Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sexy Teacher? Naw, just a pleated skirt and lots of blue.

Shoes: Ecco; Skirt: Jella; Blazer and top: Reitmans, Umbrella and bangle: thrift; Brooch: vintage
It was threatening to rain that day, as it so often does here, so I brought an umbrella, but, really, it was an excuse because, well...

... it's such a fun umbrella and matched the outfit I was wearing.

Beau wasn't so very fond of this outfit. Pleats, he said, remind him too much of church. Remember, he was raised in an uber-conservative cult that called itself a church. When he says something reminds him of church, he means it reminds him of severe restrictions, rules, repression, and shame -- lots and lots of shame. 

It's true that I was going for a more conservative look. I was going for School Teacher or even School Marm. But, for me, a look like this is more of a costume than anything else. I really am a college teacher, but I'm not at all conservative so I wear an outfit like this quite ironically. It's hard for Beau to see it that way. It probably would be for me too, if I'd had his upbringing.

Anyway, for the previous class, I'd worn something that I didn't think was very teacherly at all, so it was all in the interests of playful balance.

I'm well aware of school teacher fetishes that exist out there. They're similar to the sexy librarian fetishes, I think. My Sexy Librarian post has had, by far, the most hits of any of my other posts. I try not to be creeped out by that. 

Does the teacher/librarian fetish have something to do with wanting to be disciplined? Or do people think that braininess and sexuality are in direct contradiction to one another, so a brainy woman letting loose her sexuality is exotic and hot? Or are there some who just think intelligence is sexy?

I hope it's the latter. I'm not at all sure that it is.

I once had a student who spent the entire semester staring at my chest. It made me so uncomfortable that I started wearing cardigans to class, even when it was way too hot to do so. He failed the course. I guess his attention was not on the material. He asked to meet with me and the (female) chair of the department to discuss his grade. Guess what he did during the entire meeting, in front of the chair.

You guessed it. He stared at my chest. My chair witnessed this. I tried to simply be amused. It wasn't easy.

Ring: Birks
 I'm no disciplinarian, so the fetishists would be disappointed in me, but I am pretty strict as a teacher: lots of pop quizzes, lowered marks for poor grammar, no late papers, no papers that don't meet the parameters of the assignments, no charity passing grades, etc.

But students who are genuinely going through a life crisis find me particularly compassionate, I think, maybe because I have so much experience with hardship myself. Those students get extensions and whatever help I can give them. 

I do think I'm a nicer, more compassionate teacher than I used to be. Why? Probably four reasons: I got tenure; I'm more confident now that I'm more seasoned; my own disability has made me more understanding of the suffering of others... and I have a life outside of work now. Teaching shouldn't be a person's entire life. At least I don't think it should be. 

One of the great perks of my job is free books. Nerds of my variety covet the Norton Anthology of English Literature. Here it is in its entirety, along with several other anthologies on my shelves in my office.
I've also learned the golden rule of staying sane when teaching: Never care more about your students' education than they do. 

So I teach the best classes I possibly can, but understand that learning is a two way street, and students need to do their best as well. No matter how weak the student, if she cares a great deal about her education, for whatever reason, I will bust my ass to teach her as well as I possibly can, and this includes a lot of time I'll give her outside of the classroom. But if a student has no interest in learning, doesn't want to do any work, pays no attention in class, and is resentful of having to, you know, think? Well, I'm not going to worry too much as I watch that student crashing and burning in my class. If I did, I'd have no energy left for the students who really want and appreciate what I have to offer.

This lesson, passed down from teacher to teacher, has kind of saved my life. It's also often phrased thusly: Teach to the good ones. Focus on the good ones, and you'll be okay. I wrote more about that here

Two dangling earrings: vintage; Rosebud earring and larger silver stackable ring from Barefoot Contessa; Deco diamond ring was my grandmother's engagement ring; Gold stackable ring (a promise ring from Beau): Etsy; Smaller stackable ring: from a street vendor
But back to my outfit! Sheesh, you'd think this wasn't a style blog or something.

On this day, I thought I'd go with the return of 80s fashion and wear fancy earrings in each piercing. It was fun and, I think, quite pretty. 

I remember being thirteen and getting the second two piercings. I thought I was so cool and punk. Now, it just seems normal for my generation, and really no big deal. Of course, back then I wore safety pins, and bracelets, and feathers, and all sorts of crazy things as earrings. 

My rebellion is less visible now, but it certainly hasn't gone away.

Okay, yeah, you've seen this brooch before but, well, it's worth seeing again, is it not? 

I could swear I've seen traditional Irish outfits in which a brooch is often worn in the ruffle at the neck, but I can't find a single image of it online. Am I imagining this? Help me out here.

On this day, Beau picked me up from work in one of our coop cars. On our little walk home from the drop-off point, we crossed one of the best features of our neighbourhood: a little valley known by all the locals simply as The Cut. It's a little bit of wilderness in the centre of the city and is home to ravens, eagles, hawks, racoons, coyotes, skunks, feral cats (most of them now fed, spayed, and neutered by locals), and a plethora of less exotic birds.

The Cut has always been home to the railroad, but, when more trees had to be cut down to make way for a second rapid transit line (the first having ruffled fewer feathers), there was a bit of an uproar. No one wanted to lose the more wild quality of The Cut. Thus you see two of the city's attempts to address this: the plaque saying "Healing the Cut," and the telescope that gives a view of The Cut itself and the mountains beyond. I actually think the city has done a pretty good job, creating a wonderful walking and cycling route along the top of the cut that is full of trees and flowers and, as a result, birds as well.

You can also see here how tall Beau is, which I think is kind of sexy.

I felt a bit sly taking the photo because Beau didn't know I was doing it.

When he caught me, he gave me exactly the same look he gives me if I disturb his sleep at night. It's a grumpy, pouty look. 

It gives me little giggle, which makes him pout more. He never remembers doing it.

And as an end to my day of looking like a teacher, I present to you a view of wonderful trees and the not very distant downtown, from a little bridge crossing The Cut. Those little specks in the sky are the crows flying home as they do every night, thousands of them, like clockwork, just one more happy feature of my chosen home. 

(I'm going to link this up to Visible Mondays over at Not Dead Yet.)


  1. Wonderful essay about teaching. I use a similar maxim for psychotherapy with my patients: If I am more involved in your recovery than you are, we have to change something.

    You look marvelous and retro in your pleated skirt and brooch. It's fun to change looks day by day, yeah? Thanks for linking up to Vis Monday.

    1. That's really interesting to hear about your approach to psychotherapy. I'd not thought about such a maxim in that context.

      Yeah, I do like to change my look a lot. According to Beau, the first adjective to use for my sense of style is "eclectic."

  2. I am absolutely adept at wielding the power of the cleavage. It doesn't make me uncomfortable when guys stare at my chest. It's better than staring at my wheelchair :-P
    I think we're of the same mind this week with a "cleavage brooch" on our garments. I'm collecting a few brooches to try to incorporate into my wardrobe.


    1. I wore a great cleavage brooch yesterday but was too busy having PMS to take any photos.

      I don't mind when people glance appreciatively at my chest. As a bisexual woman, I get it: breasts are beautiful. But this student never looked at my face, never listened, never took notes, and just looked at my chest -- all the time. I felt sexualized and that my authority as a teacher, and a human being, was undermined.

  3. I have a weakness for pleated skirts! Love the umbrella!!

  4. Your post prompted me to run off and and find my ancient, single volume Norton. Tissue thin paper, ugly gray cloth binding and puppy-chewed cover corner. The puppy is long gone ... it's from the late 60s. Also found my Jantzen History of Art. Had to buy that one twice ... left one on the seat of my car, and it was stolen. More than a lesson in art history there. Glad I went to look.
    Interesting associations for a pleated skirt. That's what I love about ideas of personal style. All the narratives. I wonder if the narrative would be the same for Beau if the skirt hit above the knee.
    You've achieved Sexy Librarian-Teacher!
    I know what you mean about Irish traditional dress, with the brooch amid the ruffles ... a Victorian style adapted, maybe? I know women wore clasps and broaches on big shawls and scarves, often on the shoulder.
    Navy is very pretty against your fairness, and you look quite Romantic, leaning against the garden fence!
    Thanks for another great post, and keep enjoying your summer.

    1. You know, check out my sexy librarian post. That was an above the knee pleated skirt and Beau likes that one a lot. He also wishes I'd wear my glasses more so I think he's got a bit of that sexy teacher desire going on. For him, I know it's the smart woman thing, so it's okay.

      Ah Nortons. If you get the chance, do get your hands on more recent editions, which are easy to find second hand. They include far more women writers, as well as "commonwealth" writers, queer writers, etc. This is not only recent writers either. They've gone back in time and realized all the writers prejudice caused them to leave out... Okay, actually, they were dragged kicking and screaming into recognizing that. If you feel like it, learn a bit about the canonicity debates. It's an interesting tale and it's not done yet.

      Oh, and check out this post:

  5. "No matter how weak the student, if she cares a great deal about her education, for whatever reason, I will bust my ass to teach her as well as I possibly can, and this includes a lot of time I'll give her outside of the classroom. But if a student has no interest in learning, doesn't want to do any work, pays no attention in class, and is resentful of having to, you know, think? Well, I'm not going to worry too much as I watch that student crashing and burning in my class. If I did, I'd have no energy left for the students who really want and appreciate what I have to offer." A-men. I teach (French horn) and you have summed up my experience too. P.S. Blue becomes you.

  6. And furthermore. You write "outfit posts" but I don't suppose you miss that your writing whirls around outfits into much more spacious territory. Love that.

    1. Yup. I do it on purpose. Call it bait and switch, or call it the way my mind works, it's just fun.