Young (looking) Teachers - How do you distance yourself?

Discussion in 'High School' started by Luke8Ball, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Jun 17, 2012

    Hi All!

    I'll be student-teaching next year, and I'm beginning to realize that I look YOUNG. Even after student-teaching, it'll take a few years to look a bit older.

    So, when you were student-teaching, or even a few years after, how did you distance yourself professionally from the students? How did you establish yourself as an authority figure rather than a friend?

    Thanks folks! :)
     
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  3. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jun 17, 2012

    Dress up everyday, watch your language, speak to the students as if you are a teacher, and always walk to the side of any line in the hallway.

    I remember when I first starting teaching, we had casual Fridays. One Friday, early in the year, I wore jeans and a school spirit shirt. I cannot even remember how many times my class was asked where the teacher was and how many times I was told I looked just like the students. It took me about 5 years before I started to participate in these days again.
     
  4. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    Jun 17, 2012

    I agree with Mopar. The most important thing you can do is dress professionally! Nothing too trendy, low cut or high-heeled! :)
     
  5. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

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    I don't think I look too young, and I was never mistaken for a student. But the things I did was to try to get to know all the teachers and faculty at the school. That way they don't ask you for a hall pass. Also, luckily, the kids in my school had to wear polo shirts and khakis, so obviously teachers stuck out a little more:)
     
  6. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Thanks for the responses. I feel so bad for the casual Friday victim - I'll definitely watch out for that! Haha
     
  7. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Jun 17, 2012

    If you do decide to partake in a school spirit day, definitely order the shirts with faculty or staff on the back.
     
  8. Myrisophilist

    Myrisophilist Habitué

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    Jun 17, 2012

    I began my LTS position during Teacher Appreciation Week, which the faculty was celebrating with casual attire. There was NO WAY I was going to sacrifice my first chance at establishing myself with my students and other teachers by dressing down. I look very young and would have been mistaken for a student easily (I'm still amazed that no one made that mistake to my face during my time there!).

    To establish myself as a faculty member, I got to know the teachers, spent time talking with them in the hall, dressed and acted professionally every day, and greeted my students in the hall before class where all the passing students could observe. It worked well!
     
  9. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jun 17, 2012

    What Mopar said.
    Also, for girls, I think it's easier. Dress up, but dress older, put your hair up -> there are things we can do to make ourselves look older.
    where i am, I don't need to establish myself as an authority figure, because i have already done that. There is definitely a 10 year difference between: skirt / dress slacks / sandals / blouse / cardigan + hair in a bun and cargo pants or jeans / sandals or flats, T shirt / cardigan / hair down. I do this on Fridays,but also lately it's hitting 95 F some days, and all the other teachers dress down, wayyy down.
    When I first started I dressed up every day for months.
     
  10. Drama Teach

    Drama Teach Rookie

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    Jun 17, 2012

    I started teaching at 24 years old and I was often mistaken for a student. I dress professionally and carried myself that way too. Teaching an elective made it harder too, one thing that helped me was that I was loud and would stand at my door and monitor the hallways. Students who did t have me in class learned who I was. Now I don't have any problems with students mistaken me for a student.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Jun 17, 2012

    This probably sounds obvious, but if you have an ID badge, make sure that it is visible and prominent. I clip mine to my lanyard (for my school keys). Anyone who sees me knows immediately that I'm a faculty member.
     
  12. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Jun 17, 2012

    I agree with the casual fridays thing- it may just be something you have to forgo for awhile. I teach elementary, so it wasn't a big deal for me, but one Friday a month I had a sped department meeting at the high school. The first meeting Friday of the year I arrived in what I thought still looked kind of "dressed up"- I had worn jeans, but with a sweater and nice shoes- and I got detained in the office because they thought I was a student coming back late from lunch! I had to fish out my id to prove that I was a teacher- and they were totally shocked! I think if you're wearing really professional clothes (you may have to dress up more than the other teachers) it makes it more obvious that you're not a student.
     
  13. Croissant

    Croissant Comrade

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    Jun 17, 2012

    When I student taught, I got "in trouble" several times for being in a classroom without a teacher and for being the hallways ;)

    I just completed my first year, and I still look young. When I work with students, I kneel down at their desks or sit in an empty desk next to them. Other teachers sometimes come in and say that they think I'm a student. The only thing that bothers me about that is that they make a big deal out of it in front of my kids.

    I would second what everyone said about dressing professionally and conservatively, but I think the biggest thing for me has been adjusting my own attitude. It's an adjustment to all of a sudden view yourself as the teacher instead of the student. While it's important to build relationships with the kids, I think it's important (at least in the beginning) to spend more non-instructional time with the other teachers. For example, sit with the other teachers at recess instead of playing with the kids. It's important for your students to see that you're equal to the adults, not them.
     
  14. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Jun 17, 2012

    I just got done with my first year teaching middle school. Again, I will echo what everyone else has said. Dress professionally! My school's dress code is pretty lax, and I could have gotten away with khakis and a polo everyday. However, I made it a point to wear dress pants, nice looking shoes, blouses and non-trendy jewelry.

    I never had a problem with students treating me without respect because I was young. I had that problem in student teaching (but that was less about how I looked and more about how my cooperating teacher presented me), but never during my actual teaching career.

    I'm pretty short (5'4"), so I tend to get lost in the crowd of middle schoolers. Sometimes, when a colleague is seeking out an adult in the crowd, I get overlooked because I look like a student. We just laugh about it and move on. I have been told that I look young EVERYWHERE I go (when I signed up to join a gym, the lady behind the counter asked me if I was 16 yet....I'm 23!). I just figure that means that when 'm 40, people will mistake me for being in my 20's! :lol:
     
  15. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Jun 19, 2012

    I started teaching young as well, and while my receding hairline now prevents this problem, I often worried about looking young too. The dress-up issue is absolutely critical: I always wore a shirt and tie, every day. Mind you, I teach in a rural community and precious few people EVER dress that formally, but it helped me stand out. Further, I always wore my ID badge, even though most teachers didn't.

    When it came to casual Friday, I dressed down A BIT, but not dramatically. I dropped the tie, but still wore a dress shirt and pants, or a shirt that had "STAFF" on it clearly under the name of our school. All that helped quite a bit.

    Depending on the size of the school, you might get to stop doing that stuff pretty quick. I teach in a smaller school, so within just a month or so, people knew who I was, and it was a non-issue. I still dressed up because I liked to look and feel professional, but I probably didn't have to anymore.
     
  16. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Jun 19, 2012

    I started teaching when I was 21. I dressed a little older than I might have if I hadn't looked like I wasn't old enough to be driving.

    Dress up more than the least dressed up faculty members, but you don't have to dress up more than the administrators.
     
  17. teacherwithlove

    teacherwithlove Comrade

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    Jun 19, 2012

    I started teaching at 23 (last school year). I teach younger primary so I don't have a problem with making myself appear more like an adult because there is a clear distinction. Although, one time I walked into the Teacher's Lounge, where students are NOT allowed, and my boss walked in right behind me... she immediately said, "excuse me but why... " and as I turned around she was shocked. She thought I was a student. We both thought it was pretty funny.

    :) I am now 24.
     
  18. Luke8Ball

    Luke8Ball Rookie

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    Jun 19, 2012

    Do all schools give out faculty shirts? To student teachers?
     
  19. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    No, but most can buy a school shirt.
     
  20. Socivol

    Socivol Rookie

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    Jun 20, 2012

    You really just have to have a professional demeanor about yourself. I just finished my student teaching this past semester and I taught 11th and 12th grade students, and I look like I am one (I'm in my mid-twenties). I feel you have to be a bit more authoritative at first so they take your seriously but it can work to your advantage as well. I would catch kids doing things they weren't supposed to be all the time because they would think I was a student so you can find out information in the hallways by just looking young. It wasn't that bad for me I actually had a great time.
     
  21. Jeky

    Jeky Comrade

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    Jun 20, 2012

    I agree with the idea of keeping a professional demeanor. I am almost thirty, but SHORT (5 feet!!) and very young looking. Because I teach middle school, almost all students are taller me already. My biggest thing is keeping my speech AND body language professional at all times. I never speak to my students using slang.

    I tend to dress up a little bit more at the beginning of the year, and I usually wear heels every day. However, I always do casual Fridays and usually wear jeans, flats, and a school t-shirt. The first Friday I do this, I get tons of comments from the students; the most common being "you're short" and "you look like a student!" and "hey, I'm taller than you!". I respond to all the comments with a short raise of my eyebrows and a semi-sarcastic "yes, yes I am, good observation...." and then we get right into the lesson. If I don't make it a big deal, they drop it.

    One trick I picked up over the years: If a student comes to talk to me individually after class, I sit down in my desk chair while I speak to them (I am usually pulling up their grades on the computer anyways) and then the height difference isn't so obvious because there is a natural height difference that is expected when one person is standing and one is sitting.

    :)
     
  22. Mellz Bellz

    Mellz Bellz Comrade

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    Jun 20, 2012

    Those are some great ideas! I'm sweating it because I've been informed that I might be teaching afternoons at the high school next year and I'm freaking out about it. I'm 5'1 and even though I'm almost 29 I look like I'm in high school myself. It wasn't such a big deal at the middle school because our 6th graders were pretty small to begin with and I tend to dress down more as the year goes on, so by that point they realized I was a teacher. Plus we have uniforms. Still I don't know about high school.... I'm kind of praying that something else pops up.
     
  23. MissApple

    MissApple Companion

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    Jun 25, 2012

    I've been working at a high school for two years and I still get mistaken for a student. When I first started I was constantly being yelled at to get to class, or had people trying to confiscate my cell phone : D When I first started as a teacher I did dress slacks and blouses, nice shoes etc. The problem was that many of the kids had known me when I was a para (where blending in like the students was a positive) and they thought it was hilarious to see me "all dressed up."

    Rather than fretting over it like I did in the beginning, I've learned to embrace it. Most of the time I wear jeans, a blouse and nice shoes. I never look bummy, but I don't hide my youth either (not that dressing professionally did much good. I was still mistaken for a student).

    I work with out lowest level ESE Reading students, so these kids have given up on every being able to pass our state reading test, let alone ever reading for pleasure. As a result they see Reading class as a joke and have no respect for it or the teacher, no matter how authoritative and respectable they look.

    What I've found is if I DON'T distance myself, they are far more comfortable with me and are willing to work for me. I've built a strong rapport and gained their trust by relating to them on their level. Now, when I tell them I believe in them and point out their improvements, they believe me. When they struggle to read a word or answer a question, they don't give up - they keep trying because they don't feel judged.

    I recognize that my situation is a somewhat unique one given the population of students I work with, but I thought I'd offer the perspective anyway.
     
  24. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Jun 26, 2012

    I am going to echo what everyone has said here, as I am in a similar position as you except I just finished my student/intern teaching.

    Always wear dress shirts, and nice slacks, and nice shoes. Ties are even better (though I think after a certain point in the year, you can forgo them every once in a while).

    Wear your school badge on a lanyard around your neck with your keys and a whistle or a timer. This is what really helped me maintain a teacher look. I used the timer for when I kept students a minute after class, and it was useful for other things when they came up (timing reactions and demos).

    Try to keep a professional haircut. I didn't always do my hair every morning, but I tried to keep my hair short, and close-cropped.
     
  25. threesyeasy

    threesyeasy Rookie

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    Jun 27, 2012

    I get mistaken for a student all the time, even after two years at my school. I dress pretty casually, but in my opinion I'd rather do that and be mistaken for a student than dress professionally and wind up as a TILF. Whenever I dress nicely, I get hit on and it's a very uncomfortable situation. I don't mind being mistaken for a student.

    Honestly, I'm not sure what it is that I do, but even though my students know I'm young they absolutely respect my authority and we get along very well. I have had some incredibly tough classes, but I think because I make it clear I know where they're coming from and I respect them, they in return respect me; it's a lot harder for them to understand where I'm coming from so I make sure I discuss situations from my point of view with them, and they take to that.
     
  26. Ms.SLS

    Ms.SLS Cohort

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    Jul 7, 2012

    For females, I think hair is a big one.

    Don't walk in with long, high lighted hair. At work, I normally wear my bangs pinned back, or wear my hair in a bun. I keep it dyed a neutral color. Don't wear ponytails. Shorter hairstyles are usually more mature looking, if you're willing to go that route.

    When I first started, I wore my glasses instead of contacts.
     
  27. Jackofalltrades

    Jackofalltrades Rookie

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    Dress is big!! I did confiscate the P.E. teacher's cell phone once. She was 5' 2" and wearing braids.

    oops!
     
  28. myloveasdeep

    myloveasdeep Rookie

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    Jul 16, 2012

    On days when I anticipate I will be challenged, for example the first week, the day after I write up a belligerent student, or tough parent meetings, I wear a blazer jacket. Nothing makes you look older like a blazer. Just make sure it's not too fitted or ruffly.
     
  29. Keylay

    Keylay Rookie

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    The biggest thing is dressing professionally. However, as a male teacher you have to go farther than just dress shirt and pants. I personally wear a combination of ties and/or vests on most days.

    However, I disagree with not doing the causal Friday thing. Make sure you don't distance yourself to far away from them otherwise they don't look at you as a mentor. Our school does spirit Fridays. I always wear a school related t-shirt or polo on those days. I have club meetings once a week, and I sometimes will wear the club t-shirt (not always). In addition, when we come back from competitions I always wear the shirt we were given on the first day back to school. These type of activities allow the students to connect with you and lets them know that you care about things not just in the classroom.

    On a side note, the last 4 years I have been voted by the faculty as "the most likely male teacher to be confused as a high school senior." Lets see how long that will last. I did put on a little weight this summer which makes me look order. (Another answer to the question) For some strange reason, I did not win this award my first year teaching.
     
  30. mrsenglish

    mrsenglish Rookie

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    Aug 3, 2012

    I definitely blend in as a student, no matter what I'm wearing. I once had another (new) employee come into my classroom during a Socratic Seminar and I was in a desk, in the circle with my students. He immediately looked around the room and I asked, "yes?" and he said "where's the teacher? there's no teacher in here?"

    Bottom line is, regardless if you blend in, just be firm and consistent. The kids like to think that if you are younger looking, you'll be the "cool" teacher, which sure-- I'm cool. But I'm also strict, challenging, and have high expectations. Just be forward about that.
     
  31. rbschreiber@gma

    rbschreiber@gma Rookie

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    Aug 15, 2012

    I also frequently was confused for a student. I taught my first year at a middle school and actually had a mom ask if I would be IN class with her son, an 11-year old 6th grader. As a 5'11", 24 year old man I was a bit shocked by that one... My 2nd year (and this 3rd coming up) I am now at a high school where I still look like a student.

    So my tricks?
    1) As everyone has said, dress well.
    2) Act like a teacher. I've had students say things like, "I thought you were my friend!" and I remind them I am not their friend but their teacher. I set a tone of mutual respect but make sure they know it's my room, my rules.

    and the biggest, most helpful tip to make myself seem older?
    3) I grew a beard. Might not work for you ladies. :)
     
  32. MissAH

    MissAH Rookie

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    Aug 16, 2012

    I am in my mid 20's and have the added bonus of having a baby face. When I first began student teaching 2 years ago, I walked through the office my first day and the school secretary mistook me for an errant 8th grader. I looked professional, but after that I made it a point of always wearing heels, make up, and pulling my hair back into a bun. When I switched to high school the next semester, it was even more difficult. Campus security had a field day with me :) What you should do is make sure your MT introduces you to EVERYONE on campus and do it yourself if they will not.

    Also, students will ask how old you are. Do not tell them. My students had a running bet and would try to trick me into telling them my age (I teach history and they would ask things like "how old were you during 9/11). I said hey would have to wait until the last day of school to know. Finally, they will get crushes on you. Be warm and kind but do DO NOT slip into witty flirtations. If a student suggests you "like" anyone or that someone is your "favorite" nip that in the bud right away.
     
  33. McParadigm

    McParadigm Companion

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    Sep 6, 2012

    I grew a beard halfway through my first year, after a few awkward and unpleasant moments. It didn't fix the problem, but it definitely reduced the amount of incoming flirtations and whatnot.

    There were consequences, though. At first I would shave the dumb thing off each summer...it was a prop, really, like a classroom poster or something...but over the years it just became a part of me. Now my wife won't let me get rid of it for nothing. :|
     

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