Monday, November 8, 2010

Student Conference Attire


Earlier Drafts: 
AM gave me this graphic tee as a graduation gift, these boots are one of my favorite cool-weather staples, and I wrote about working from home in these skinnies.

Moby Dick tee (gifted from AM via Out of Print)
cream cardigan (Anne Taylor)
light wash skinnies (American Eagle)
gray slouch boots (Steve Madden)

Starting tomorrow, I'm meeting each of my students for a student-led conference.  I've given them a set of requirements to prepare before the conference so they can come ready to ask me questions.  I want to avoid the type of conference where I do a lot of talking, the student does a lot of head nodding, and then he/she forgets everything we discussed.  I'm hoping that if they show up knowing what they want to get out of the meeting, setting time aside for conferences will be more beneficial.  We'll see how that goes.

I'm also working on creating an environment conducive to the type of conversation I want to have with each student.  Rather than asking them to come to my office, where some of them seem to be intimidated, I'm meeting them in the main library on campus.  I'm also planning to wear jeans to give off the "I'm also approachable and I want to help you" vibe.  The outfit above is quickly turning into one of my favorite casual iterations: interesting top+ cardigan+ skinnies+ interesting shoe.  I'm not planning to wear this outfit-- I'm not sure it's a good idea to wear this particular word across my chest while meeting with students-- but I'm thinking about wearing something like it.

I wonder what you all think?  Should I avoid skinny jeans? Graphic tees?  Should I wear something more "professional" on top to mitigate the jeans on bottom?  Would it be better to stick with more formal, dark wash jeans?  I'm really curious about your suggestions for this particular teaching moment, whether or not you've instructed undergrads before.

  • What type of outfit would you suggest in order to facilitate the kind of conversation I've described above?
  • Are there any specific items of clothing you think I should avoid-- either because they're too informal or for any other reason?
  • Do you have any other tips for running student conferences?  I'm all ears (or eyes?)!


Boz said...

IMO graphic tees that are somehow related to what you teach are a fun way of dressing down while still "dressing with intention," and I really like your approach to making yourself appear more open and supportive in conferences rather than in a typical classroom or office setting. I have a couple women & science graphic tees, and you're making me want to put them into rotation over the coming weeks. I too like toning them down with a cardi, jacket, scarf, etc.

I just did student conferences last week, and I had written out four questions asking about their thesis, how research was going, how their thinking has changed in doing the research, and what questions they had for me. I kept that on the desk at all times facing the student so that they could read them and lead the conversation. Then I could add other questions specific to their topic and argument.

Have fun this week!

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I came over here expecting to see attire for a Graduate Student Conference, and was a little bit shocked by your choice until I started reading your post.

Although I personally wouldn't wear this outfit, I think everyone should be free to make their own sartorial choices. Supposedly, we have that freedom in academia, and it sounds like your department has a fashion-forward and laid-back vibe. Going the casual route can be a good way of putting students at ease and making you seem approachable.

I've worn similar outfits for such meetings with students at coffee shops in the past.

Anonymous said...

When I am only on campus for office hours, I dress down considerably from what I wear to teach in--I almost always wear jeans, although usually with a camisole and cardigan or a pullover sweater (I am also on the West Coast, so many of my fellow grad students dress more casually to teach than I do for office hours). I, too, like the approachability factor, but I might still steer clear of looks that are somewhat trendy (such as skinny jeans tucked into boots and graphic tees); I find I want it to be clear to students that I am now in my mid-20s, not their age (I also leery of any print across my chest when I know I'll be around students).

It's a cute look, though. :)

Anne said...

I love those boots! They look great with skinnies.

I really like the idea of a student-lead conference, and definitely agree that you should keep the vibe casual. I think the only thing I'd change about the outfit is the t-shirt - I'd go with a nicer top that's free of graphics/words to go underneath the cardigan. You'll still look casual and approachable, but not *too* casual.

Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous said...

I think graphic tees can work in academic settings, it just depends on the tee. Yours definitely has the literary theme going, which helps, but maybe some more formal pieces are needed to balance it out - e.g. wearing it under a skirt suit?

As for skinnies, I've decided that their work-appropriateness is dependent on the wash. I just got a very dark pair and am experimenting with how to wear them to work. I think they'll work much better than my lighter, distressed pair will.

I found I had a lot of success when I helped my students realize the extend they could direct their own experience within my courses, but that power comes with responsibility and I held my groups much more accountable for their work and contributions than other instructors did.

Bettina said...

I really admire you for wanting to go into the conference with an 'approachable' attire. My personal paranoia in life is that my students won't take me seriously because I look really young (so much so that one or two usually comment on this during the course of the semester). So whenever I have student contact, even if it's for office hours or a conference-type thing, I usually try to dress 'older' to keep them at an arm's length.

You definitely got me thinking, though. I'm just planning a similar conference event, so I'll definitely consider dressing down a bit to appear more approchable. Hmmmmm...

I love the outfit btw - very cute!
Regarding your choice of jeans wash, I guess it depends on how far you want to take the whole informal thing. Perhaps a good in-between choice would be a pair of dark-wash skinnies?

Shakespeare's Feminine Ending said...

First of all, I think the criteria you laid down in advance of the paper conferences is a great idea. Also, when students are working on a project I find that scheduling meetings with them in the library is a great way to re-iterate to them that THEY HAVE TO RESEARCH USING BOOKS & NOT JUST DATABASES LIKE JSTOR!

And while I still don't meet with students wearing jeans, I don't think that it's inappropriate. Lastly, I met an instructor over the summer who wears a "Property of Pencey Fencing" tee every time she teaching "The Catcher in the Rye."I thought it was a fab way to get nerd cred.

A-Dubs said...

I echo other commentators, here, in my appreciation of your student-led conference plans. I wonder, however, if moving to the library doesn't already do much of the work you're trying to do with your outfit. Could you wear something a little closer to your more professional ensembles to keep your position clear, regardless of the casual nature of these meetings?

I ask only to highlight how risky it can be for a young instructor to dress down, especially if said instructor happens to be a woman. Regardless of how casually you set the conversation about a student's work, you will be evaluating and assigning grades to the end products of these meetings. By setting up the meetings as discussions between "equals" (for lack of a better word), do you risk multiple grade appeals if students read the performance for reality and assume they are equally capable of evaluating their work?

Scholar Style Guide said...

As I anxiously await my teaching assignment for next semester, I found everyone's opinions on engaging with students in teaching related encounters not occurring in the classroom (office hours, conferencing, etc.) interesting and helpful. Thanks!

After a quick mental scan of my wardrobe, I don't think I have any graphic tees, though it's possible - indeed, probable - that I'm wrong. I don't think I personally would wear one for students, mostly because it would accent my chest in ways that, as others mentioned, would be uncomfortable. However, I like this literary themed one very much, and I really like this outfit for your (admirable) goal of exuding approachability.

I have some more thoughts, but they're still in process, so look for them - probably in a post - later.


P.S. More Oscar pics please! Budding little fashion blog dog.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks for all your thoughts, everyone! I'm glad I managed to post this before I get dressed for the conferences tomorrow because now I have quite a bit to consider. A-Dubs, I'm giving some serious consideration to your suggestions, too... this outfit is much more casual than I was planning to go, but maybe incorporating jeans into an otherwise "work appropriate" look would be the best middle ground to take.

SE, you make a great point here, too-- I know each of mine have been in the library at LEAST once, because they had a research session there for my class, but I don't doubt that this will be only the second trip for some.

Katie, I'm glad you enjoy the Oscar pic. I am kind of terrified of how he looks in it, though. For some reason, because of how stiffly he is holding his body, it looks to me like I got him taxidermied. : )


E-Jo said...

I also think you might find that you have fewer hassles to deal with later if you up the formality of the outfit a bit more (though it looks great on you as is). It's that time of the semester when students are looking for "an out" for their performance and, unfortunately, too often it's us as instructors who they lay the blame on.

That said, I love Katie of Interrobangs suggestion of the shirt under a skirt suit. That would be a great look at a conference!

Also, today's totally a dog-in-pictures day! Which is fantastic. I'll have to get the mini-FR into mine this week!

Kat said...

I love this look...but I join several other commenters in saying I wouldn't wear this for student conferences, particularly not at this point of the semester and not outside my office. I might wear it for regular office hours on a low-traffic day though. There are at least 4 casual elements here (jeans, especially the wash of the jeans, tucked into boots, the graphic tee, and the unstructured cardigan), and I like the idea of bringing in a couple of these elements to make you seem approachable, while keeping a clearly differentiated role as the instructor.

At the same time, I have to say that I really like how conscious you are in your attempts to promote student responsibility. Hope the conferences go well for you!

Katie W said...

I love a good graphic tee, especially this one! I used to have one that said "Moby says, don't be a dick." I wish I had kept that shirt...

Anyway, I'm hesitant to send you off wearing a graphic tee for these meetings. Like the jeans/shoes/cardigan but I think a solid top or a subtle graphic would be more professional yet approachable than something so bold.

But I love this outfit for any other casua occasion!

Rad_in_Broolyn said...

This outfit is adorable. I think if you changed a few elements (a non-graphic T, a denim rather than jeans) it would have maintained the casual, but slightly smarter vibe. Since I've been suffering with some respect issues lately, I've been annoyed to have to make a point to really dress up and differentiate myself from students who might challenge me. It's annoying, but it's true.
The set up for the conferences sound great.

Rebecca said...

I know I'm late (and I do like what you ended up wearing) but I actually like this. I don't really wear graphic t-shirts myself (at 41 I'm probably too old to pull it off) but the lit theme is cute and makes the t more work appropriate. I will say this about a jeans/t-shirt combo for conferences and/or teaching: it shows that you have confidence without the "outfit." Because sometimes a totally put together, uber professional look can seem like its trying to mask anxiety or lack of confidence. As if someone needs the strength of the clothes to substitute for weakness elsewhere. Does that make sense? I guess I'm just saying there's a happy medium and jeans/ts for conferences makes sense to me.

Brooke said...

This: "I'm not planning to wear this outfit-- I'm not sure it's a good idea to wear this particular word across my chest while meeting with students" made me laugh.

I'm interested in how you're structuring your conferences. I really like the idea of having them come prepared with a series of questions, etc. I am meeting for conferences with students from three of my classes in the coming two weeks and I too am concerned that it will end up being a series of me talking and reading while my students sit their silently. What types of questions do you have your students prepare?

To too really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. As I prepared for conferences, I was back and forth between casual and professional (no middle ground here), but hearing what everyone has to say makes me think very professional would be a good way to go at this point in the semester.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks for the continued thoughts, everybody--

Rebecca, I think you're right, too. For as much as I talk about how clothes matter, I think the attitude we wear with the clothes is equally important. Confidence can be dressed in anything, really. (Have you seen Up in the Air? I can't remember if I've said this on the blog before, but the way they styled Anna Kendrick's character in that movie was, I thought, a perfect example of the clothes-can't-disguise-inexperience in a way similar to what you're suggesting.)

Brooke, I hope your conferences go well! I gave them a sheet ahead of time that listed all the major concepts we've covered in class so far. I asked them to review those concepts before the conference. Then I asked them to come with at least four specific questions: at least one relating to the upcoming assignment itself, at least one about a concept they hadn't quite understood or couldn't figure out how to put into practice, and any other two questions they had. It worked well. I got the sense that some of them didn't bother to review anything, but quite a few of them asked really intelligent questions about the previously covered material that I ended up sharing with the whole class. And they have to turn the conference sheet in with the next paper, so most of them took notes on my answers instead of just nodding their heads.