Appearance (and Gender) in the Classroom

I confess that I have been stewing over this topic, in one form or another, for quite some time.  Several weeks ago, a former colleague brought this blog post, by UCLA graduate assistant Natascha Chtena, to my attention:  http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/appearances-matter

It’s a well-meaning attempt by a graduate teaching assistant to provide style help for other graduate teaching assistants, partially in response to K. David Roach’s 1997 study, “Effects of graduate teaching assistant attire on student learning, misbehaviors, and ratings of instruction.”  In addition to including links to style-minded blogs and web sites, Chtena writes, 

Of course, I still greatly value clothing as a form of self-expression, but I’ve also realized that more burning than my desire to have fun with clothes, is my desire to do my job well and protect myself from anything that can potentially undermine my status in class.  And I’ve come to accept that safer is always better:  teaching simply is one of those jobs where you have to be really conservative and pulled together. 

I wonder, how many of us consider ourselves, as teachers, to be engaged in a profession “where you have to be really conservative”?  In my personal experience, I’ve seen quite a range of styles of dress amongst my coworkers, and my own choices regarding dress and appearance vary considerably depending on a variety of factors, including weather, classroom environment, and how far I’m likely to have to walk from my car to my office on a given day.  I decided to do a little research to discover what university policy is regarding professional attire.  It turns out that the employee handbook does have a brief section addressing attire and personal appearance.  Since the handbook is meant to cover all university employees, however, its guidelines are incredibly broad, and basically summed up in the statement, “Montclair State University’s commitment to excellence requires standards of personal appearance from staff that are consistent with departmental needs and with the expectations of our customers” (“University Policies”). 

Interestingly, the language of the employee handbook harks back to an article that was already hovering in the back of my mind when I read Chtena’s post, Mark Edmundson’s “On the Uses of a Liberal Education.”  Edmundson’s article, originally published in Harper’s in 1997, points out what he sees as a trend toward commercialization in higher education.  For instance, Edmundson observes, “as I began looking around, I came to see that more and more of what’s going on in the university is customer driven.  The consumer pressures that beset me on evaluation day are only a part of an overall trend” (283).  When we start talking about “the expectations of our customers,” I think it’s pretty clear that Edmundson has a point about what’s going on in the university culture.

 To what extent, though, when our “customers” are our students, are we required to meet their “expectations” in the matter of personal appearance?  When it comes to the expectations of my colleagues or superiors in my department, I think it’s safe to assume there is a certain expected standard of modesty, neatness, and professionalism, and while there may be some slight individual variation on this standard, I think we could come to a consensus fairly easily about what is appropriate and what is not.  Yet when it comes to students, their expectations are both harder to predict and potentially more questionable.  I agree with Edmundson when he declares, “I don’t teach to amuse, to divert, or even, for that matter, to be merely interesting” (279), but I often feel that students judge me (and my fellow instructors) on my ability to do these things.  Moreover, this judgment seems to extend beyond factors that are within our control, such as teaching style, syllabus content, and classroom demeanor, as well as attire and basic personal grooming, to factors over which we have little to no control, including appearance-related factors such as gender, age, race, and body type.

Consider, for instance, the “chili pepper” on ratemyprofessors.com.  While we may not take this site particularly seriously as an assessment of our value or skill as instructors, some students do.  And one of the things that students are invited to rate is instructors’ appearance.  Specifically, they are asked to provide feedback on whether or not their professors are “hot.”  So while the university’s expectations may be for neat and professional appearances, it seems that our students may be judging with a different set of criteria in mind.  And if our students are our “customers,” exactly whose expectations are we attempting to meet? 

This question is further complicated, I feel, by those factors of appearance that we are least able to control, particularly age and gender.  I can only speak from my own perspective as a woman (and I would love to hear from some of my male colleagues in the field on this topic), but I am wholly convinced that while appearance matters for everyone in this society, appearance-based judgments are more frequently applied to women, and more heavily weighted when it comes to evaluating a woman’s overall “worth.”  As supporting evidence, I could point out that the majority of the earlier studies on the “general effects of attire” on perceptions of individuals cited in Roach’s article focused specifically on women’s attire and appearances (Roach 126, 127). 

In the classroom, this difference takes on particular significance, because I get the impression that female instructors are not automatically afforded the same level of authority and respect from students as their male counterparts.  I don’t mean to say that women cannot achieve the same levels, or that men cannot lose their students’ respect, but that when we first start out, students are more likely to assume that a male instructor is “in charge” of his classroom and subject matter.  The recent appearance in my university email inbox of an ad for a “professional development” seminar, entitled, “Communication Skills for Women:  How to achieve confidence, credibility, and composure in the workplace,” would seem to support this observation, since it’s apparently based on the general societal assumption that women need to be taught how to “achieve confidence and credibility” (not to mention composure) in a professional environment.  If any of my male colleagues have received invitations to participate in similarly targeted seminars for men, I would love to hear about it, but until I do, I’m going to run with my observation that women (and particularly young women) are not automatically seen as “natural” authority figures in the classroom.

In this situation, I believe appearance can be used as a tool to help establish authority and professionalism, but for many instructors (both male and female), using personal appearance can present a tricky balancing act.  Remember the passage I quoted earlier from Chtena’s blog post, where she describes part of her motivation for editing her appearance as to “protect myself from anything that can potentially undermine my status in class”?  (And incidentally, she begins the entire post with the disclaimer that, “this post was written with female readers in mind.”) If I dress too formally, or too “stodgily,” there’s a risk of creating a first impression that leads to too great a sense of distance between my students and myself, which manifests as a lack of attention and interest in anything I have to say.  If I dress too casually or “trendily,” I risk inviting students to act too familiarly, to treat me like a peer rather than their instructor, and to misbehave, because they don’t see me as having the authority to enforce classroom rules and policies.  Studies like Roach’s (although focused on graduate teaching assistant attire) indicate that an instructor who is perceived as unattractive may fail to earn students’ respect and thus have less influence over students.  So in order to be an effective instructor, I need to look somewhat attractive.  Yet if I look too “attractive,” I become a distraction in and of myself to at least some students.  (This blog is not the place for horrifying personal anecdotes on that topic, but believe me, I have some.  I’m sure many of those reading this post have a few good ones as well.)  There is clearly a lot more to consider on this topic than whether to wear jeans or slacks, sneakers or heels, when we dress for the classroom. 

In all seriousness, I am sure that students weigh factors such as scheduling and the potential to earn an A far more heavily than “chili pepper” rating when choosing classes and professors, but the fact that such ratings exist in the first place and are available to students means that we have to face the possibility of students showing up in our classes with certain expectations about how we may look.  This might not be altogether pleasant to contemplate, but in some ways, I feel that I can try to make our society’s tendency to judge based on appearances work to my advantage.  Just as it’s no secret that people in our society make appearance-based judgments, it should not come as a shock to hear that people who are deemed “attractive” are often treated better and afforded more respect.  In the end, I firmly believe that the most important factors are what we do in the classroom—what we know, and how we teach it—that determine how effective we are as instructors, and how much our students will respect and obey us.  Yet in the first weeks of the semester, when I have not yet had a chance to show my students through my class lectures, written comments, and personal attention to their questions and concerns, that I am a skilled, knowledgeable, and engaged instructor (and I am not automatically assumed to be these things in part because I’m a relatively young woman), if I can coax them into giving me their respect and attention by looking reasonably professional yet attractive, authoritative yet approachable, and “cool” enough…I’m probably going to attempt to take advantage of that ability. 

I understand, though, that not every instructor may feel this is a desirable approach to teaching.  I’m not sure how entirely comfortable I am with it, either.  To be honest, when I began writing this post, I knew it would be unlikely to end with any decided conclusion on how we should handle the intersecting issues of gender and appearance in the classroom.  More than just offering “suggestions” for tweaking our appearances to improve interactions with our students, I wanted to open the topic up for discussion.  I would particularly like to hear what some of my male colleagues have to say on the topic:  Do you also feel that students judge you on your appearance or dress?  Do you have to perform a similar “balancing act” when it comes to your appearance in the classroom?  And women, have you had experiences that seem similar to mine, or do you think these observations are totally off the mark?  Do you agree that we are, in some way, being evaluated on appearance as part of a trend toward “consumer-driven” education in the university?  And if so, should we bow to this trend, or resist it?  What do you want to say about this topic?

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 Chtena, Natascha.  “Appearances Matter.”  GradHacker and MATRIX:  The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online.  Inside Higher Ed, 11 Sep. 2013.  Web.  3 Nov. 2013.

 Edmundson, Mark.  “On the Uses of a Liberal Education.”  From Inquiry to Academic Writing.  Ed. Stuart Greene and April Lidinsky.  Boston and New York:  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008.  277-91.  Print.

 Roach, K. David.  “Effects of graduate teaching assistant attire on student learning, misbehaviors, and ratings of instruction.”  Communication Quarterly.  45.3 (1997):  125-41.  Taylor & Francis Online.  Web.  2 Oct. 2013.

 “University Policies/Regulations:  Personal Appearance and Dress.”  Montclair State University Employee Handbook.  Division of Human Resources, Montclair State University.  Web.  3 Nov. 2013.

 

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15 thoughts on “Appearance (and Gender) in the Classroom

  1. Tavya this is a truly thoughtful post and well stated. I too remember pausing at the “Communication Skills for Women Workshop”. They promise a lot for a mere $49.

    When I began teaching, in order to understand all the myriad things we must consider in our classroom practice, I associated it with performance. And part of that performance is wardrobe. I usually try to de-emphasize my appearance in the classroom (often wearing lots of black or other kinds of clothing that would cause me to blend so that the lesson isn’t about what I am wearing but about what we need to accomplish that day). In fact, recently a student complimented me on something I wore and I was taken aback because I had deliberately tried not to be conspicuous – even as I realize it is relatively impossible to do so. All of this is a by-product of my own preoccupations but I’m sure those preoccupations are informed by factors of my identity (gender, race, etc).

    As teachers I think we all are aware of our bodies in the classroom – how we present them, how much space we provide between ourselves and our students, and so on. The visual plays a large role in how our students relate to us. They are a part of the intangibles – like desk placement in the classroom – that influence the dynamics of our interactions with students for better or for worse. What is also intangible and “troubling” perhaps is the language in the handbook about providing standards of personal appearance that is consistent with the expectations of our “customers”. As you noted that could be wildly interpreted, but it peaks my interest as to what students expect in terms of dress and how that has shifted (or not) over time.

  2. Well!! I have so many replies to this post.

    I am older and age immediately garners a certain amount of classroom respect, though older teachers can also be looked upon as decrepit, and normal forgetfulness or confusion can be attributed to aging, so it cuts both ways. Everything cuts both ways.

    Yesterday I was discussing style and language use with my students as we evaluated different genres of writing. They had a hard time understanding “style.” I said, “I am a professor, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a teacher, a singer, a neighbor, a friend. I speak differently depending on which part of myself I am inhabiting at the moment. When I am acting as a professor, I do not use swearwords and speak in a modulated tone. I do not allow anger or annoyance to show. I address a group when I speak instead of focusing on an individual, as I would with a friend or my children. This is a certain speaking style which would change if I were interacting with a different set of people.” Dress style is not much different from language style.

    I consciously vary my dress style in class because I don’t want my students to think they have me pegged, and because I like to play with clothes. One day, when I was encouraging my students to “think outside the box” for one of their essays, I wore hijab to class. I had invited the students to wear to class something they would not normally wear, but none of them took me up on it. Changing my style of dress was more daunting than I had considered — it also changed my demeanor and my sense of place in the classroom and on campus. It was a bit of a gamble because Muslim students might have taken it amiss, but they didn’t.

    Perhaps I am showing my age when I mention that sometimes it seems that professors are bending over backwards to be one of the guys. Men’s dress code (and heaven knows I didn’t do any research on this) tends to be casual pants and a shirt of some sort. Did I miss a significant cohort wearing suits and ties or suits and no ties, or ascots, or scarves? Because of the uniformity of male dress styles they may warrant a more meager commentary. Men don’t have to choose between skirt or pants, heels or flats, necklace and earrings or no jewelry at all. If there are some male professors wearing skirts and heels, I also have not noticed them.

    Teaching style is expressed in dress style. Professors of all genders frequently dress in a fashion which suggests that they are attempting to be the students’ equal, as if students would be less afraid to speak up or participate in class if the teacher looked and acted like them. This seems to me to express a teaching style in which it is more important for students to “express themselves” than to write complete sentences or have fully developed arguments. I had never thought of this before, but analysis of my own dress code might provide objective clues to my teaching style. It’s something that is hard for an individual teacher to evaluate.

    Ironing might be a good idea for some professors. There is always the rumpled, lovable professor whose hair hasn’t been cut in years, but that type also existed in the times when wives were home dutifully manning the ironing board. I have been witness to quite a few domestic tussles over the issue of ironing — wife doesn’t want to do it because it insults her feminist pride, husband has never heard of it. I can’t remember seeing many MSU professors coming with that signature button plaque — where the unironed folds of the plaque cover part of the button. Ironing might be a subject for a post of its own. Confession: I have only recently stopped ironing my sheets and pillow cases.

    Most importantly, I want to signal to my students that I am thinking of them when I get dressed in the morning.

  3. Damn good post, Tavya – other than that I think you’ll be scaring off potential posters by making them think that they need citations and references now!

    On to a couple of your questions, since you mentioned that you’d like to hear from male colleagues, though I am reasonably confident that my experience/approach might be slightly anomalous even in that area.

    You asked “Do you also feel that students judge you on your appearance or dress? Do you have to perform a similar “balancing act” when it comes to your appearance in the classroom?” The quick version would be “Yes” to the first and “No” to the second. I do think students judge me, but I mediate that judgment in a lot of different ways. One of the major ways I do that is because I really care very little about my appearance and I simply wear whatever is comfortable for me. So I’m in my t-shirts and shorts and sandals in summer because I’m warm, in flannel shirts and jeans in the winter because I’m cold, and in my Indian clothes when I am because they’re comfortable for that day. I also happen to joke about my lousy clothing choices with my students, such as when I’ll walk in wearing shorts and mention that I felt like showing off my sexy legs, or about my appearance in general. So my students are quite comfortable commenting on my appearance as well, in large part because they know I don’t care about it or if they do. For example, students have seen me in my flannel shirts and said things like, “Shil – you look like a little lumberjack!” I will also comment early in the semester that this is all part of me fundamentally not caring about issues of appearance and that this approach applies to me personally and in my classroom practice. I don’t care what students wear (which, I’ve found, a lot of instructors actually notice and do care about) and about many other things. All I care about is their work. So all of the above contributes to students feeling comfortable judging me on appearance and dress, but it also contributes to that judgment being quite immaterial (to me, certainly, and also, I’m reasonably certain, to them). At best/worst, I get to be “that weird/cool guy who wears the weird/cool stuff” and that’s it.

    So, to expand on my second answer, the above is also why I feel that I don’t have to do the sort of “balancing act” that you described, Tavya. Since I fundamentally don’t care about my appearance, it actually ends up having little concrete effect on my classroom, other than possibly being the subject of a momentary comment/joke before class starts on some occasions. It does contribute somewhat to students perceiving me as approachable, casual and familiar, as well as a little kooky, all of which are accurate, but since none of that has ever contributed to me having authority issues in the classroom or feeling limited in my ability to hold students to a high level of academic rigor, there is no balancing involved. However, I am quite confident that while my individual approach contributes significantly to not having to do such balancing, it is also very heavily facilitated by the fact that I am male. In my estimation, the sort of garb and disregard for appearance that I am comfortable with would have been much harder to pull off if I was a woman, especially one who was young and could pass for a student.

    The above is, obviously, fairly hypothetical since I have never actually been a young woman (or met a female instructor who dresses as I do). I do, however, have some anecdata to that end, since I do regularly discuss pedagogical choices with students and also try to make them more critically aware of what they do in college, in particular how their actions and responses are mediated by the assumptions they bring with them. Since I often discuss gender issues in my classes, I have had discussions where I asked students to consider if (and how) they respond differently in my class because I am male. More than a few students have commented that they hope they’d take what I say and do (including how I dress) the same way if it was coming from a female teacher, but they think they would have different and likely (as some have, sometimes reluctantly, admitted) less positive responses in such cases.

    So, since this comment’s long enough already, I’ll wrap up by saying that I definitely think teachers are judged on appearance, sometimes as part of a move toward consumer-driven culture and sometimes for other reasons (with the reasons usually interlinking and functioning at the same time). Personally, I think one should resist or at least mediate such influences to the degree that best suits us individually. And, as indicated above, I think it’s far easier to do that as a male teacher, all else being equal, which is really unfortunate and unfair.

  4. Tavya, this is something I have struggled with for years. I once had a colleague who wore very professional outfits with black Converse sneakers; she said it helped her students to relate to her. I tried it one semester, and, although quite comfortable, found that my students “related to me” a bit too much and treated me more as a fellow student than any kind of authority figure. In turn, it was always hard for me to assert myself when it came to grading or even plagiarism. It seemed they always thought they could just joke with me and it would be okay. (I, of course, disabused them of this notion quickly.)

    On the other hand, I have found that if I am too “fancy,” for lack of a better word, my students don’t relate to me on a more elemental and comfortable level. I’ve had a hard time being someone they respect and feel they can talk to simultaneously, and I often wonder if it is my job to be that person at all.

    I like Stacie’s idea of dressing inconspicuously in order to avoid such debate, but a more selfish side of me wants to stamp my foot and gets upset that as an adult, I can’t tap into my sense of style somewhat for my job. I feel that at this point, I have found a healthy balance, but not without much reflection, and then further reflection upon why I have to worry about this in the first place.

    All of that being said, I have come to the conclusion that the reason I do have to think about how I look in front of the classroom is not so much my gender or even my age, but rather my ability to be myself in front of my students. Identity is something that we talk about a lot in my 105 class, and let’s face it, to many of the people around us, our clothes, our accessories, our hairstyles and our shoes do speak to who we believe ourselves to be at the core. Just as I make sure to strike a balance in tone of voice between friendly and assertive, just as I work to be both a poet and a professor, just as I concern myself with issues of being both a spouse and a professional, I must trust my students to understand that who I present myself to be is who I want them to see in front of that classroom. Does that make sense?

    Thank you for bringing this up. I think of this issue every time I am deciding between sneakers or boots, blazer or sweater. The other day, my ringtone went off as I was entering the classroom and Justin Timberlake blared out of my bag with unabashed falsetto.. In that moment, I wondered what other factors our students judge us upon … and, if we are truly teaching them how to write, how to be successful college students and how to assert their own identities in their writing, how much it actually matters.

    • Sarah, I think you raise some interesting points. As I was responding earlier, I actually hadn’t thought about just how much I had endeavored to blend in to the classroom with my clothing rather than stand out. I think that playing it safe as I often find myself doing isn’t necessarily advisable either. I think our students know we are people and not simply teachers.

      I had a composition instructor in undergrad who showed up to class on the first day in thick, worn black boots, torn jeans and a biker jacket. She had long frizzy hair and it was smashed on one side. She was, however, one of the best writing teachers I had ever had, she didn’t have to fight for respect, AND she inspired me to become an English major. I think people like her prove that it’s a really complicated dynamic.

      • And did I mention that “I think” all these things?! In spite of telling my students to avoid doing this, here I am doing it myself!

  5. As someone who has only been teaching for a little over a year, this is an issue I have thought about A LOT. Add to that the fact that I’m barely a decade older than most of my students, and it’s honestly something I can say I genuinely struggle with most mornings and every time I go shopping to buy “teacher” clothes. So it’s equal parts comforting and frighting to know that based on this post and everyone’s comments, this is going to be something I’ll probably continue to give thought to, regardless of how many years I’ve been teaching.

    The only resolution I’ve come to for myself on the subject is to wear clothing that makes me feel comfortable teaching. For me, this usually translates into dark jeans, corduroys, knee-length or longer skirts, sweaters, button-up shirts, cardigans, “nice” knit shirts, boots, etc. I’ve found when I dress too “fancy,” I wind up not feeling like myself and thus not relaxed when I teach, or when I dress too casually, I feel self-conscious about how my students and colleagues are perceiving my appearance. I do wear lots of colors, and I do have students, usually female, occasionally complement my clothes, but I’ve yet to feel like it’s been distracting as it usually happens at the beginning of class rather than right in the middle.

    I did have a situation once though where I turned around in the middle of class to write on the board, and three of my female students all said, rather loudly that they loved my hair (it was long and french braided across my head) and asked how I did it. This incident made me realize that in addition to my clothes, I now had to give consideration as to how I styled my hair in the morning. Over the summer I chopped my hair short, and no student has commented on it once, much to my relief. And while my choice to cut my hair wasn’t motivated (at least consciously) by my students, I can’t help but sometimes feel a bit irritated that because of “them” I have to be so conscious of my appearance and spend money on clothes (and haircuts!) I might not otherwise purchase.

    • Liz, thank you for sharing this experience. Recently I’ve been contemplating cutting my (quite long) hair very short, but I feel like I need to wait until the semester is over in order to avoid comment and speculation from my students. Your comment makes me feel less crazy for thinking this way, and I’m a little relieved to know that someone besides me is irritated about having to consider such things.

      • Liz/Tavya – i’m curious. Suppose you did cut your hair short and/or style it in some way and students commented on how it looked during class, why would you feel it was a problem? Would that count as too much of a distraction? Would it indicate that they were too aware of your appearance for your liking? Or too familiar with you?

        I’ve had a student or two note and comment when I do get a haircut, but it’s usually a matter of a few seconds (and, as my longer comment above indicates, not an issue for me at all). I did get more comments the couple of times I shaved my head completely midway through a semester, including from a couple of bemused students who walked in and started walking out because they thought they were in the wrong classroom.

      • Shil-For me, yes, it’s definitely all of those concerns you mentioned. But it’s also that students commenting in anyway on my appearance is a reminder to me that they’re judging me (even if only in a small way) based on my appearance. It breaks the “fourth wall” for me, so to speak, and forces me to consider how/if something like a haircut is affecting my authority in the classroom. Which is why I’ve found consistency throughout the semester to be best for me, since it allows me avoid these thoughts of self-doubt entirely. I know it all sounds a little ridiculous. And I feel a little ridiculous articulating it since in my personal life I usually care very little about what people think about my appearance so long as I feel comfortable with my style of dress. But there’s something about teaching that makes me (for the worse, I think), consider these factors.

      • Liz,
        Thanks for the explanation. Whether it sounds/feels ridiculous or not, I think it’s safe to say that teaching does make us consider such factors on a regular basis. I do sometimes (okay – usually) think that the way we are taught to think about the classroom as instructors (through a combination of pedagogical theory, interactions with other teachers and the preconceptions we bring with us) leads to a concern about authority that is often counter-productive. Our students are bringing very different assumptions with them to the classroom, so what an instructor will see as a (potential) challenge/threat to their authority may be neither intended nor perceived as such by the students, who are simply busy navigating a space and a relationship that is very different from what they are used to (especially for the freshmen who make up most of our classes). Based on personal experience and many, many conversations with students, I’m confident that most of them would be genuinely surprised to hear that instructors can even think of a threat to their authority. To our students, each instructor is the person with the syllabus, who starts and ends the class, who sets the agenda for everything that goes on in it, and, especially, who hands them their grades. That, to them, is an incredible amount of authority and something they couldn’t even begin to erode. Personally, I think they’re correct–and I think many of us would be much more comfortable in the classroom if we had the confidence in our positions that they have in us.

      • Shil–Well, now it’s time for the personal anecdotes. Not that anyone needs to know, but I color my hair. At the beginning of the semester, what with being very busy and all, I let it go for longer than usual, then inadvertently dyed it a different shade than the last time I’d done it. Overnight, my hair changed color noticeably. During the first class I taught with my new hair color, while I was taking attendance, a male student asked me if I had dyed my hair. Since I obviously had, I said yes. He responded, “I like it.” Innocent enough, except then I heard a female voice say, quietly, from the back of the room, “Oh, why don’t you just sleep with her?”

        Now, I’m pretty sure that the student was joking, and that I was probably not intended to hear that comment, but I did hear it, and I treated it like a joke. But it was uncomfortable for me, and that’s not the type of atmosphere I want to foster in my classroom, especially since the female student’s comment carried with it a hint that I might be susceptible to flattery from a male student when it comes to evaluating and grading. In my opinion, it’s far better simply to avoid, whenever possible, doing something with my appearance that attracts unnecessary attention from my students. I may not like having to think about the issue so much, but I prefer it to getting comments (even joking ones) implying that there is a possibility of flirtation or inappropriate interaction between me and my students.

      • Tavya – Ouch! I’ve heard a lot of horrifying stories about inappropriate things students have said/done inside and outside the classroom, but that’s right up there near the top. I can certainly see why you’d rather put up with the irritation of bothering about appearance in ways you’d ideally not have to than risk more of this.

        Back to the gender angle, I’m guessing that the likelihood of the above happening with a female instructor is higher than with a male one. I have a female student who has been getting borderline inappropriate with comments this semester (nothing to do with appearance, however), which I’m reasonably certain other students have noticed, but I doubt I’d get the sort of exchange you described, and that’s even with me maintaining a fairly casual classroom atmosphere.

  6. Pingback: Engendering Authority in the Classroom | Deep Down in the Classroom

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