Wednesday, February 05, 2014

On Wearing a Tie

I've worn a tie to work most of the time since I began teaching.  Early in my career, I got stopped by a guard at John F. Kennedy High School who mistook me for a student. I began wearing them daily after that, as they got me in the door a little faster. Of course, it was a little slower to get out the door, and sometimes you have to tie the thing a time or two before it's ready.

Yesterday the trailers where I work now were closed. I almost slipped and fell on black ice walking into the building, and one of my students, not quite so lucky, limped into the auditorium. I sent her to the nurse, but as her mom was not home, she got sent right back.

My class was in the back of the auditorium, by the door. I was with a math teacher who's much smarter than I am, but he was wearing a sweater.  Kids asked me questions, one after the other. I had no answers for them. Where's my teacher? Where is the health class? Where can I get a metro card? What time are they going to open the trailers? But when you wear a tie, they think you know the answers.

Actually, since I've been in the trailers, I started wearing suits to work. I figure since the city deems us trailer trash and actually places us in trailers to reinforce it, the least I could do would be to counter that notion in some small measure. (Bill de Blasio just said he plans to get rid of trailers, but I'm pretty sure it won't be happening this week.) Since then, I've learned when you add a suit to your tie, people assume you are in charge, though they don't always specify of what. Regrettably, this perception is not accompanied by a pay raise. We have a new principal this year and at least two students have called me by his name, though we don't really look alike.

So my advice is this--if you can't actually be smarter, just wear a tie and people will think you are. But be prepared to be hit with questions you can't answer. Even the tie won't actually make you know any more than you know.

For that, you may have to read a book. Or take a course. Or open your mind.

But that's a whole new blog. If you're in a hurry, you can always start with the tie.
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