit.  I'm still getting used to the different register of authority I'm experiencing as a graduate student instructor of undergraduates.  I'm more comfortable with the clear, distinct line drawn between "adult/authority" and "child/student" that I operated under in my high school classroom.  I realized that if I felt too casual, I might not be able to do my best work as a teacher during the conferences.

Looking back on the conferences, I feel like this was a good decision.  Most of the students seemed more at ease meeting with me in the library than they had been in my office.  When a few of the students suggested that I was too demanding or being too hard on them, it actually made me feel more comfortable to be in an open, public area than sitting in the corner of my office, too.  Those conferences were definitely the exception, though.  Most of the students came well prepared with appropriate questions to ask.  The real test, I know, will be if their next papers demonstrate an improvement.  If the conferences don't end up benefiting the students, though, I definitely benefited from them.  Having a chance to talk to each of the students individually actually reminded me of a lot of the things I really enjoy about teaching.  I think that having on my "teacher clothes" also made it easier for me to start the conference by asking how they are managing the transition into college without it seeming like I was trying to befriend them. 

An experienced high school teacher once told me, "Some days you'll find teaching exhausting, but if you find it exhilerating on most days, you know you've found the right profession."  I was worried that sitting through two hours of conferences for three straight days would wear me down, and several other instructors told me that they hate conferences.  I found my experience of holding conferences quite refreshing, actually, and I feel ready to guide them through the last few assignments with the hopes that they do better on those papers than the one I graded this week.  Because those were not good.  It's true what they say about a teacher's work never being done.

  • If you teach, what do you find most exciting about working with students? 
  • Whether you teach or not, are there any features of your job that you enjoy even though your colleagues disdain them?  What are they?  Why do you think you enjoy them more than others?
  • And this is a sidebar, but how often do you theme dress?  I put on this almost-never-worn cardigan last week because, in my graduate class, we were discussing a novel in which turquoise stones figure prominently.  I figured I had to wear my turquoise necklace for this discussion, so I dug this cardigan out to complement it... and all the sudden, I had a great new way to wear this dress!


Plummy said...

I teach with middle schoolers, and the most exciting part about that...goodness, I'm not sure. I think it's seeing their evolution from completely lost 6th graders to self-assured, independent 8th graders. I love seeing that change. I also love getting to know each student individually, and finding ways to help them on an individual level. I am very lucky to work in a small private school, so this is possible. far as something that I enjoy that my colleagues disdain...I enjoy how ridiculously clueless the 6th graders are. Some of my colleagues find it annoying, because the students weren't properly prepped for the school year, but the kids are sweet and even though it means more work for us (and can sometimes be overwhelming!) I tend not to mind.

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

I'm glad you decided to "bring it" as A-Dubs suggested. This outfit is very cute and it's good to hear that the conferences went well.
My least favorite thing is grading. By far. I suppose the worst is when I find plagiarizers when grading. Oh, and discipline problems. I dislike all stressful, possibly confrontational situations with students. But I like when they "get it", ask questions, and get excited.

Kat said...

I love the outfit - turquoise is a great color on you, and a beautiful almost-neutral that can be really versatile. And while I get annoyed with enormous piles of grading like everyone else, it's my dirty little secret that I actually am kind of sad when my TAs do all the grading. In larger classes, sometimes the writing is really the only way to really have contact with the students and see what they are really taking in and engaging/grappling with...and what I should really revisit to address common misunderstanding or confusion.

Anne said...

I really like this outfit! The sweater looks like a color that I'd probably save for spring/summer, but it definitely works for fall with the brown dress and belt.

It sounds like your conferences went really well, and that you set the right tone with the students. It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact they have on the rest of the semester.

I really want to get into teaching, but this is a terrible time for a career change. I was in grad school last year and doing some volunteer tutoring with elementary students. My favorite part was definitely when a difficult concept would finally click with them and they'd understand something they had been struggling with. That, and seeing what it's like to grow up in this time is pretty cool too.

Elizabeth Benfield said...

these shoes are amazing! they will become aquatinted with my list to santa pronto!

DB said...

I love love love those shoes. Sigh.