Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

Dressing the Part

Written By: Anachan - Mar• 02•14

One advantage of being an English teacher, versus a science teacher, is the opportunity to wear a creative wardrobe.

True, as a science teacher, I could sometimes get away with very casual clothing, using the excuse that I was working in a lab, so I couldn’t possibly risk my nice clothes.  And, true, I could run around the school with a lab coat and goggles on my forehead, with the idea I was helping to kindle interest in science.

But as an English teacher, I can wear even more interesting garb.

On Halloween, I dug in my old Society for Creative Anachronism closet and pulled out a fairly neutral European ethnic outfit.  (It was intended to be Scottish, but with a chemise, vest, and skirt, it could be applied to several nations or immigrants from the Continent into America.)  Complete with dramatic cape clasped by a Celtic knot belt buckle, I settled into a comfortable chair in my classroom, with only a lamp draped in red fabric for light, and regaled my students with Edgar Allen Poe.

When I introduced the research paper assignment this semester, I wore a brightly-colored and heavily embroidered full dress, cut from a pattern resembling something the Afghan Kuchi nomads would wear.  The reason?  I had done a considerable amount of research when making that dress, and by wearing it, I could remind the students that researching something in which one is actually interested can be fun.  I parlayed that discussion into an assignment for them to think about and decide upon a research topic in which they had some real interest.  (It worked.)

And this week, when the junior class began reading Bret Harte’s “The Outcasts of Poker Flat”, I pulled out my 1880’s American West ladies’ dress.  Perhaps the ill-fated female outcasts or the star-crossed Piney Woods wore something remotely similar.

When I show up in unusual garb, my students immediately know something is going to happen in class relating to my outfit.  Setting the stage, so to speak, helps get the target class into the mood to enjoy and appreciate the story or assignment.  Even those who are not in that particular class start asking questions, giving me the opportunity to expand their horizons just a little bit more.

Who knew that all these costumes I acquired over the years would prove to be so useful?

Before the year is finished, I will be starting “Julius Caesar” with my sophomores and “Hamlet” with my juniors.  Never fear, I have outfits for those, as well!  While I will have to make excuses for the fact it is actually men’s garb, I can appear at school in a Roman toga (No, it isn’t exactly what you are thinking; I will be within dress code), and after I move the hook on the bodice s to a location more suited to my slightly expanded figure, I can show up in an Elizabethan court dress.

I wonder if I will be able to somehow find a way to wear my Middle Eastern dance outfit . . . Maybe next year.

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