When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who wore sport coats and ties. It was the 80’s and a lot of the male faculty dressed that way. They dressed more formal than the students. This teacher though, he only dressed like that on top. On the bottom he wore jeans.
He was cool. We all thought so. Teachers weren’t really teaching in jeans at this time, and if they did, they were the kind that went all the way up to your armpits—not the faded, broken-in 501’s that this teacher wore.
Teachers are professionals (or they’re supposed to be). They’re expected to rise to the occasion when they enter the classroom, and part of that professionalism lies in their appearance. When I taught high school, I never wore jeans. Maybe I would have if my teaching jobs were more permanent, but probably not. No matter where I taught, I always seemed to get into trouble, so wearing jeans probably would’ve made things worse. Plus, I was young—not that much older than my students—and I needed them to know WHAT WAS UP. They needed to RECOGNIZE. I may have only been 6 or 7 years older than them but I was in charge, yo—and jeans, for me, wouldn’t have relayed that message.
Jeans worked for my high school teacher though. He was able to wear jeans, teach, and command respect all at the same time.
His clothes were a metaphor for his personality (which was so totally appropriate because he was an English teacher). He personified balance: Business on top, party on the bottom. It was the “mullet” of ensembles. Many of us suspected he had a wild side when he wasn’t teaching, and he had the pants to prove it.
But every day he showed up ready to teach, regardless of what he did the night before.
The work ethic required for a camp counselor is very similar: Work hard, play hard. That’s probably why a lot of camp counselors become teachers.
Like teachers, camp counselors WORK—and they work hard. Being responsible for the welfare of children is not easy. Kids are NUTS and they demand a lot of attention (A LOT) so any amount of time away is both treasured and well deserved.
Hanging out with staff members who are also in the trenches, wearing something nice(er) and getting off grounds is all necessary to keep things fresh. Time off avoids burn-out. It’s also (from what I’ve heard) crazy fun, so the nights can go late.
And late nights equal rough mornings. It’s not always easy when the early bugle blows, but too bad. Being a camp counselor requires respect and whether it’s a day off or a late night in the cabin, it doesn’t matter. When morning comes, it’s Go-Time—presence is not only expected, it’s required.
The camp environment shouldn’t diminish the responsibilities. Being a camp counselor is like any other job. Everyone is expected to show up and be ready to work. And with counselors it’s not just the campers that are counting on them, but the rest of the staff as well. Everyone plays a part at camp, and there are no small parts.
My teacher used to say “In short stories, every word counts.” The same goes for moments spent at camp. Show up for the moments, they all count—and one day they will be great memories.
Plus, you can pretty much wear anything you want, including jeans.
Mr. C was the best! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I remember the jeans but I also remember the sometimes messy hair and beard… Must of been the late nights! 😘
I’m not saying it was or it wasn’t…I’m just saying that I remember the messy hair and beard too 🙂 Thank you for being here!!! XOXOXO
Maybe it’s an English teacher thing. I dress down on Fridays, but my kids still learn. If I wear jeans, I will make it an “outfit” and be cute. Cute shoes too. And we always have to be on our toes. I live near where I teach, so going to the supermarket can take an hour when I just need bread. “Hey, Mrs. R! Can we talk about my kid’s grade in your class?” Suddenly, a quick trip turns into a parent-teacher conference.
A glass of wine at dinner? Yes, please (carefully scopes out the restaurant to make sure no students are there…).
If you got it, you got it. Whether you’re teaching in jeans or hiding your wine from parents, you’re a professional through and through. If you work hard, you’re entitled to play hard. Wish I could play hard with you right now!!! 🙂
Julie M Malkin says
OMG Abby – we live IN the neighborhood where my husband teaches. He won’t even go to the market and I have been called out (as the teacher’s wife) more than once for the amount of alcohol in my cart!
My husband is an English teacher, he mostly wears nice pants and nice shirts. But occasionally, he will dress down.
I worked at a camp when I was a teenager, it was all work during the day and all play in the evening. I think there was a definite balance and I have great memories!!
It makes me happy that you have such great memories. I know that you were able to rock your camp time and your off time. It’s so fitting that your huz is an English teacher. I bet he can do both too, in jeans or not! XOXOXO 🙂 Thank you for being here!! XOXO
Julie M Malkin says
Big memories of my professional (party) days – pretty sure that hangover was part of my uniform. Not gonna lie – kinda glad they are behind me.
I ,however, AM in charge of a high school math teacher’s image. That’s a tough one as they are almost way too geeky, right? Not mine, he’s a hottie! Plus, he teaches in the mountains, so hiking boots with “fun socks” are 100% acceptable. Floods – not so much, but I think all those pants have officially gone missing… oh, and that long white-blonde ponytail he had his first few years teaching? It’s long been cut off but he keeps it (in a bag – BLEECH!) to remind the kids (himself?) that he too was once young and wild.
I work from home so I don’t have that. But I have my kid only part time so I close it down every Friday. I stopped caring what people may think because I’m a great mom too! But I mentioned before about running into the kids teachers and them seeming a bit judgey that I was having so much fun 😉
James Corcoran says
Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.
Just for the record though…things have changed considerably…
but the teaching has remained the same.
Anyway thanks for the positive commentary.
(Sober since 1988)
Have heard only good things about your teaching since this post went live and it makes me very happy. I feel pretty confident that you have left a memorable mark on many, many students since our class left those hallways 🙂
I love reading your posts. This one hit home
for me. I feel there is a level of professionalism
24/7 …. especially if you live in the area where
you teach. I’m always running into kids and
parents! The kids love it because many of them
think I live and sleep at school. At first, they’re
shocked and then they are crazy excited! I love
seeing them, too. I must admit, if I bump into kids at the grocery store I hope my cart is NOT
filled with junk food! 🙄
I can only imagine what it’s like for you. You never get to take the cape off, except to cover your junk food! It takes a very special person to show up for the kids professionally no matter what is happening on the other side of life. I applaud you for being able to achieve the balance to do both. But it’s also why you’re so good at it.