The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I teach English. However, because I teach teenagers and I teach in a high poverty area, I also kind of teach life. I teach them how to address envelopes, how to speak to college professors, how to behave on a job interview, etc. Today... I taught etiquette. More specifically... how to dress.

If you know me to any extent, you know that I am not exactly a fashionista. The girls from Sex in the City would definitely give me dirty looks. However, I am not exactly in danger of showing up on TLC's "What NOT to wear" either. I am somewhere in between. My preferred dress is California casual, but for the most part, I would say I know how to dress to any given occasion. My students, on the other hand, do not know the nuances of many different dress codes. I found this out when I asked them to dress business casual or professional to tonight's field trip (dinner and a play), and many of them came to me later, "We are supposed to dress formal, right?" They think of two different types of dress- formal and casual. There is nothing in between in their eyes. So today, we had a little talk about the different types of dress.

They really had no clue what business casual dress is. They planned on showing up in fancy party dresses... or jeans. Explaining that there is something in between and the nuances of these "in between" areas was quite challenging. Getting them to see that jeans and a t-shirt is not okay, but jeans and a button up with tie and blazer and dress shoes, is okay, was complicated. Explaining that a polo shirt with slacks is acceptable, while just a polo shirt with jeans and converse is not so much, is not an easy thing to explain. It took about 20 minutes.

Then you integrate in the fact that what is acceptable "casual" in California is not necessarily acceptable on the East coast, and things really get complicated. I went into that a little bit, and boy were they baffled. They honestly thought I was kidding.

My favorite questions today...

"If I color the soles of my Converse black with a sharpie, is that acceptable?"
"I brought shorts, but they are polyester and I am going to wear them with panty hose and heels and nice tank top. That's okay right?" (My thought- Sure, if you are trying to get a job as a cocktail waitress)
"If I wear some nice slacks and a vest, it is okay if I wear a t-shirt underneath that, right?" (Oh no, what have the Jonas brothers done?)

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