Although I'm only in my third week of student teaching, I've spent quite a few hours in various schools in Cedar Falls. The Teacher Education program at UNI does a great job of getting you in the classroom right away--even before you're officially admitted to the program! If there's one thing I've learned from those experiences it's this: you've gotta dress the part.
I remember doing my Level 1 Field Experience at Cedar Falls High School (coincidentally with the same teacher I'll be student teaching with come October!) and observing a Spanish 4 class. Like hello, I was only a few months older than these students. My teacher encouraged me to do an activity with them, and I had all sorts of fear that they wouldn't have any respect for me... I was basically one of them! Since I couldn't change the age gap, I had to change the way I presented myself. If you look the part of a teacher, students will respect you as a teacher. Dressing professionally is a key component of widening the age gap between you and the students.
HOWEVER. I truly believe that it is important to be your genuine self with your students. Obviously I'm not talking about divulging every last detail of your personal life to them, but giving them glimpses of who you really are. An easy way to show your personality in the classroom is via your outfit! Dressing like a teacher doesn't necessarily mean wearing only neutral colors or wearing dress pants and a blouse every day. BORING. I'm enjoying putting outfits together every day that showcase my personality! I included a few examples of my "teacher outfits" throughout this post.
What I've also figured out is that professional clothing is pretty pricey. My strategy is to splurge on pieces I know I'll wear a lot, like solid color dress pants, and find clearance items for things I can only wear once in a while, like printed tops or dresses. I spent a nice chunk of change on two pairs of excellent quality trousers from Express, but I have been continuously checking the sales at Target to find fun tops to pair with them.
Before I buy anything, however, I consider how many ways I can wear something. I ask myself, "Can I wear this with tights and boots in the winter?" or "Can I pair this with multiple cardigans?" Too avoid spending too much money, it's important to mix and match pieces. I try to change it up each day with different accessories like shoes, earrings, necklaces and headbands to bring something new to the outfit. When a 9th grade student compliments some part of my outfit, I know I did a great job. Like the day one student told me my eyeliner was "on point", that was quite a self-esteem boost. Sadly, it's repeating outfits is unavoidable, but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.