Keeping up appearances as a teacher

Following on from my previous blog on ‘keeping up appearances’ I wanted to do a little spin-off for the teachers as I think this is something that is still current and definitely relatable.

As a teacher, I expect many of us will be no stranger to putting more effort into our appearance in one way or another. I have been quite lucky in my teaching roles so far. I was 2 years in before I needed to ‘dress up’ and ‘look the part’ as in my first job I was able to wear whatever I wanted (even then, I thought this was a bit odd but I made the most of it!). When I went to Taiwan, it was smart trousers and a long sleeve shirt. It was annoying, but I knew I didn’t have a choice so I just went along with it. Occasionally we were allowed a ‘jeans and tee’ day but in 38oC heat, jeans felt disgusting.

Anyway! In Poland I had to be formal all of the time, especially when teaching at a rich private school in the south of the city. Once I got to Manchester I decided to fully invest in a ‘teacher’s wardrobe’ of smart trousers, blazers and floral print shirts that I could feel comfortable in and look smart. By the end of last year I was wearing skirts and dresses to work. Which is absolutely not me!

My biggest challenge was teaching online. I completely thought that I’d be wearing sweatpants every day, not putting on any makeup or washing my hair every day. But I was so wrong. I have been more concerned with my appearance in the last 10 months than I ever have as a teacher. In Taiwan and Poland I often went to work without makeup on, or without worrying about wearing glasses or contact lenses, and most of the lost year I was so ill I wasn’t able to function enough to wear make up or worry about what I was wearing, if I’m being completely honest.

So, 2020. COVID. Working from home. Teaching online. Would you really have imagined that our appearance would have been so important? I definitely did not and yet it has been extremely important to me. I don’t think I would have worried so much if it hadn’t been for a few people that had made comments about my background / room / plants / bookcase or something else. It was usually along the lines of ‘why is it so boring?’ or ‘why do you have so many things?’ or ‘why is the light so bad in your room’, and a few others. I started to become really self-conscious and aware of where I held my lessons, despite my students often popping up from different rooms or with a ‘new’ background. Some of them even joined FROM BED! Why was I worried?

I know that many schools had produced ‘working from home’ rules and regulations such as ‘plain white background’, ‘formal attire’, ‘no personal items on show’ or ‘no eating and drinking during the lesson’ and in all honesty I find these ridiculous. As long as you don’t have rude or offensive posters on the wall or decide to eat a full meal whilst teaching, does it really matter? I was glad, at least, that I could follow my own rules.

As I moved back in with my parents most recently, I was more aware than ever about the ‘state’ of the background, what my students would say if they knew I’d moved for a third time this year, and so I decided to jump on the background bandwagon, something I previously considered to be a little childish. I am now extremely grateful for this function and for the ability to add your own picture in. I’d taken photos of our flat in Manchester because of how lovely it looked with all of the plants, and because I loved my little ‘office’. I was easily able to add the living room as a background, or the generic beach photo, and then I went a step further and edited my ‘Bitmojis classroom’ to become a suitable background. I’m now a bit obsessed with creating new backgrounds for various lessons / students and I have to admit that it has been quite fun!

Fancy a look at some of them? Scroll on!

My birthday decorations in the living room from the weekend. A few people really loved this one.
This came from a free image website and was perfect for when my students knew I was ‘mid move’
My simplified Bitmojis classroom (mirrored image)
Save the children free download from their website

I’m interested in hearing your opinions on this topic so if you have anything to share or add to this please leave a comment! Or, share some of your backgrounds with me on Twitter – I’d love to see them!

And as always, thank you for reading!

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