Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Advice for Student Teachers (And younger teachers with jobs!)

The past 3 years I worked for a wonderful organization named AHRC which provided educational services to children with disabilities who might not be functioning high enough to attend a public school. I worked in the autism program, something I had limited knowledge about before I started working there, and am now somewhat fascinated by, and met some really great people in the field. I wouldn't give up the experience for anything, and while I'm uncertain whether I want to teach special education or English (I will certified to teach both) I am so, so appreciative of everything i learned there.
THAT being said, teaching in that type of field is very different from teaching in a public setting, and the dress code is a huge contrast. I spent the last 3 years in sneakers, flats, jeans and very casual tops. Even though I love jewelry, I had learned to wear things you can pull off quickly if a child is having a behavior outburst. Long story short, you can't dress like that when you teach high school.

As a teacher, you need to look somewhat professional, and as a student teacher, you should step it up a notch, just because you ARE there to make an impression. 

But professional does not mean frumpy. You can wear beautiful clothes for a business-casual setting. My first purchase was a really good wool blazer from Zara. I also have one from H&M and one from Lulus, but one really nice one is great to have because it will last for a couple of years. 

Comfortable shoes are important, and I have A LOT of ballet flats, but shorter heels are also great for 2 reasons. The style part is a given, but have you seen those high school boys? They're HUGE! And I'm not that short, I'm 5"5, bordering 5"6 and all of those kids tower over me. 

At the head of the classroom, you want to be taken seriously, so here is one good style rule, you do NOT want to look like your students. It's ok to shop at H&M, Forever 21, and other places you usually shop at, but be wary about those blouses! Go for simple things, nothing too trendy or loud because any student could walk in wearing the same top. Always bring a blazer, or a sweater if you are unsure about how much skin you are showing. Never have low cut tops, sometimes v-necks are fine, but if you are unsure put a tank top on under it.

With business pants, lose is better! The wide leg style has been in for the last couple of years, but it's supposed to be wide throughout the leg, not tight at the top. I had to exchange couple of pairs at H&M because i'm usually a 4 in their jeans, but their pants were just a little too tight in my butt area. I know that I work for my butt ( I go to the gym frequently) and you may too, but you do not want the high school boys thinking you have a nice ass. 

Skirts should fall at the knee, depending on the style. An inch above may be ok, if you plan on wearing boots, but longer is better. 

When in doubt, find a really stylish teacher and look at how she puts her outfits together then model after her. Don't get the same exact stuff, but if she has small suede heels in olive, maybe get a pair in black. If she wears long a-line skirts and chic tights, try that look out for yourself. You're not throwing your money away because a business casual wardrobe is an investment, especially if you plan on teaching for a long time. 

Even when you do buy casual tops, make sure they can look polished if you put on a blazer with it. That way you can double a lot of your clothes as weekend stuff too. 

NEVER wear sneakers with dress pants. EVER. I see so many girls doing this when they run to class after teaching, they must change their shoes in the car, it is so, so tacky and ugly. I don't get it! Even flip flops looks gross. If you need to be at class that quickly after student teaching, just bring a pair of ballet flats, or jeans in the car and change in the bathroom. 

Wear jewelry but have some quality pieces. Once again you do not want to look like your students and a lot of what they can afford are at those stores like Forever 21, because a this point, they are closer to being 21 than you are and that is their domain. Zara, Express, H&M, Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, & even Anthropologie have a beautiful, affordable, selection of jewelry. Anthropologie also always has things in their sale section of their website, which is easier to navigate through than a clearance section of the store. 

You can look classy, and stylish, without looking sexy or too young. Or look like you're playing dress up in your grandmother's closet. 

Another Day in the Classroom

Another Day in the Classroom by aliciablyyours featuring brown shoes

This is a really easy style to pull off. Find a polka dotted shirt with ruched sleeves ( I found mine at H&M) and tuck it into a pair of wide leg pants of a contrasting color. So if the shirt is black and white: tan pants. If the shirt is brown and cream (but mostly cream): go for dark brown or black pants. Put a blazer on over the shirt and find some good short heels (the chunky heel is in right now) with a mary jane twist. Bring a black bag, with lots of room for a notebook to take notes on your lessons, classroom protocol, and other things you may want to note while observing the school. I plan on wearing this exact outfit when I start my field placement next week and I wish luck to all of the other student teachers all over the country that are headed out in the world to make a difference!
Dorothy Perkins navy tee
£20 -

Zara blazer
$100 -

Brown shoes
$28 -

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