A best friend of mine used to come into Uni almost every day in his bathgown. As he lived in Grafton it was just naturally assumed that he got up, showered and then wrapped up warm in his gown before attending class. A few years back I started a tradition in my flat of putting on my gown as soon as I enter the house; my argument was that it was a) comfortable and b) it stopped the cat’s hair from infiltrating my clothes.
Flash forward to the now. My current employment (well, one of the many employment situations I find myself in) finds me living in the bowels of the Ivory Pagoda, down where the students lurk. I’m not particularly adverse to students; I do teach them after all, but I’ve never taught them in my bathgown and have no real interest in doing so (although a colleague is still looking for a legitimate reason to be able to remove his trousers in class). In return for my sartorial splendour I expect students to, well, dress nicely when they are being taught. I’m not asking them to indulge my current fetish of denim miniskirts (gray, preferably) and polo shirts but rather to maintain a level of civilised dress that doesn’t mean wearing your pyjamas.
Which I am seeing an awful lot of at the moment.
It might be that the University of Auckland is currently suffering from exams. Our students, worried about their futures, aren’t really thinking about what clothes they have slung on as they hurry in. Still, seeing someone in a complete pink tracksuit with matching overcoat makes me think that there is design, not worry, at the heart of this visual problem.
I have what I consider to be a healthy disrepect for students. It is my job to educate them and this I do. I will organise aegrotats and compassionate considerations for them, I will set up alternate test days and even write supplementary exam questions all to make sure that they get the best possible education and assessment from me. During breaks in class I will talk to them; if they accost me on the street after a course has finished I will even pretend to remember who they are and use my cold reading skills to make it look as if I did pay attention to them in those aforementioned breaks.
I just don’t actually care for them. Nor do I think I should. Teachers are cogs in the machine; we take input, produce output and repeat until we are broken. Students have lives before us and will have lives after us; why get in the way of that process? Teachers, at best, pause time for an individual. We live our lives doing the same thing over and over again, with occassional new material thrown in to ensure that our administrating cousins think we’re still with the pedagogical programme.
This is not to say that I haven’t had proteges. I just don’t like them to be dependent on me.
And, if they are going to be in my line of sight, I want them properly dressed. I don’t care that they have exams, or that they come from weird middle-class families with blood disorders. I don’t even care that they are the proxy patron of the Vice Chancellor. I expect them to dress like normal people.
In gray denim miniskirts and polo shirts.
Including the men.