2013 marks a really cool milestone in my professional journey: I’m teaching my first undergraduate class! I had my first class last week, and in addition to planning the syllabus and outlining the first day, I spent plenty of time thinking about what I would wear. As Ricks and I lounged on our couch the night before my first day, I mused about what kind of vibe I wanted to set. I fell asleep before I could figure it out.
The next morning, I woke up and decided I wasn’t going to go the dress pants/button down route. I figured I would take advantage of being in a relaxed academic space and wear something that was much more comfortable and representative of my everyday look.
The outfit turned out to be quite the conversation piece as we talked about what it means to have a “culture” and how it’s reflected. After students shared, I brought up my outfit and what it reflects in regards to things I hold dear. I absolutely heart the “I Love Beeing Black” tee, and one of the reasons is the outline of the African continent in the heart. Part of my identity–a choice I’ve made about my identity and it’s relation to the world–is how I locate myself. I am a woman who values being a member of the black disapora. I spoke about how locating myself in the disapora and not just America is significant to how I see the world, power relations, and social justice work.
What a great conversation starter! Students began discussing how they see themselves located in (seemingly) multiple cultures and what that means in terms of displaying (performing) who they are in different contexts. I explained that yes, I love quirky fashion and challenging ideas of what makes “good fashion.” In the classroom, I used both of those things to open up a conversation about the ways we think about ourselves, our surroundings, and what define us.
Who knows what I’ll wear next week? Who knows what class will be like next week? I’m sure I’ll wear something fun and equally sure the class will be great. What I set out to accomplish for the first class was 1) disrupt any preconceived ideas of what a professor “should look like,” 2) set the tone for a course in which I hope students will constantly evaluate stereotypes, assumptions, and long held beliefs and 3) have a dynamic conversation to get students thinking about important themes for the course. After a GREAT first class, I’d say mission accomplished.
I’m lucky to work in an environment where I can play around with professional dress norms. I hope this post encourages you to push the boundaries more and show as much personality/individuality in your work life as you do in your personal life.
Do you wear fun outfits to work? Share them with us!
Until Next Time,