Prospective students visiting my class ask where the professor is. I'm the dressed-up person setting up a Power Point presentation at the front of the room.
I checked some books out of the library, and the student worker looked at my faculty ID card (no photo) and asked if I was checking the books out for my mother. "Like, you teach here? Or your mom teaches here?"
I sat in on a colleague's class, and an undergraduate tried to hit on me. "Wow. I've never seen you in Dr. Feminist's class before." Probably because I'm usually teaching another class on the other side of campus during this time.
Q: Do I start dressing like an old lady? Do I wear suits? Do I get a gray wig? Or do I just accept it and enjoy it?
I had this problem for my first 5 or six years, but it was easier to fix by wearing a tie and suitcoat (since I am male!).ReplyDelete
Women have it harder in many ways--many students won't respect you because of your gender no matter what you wear.
However frustrating it is, I say accept it and enjoy it. When they stop commenting on how young you look, you will miss it.
(Trust me. It gets worse too. A student from my first year showed up recently and told me how much older I looked. They suck the life right out of you.)
I have the same problem. I wear at the very least suit jackets and blouses that look businessy....ReplyDelete
I try to go with the flow and enjoy it without being too unprofessional. I just carry a big stick to keep off the flocks of nubile co-eds who flock to my organic chemistry class.ReplyDelete
It seems to me that as long as you feel it isn't impacting your abilites to instruct your students, or your standing within the department, then it isn't that big of a deal. Looking young isn't a crime, and it sounds like your dressing perfectly appropriatly.ReplyDelete
I had the same problem, which I kind of solved by growing a beard... Another glass ceiling -- you need a beard to receive respect?ReplyDelete
Anyways, as you said, time will take care of it.
@introvert.prof -- Sadly, they will not go away with time. It just gets worse. Girls with daddy issues looking for a father figure... the older you look the more confused they get.
Wow, FP, you took the words right out of my mouth, and said first (which I wouldn't have had the bravery to bring up myself) about the daddy-issue students who suddenly feel more compelled to tell me their problems, as apparently I'm now a much more approachable fellow akin to a father figure, whereas before I was one scary dude, all thanks to this new mass of hair covering my face for the last few months ... and I'm young enough still that the beard is nearly all dark hair, with barely a grey hair, which apparently makes me one sexy mofo walking the halls of academia, compared to my grey-hair-galore older compatriots ...Delete
I get fewer comments about how young I look now that I've got a shock of silver at my hairline, but it still happens sometimes. This might be due to the fact that I often teach in tee-shirt and jeans. This occasionally causes students unfamiliar with my classes to feel overly comfortable on the first day or so, but that wears off quickly once we get into the material. Then they're just trying to hold on for dear life.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure what that answer is, but when people start calling you "ma'am," you've arrived (and will now face a whole new set of problems, mostly deriving from students confusing you with some sort of idealized, endlessly nurturing mommy figure).ReplyDelete
Yeah, I have the same deal, but I embrace it because like Contingent Cassandra said, I'd rather be viewed as youthful, than be viewed as grandmotherly. I don't 'dress older' because I don't see the point in changing who I am if it doesn't impact my teaching and relationship with students. In fact, if I WERE to dress differently, or take on a different persona, I think that would come across as inauthentic, and they would pick up on that.ReplyDelete
Same issue here, compounded by being less than vertically endowed. A student called me ma'am the other day. I'm going to flunk his ass.ReplyDelete
That's being polite, where I teach. If, on the other hand, you asked the students not to. . . .Delete
I would feel really uncomfortable teaching in formal wear all the time, so I stick to business casual at best. Interestingly, only people older than I am ever mistake me for a student--the students themselves seem to have no trouble figuring out who's boss.ReplyDelete
Perhaps this is because I've found that not keeping up with the bleeding edge of fashion is enough to set me apart from my students, who serve as this country's elite enclave of clotheshorses/fashion victims (or so goes the stereotype). So I've embraced my frumpiness to decent effect.
I had the same problem once, but (somewhat sadly) aging took care of that in time. I think the key is to acquire 1) the look and 2) the attitude. For the look: dress more formally but NOT like a senior dressing for a job interview. So no cookie-cutter boring dark-colour suits. Maybe a patterned jacket with a dark skirt and plain top or even better, a solid dark jacket over nice dresses. Nice bonus- senior academic staff are also likely to take you more seriously. For the attitude: Demand respect and you'll get it. For example, Dream-Killer as a teaching assistant was asked: Are you a real teacher? and Dream-Killer replied "I give real grades". 'nuff said, students were really respectful after that. Also I usually threaten to throw someone out of my class in the second week of class (for excessive chattering, texting etc) - that also is quite good in establishing who exactly is in charge. All the best!ReplyDelete
I have a theory. If you look professional, all-business, young, fit, energetic; and on top of that clearly master the material with an ease they know is unreachable--that's bad. They experience it as "I will never be so perfect"; it makes them feel inadequate (sometimes justifiably). It inspires not admiration, but jealousy.ReplyDelete
In this theory, many snowflakes react better to the appearance of "vulnerability", in some way. So I can pretend to fumble in the middle of a proof , or to have a "senior moment", or to plead "having a bad day". Or even go for a "they are not paying me enough" look.
This theory is not based on observation, since I never get sartorial (or other personal) comments of any kind from students. Sometimes I wear a suit jacket (and jeans) to class, and some of them smile; who knows why.
So why not shoot for that "bad hair day" or "I need a raise" look and see what happens?
I used to get approached by security in the staff parking lot all the time when I first started teaching as an adjunct. They always doubted me and wanted to see my i.d. Sadly, that does not happen anymore. I really do miss it. Enjoy.ReplyDelete