I have a student teacher this semester. She is very beautiful, which tends to distract the kids, specifically the freshman boys. I spoke to her yesterday and warned her that she needed to present herself as the teacher-adult and that this might mean making herself less attractive or even a little dumpy. English teacher women are supposed to be a little dumpy, a little crazy, a little married to their jobs and I told her that she doesn’t want to give the impression that she has a life outside of teaching. I recommended that she gain a little weight, get a moo-moo or house dress and trade out her contacts for wire-rimmed glasses.
Bimberly (not her real name) wasn’t that happy with me and she didn’t want to take my advice. She said she wanted to look professional and that she felt it was completely unnecessary to dump herself down. I said that “professional” means “appropriate” and you can’t be hot AND appropriate in a high school setting. The exception would be men who are not expected to mother the kids. Men can look good and still appear professional. Look at me, I said. I stay fit, get monthly manicures, wear collared shirts–though I always button that top button!
She did not seem convinced. Or happy about hearing the truth. Bimberly, I can tell, is going to have to learn things the hard way. But that’s okay because school is for learning. She can do it the easy way or she can do it the hard way. The choice is hers.