Finding Your Authentic Teacher Voice: The Importance of Being Earnestly Yourself

Some teachers have a sense of style, others have a “uniform” of jeans and a tee-shirt. I have an apron. It started back in my early days of teaching. As a mom, I was dedicated to my child having a childhood. This mission led me to read several homeschooling books based on the Montessori philosophy. While I was neither a homeschooling mom nor a Montessori teacher, I sure appreciated the aesthetic. Natural, developmental, everything in a neat little basket. At some point, I came across a website that touted the benefits of aprons. I was all in. 

The idea that the apron would serve as my teacher toolbelt, or like a cape that I would wear on my front, was dazzling to me. I had only been a teacher two years, so it seemed cheeky to think I could roll up to school wearing an apron every day. What would my boss think? What would my colleagues think? Would I be turning into a caricature of myself? 

I wasn’t that teacher yet; I hadn’t found my niche, my kernel of teacher truth deep within myself. Fast forward 3 years, and I was teaching in a small, upper midwestern town in a charter school. Wearing an apron fit in perfectly with the environment there, and so I solicited a friend with an awesome Etsy store to create for me the perfect teaching apron. It’s so well-loved that I had to move it into retirement. 

Wearing an apron in the classroom has elicited some interesting responses. Co-workers find it to me a quirky habit I refuse to give up. Some students find it kitchy and “weird”, while others are steadfast in their belief that I should never be without it. But I don’t listen to the naysayers or doubters-haters gonna hate, as they say, and I have to be earnest(ly) myself.

As 2020 derailed my school year, one of things I missed the most about being in the classroom (besides everything) was my interactions with my student “T”. If “T” made it to my class and found me in plainclothes (or, without my apron), he would interrupt class to grab my apron an deliver it to me. It could be state testing and “T” would have no qualms about stopping everything to insist I wear my apron. One of my students tracked down my favorite blue-and-white apron and surprised me for Halloween and dressed up as…me! So while the apron may be a personal fashion trademark to me, to some of my students it serves as a security blanket.

How do I use my apron? As a science teacher, it is a convenient barrier between me and the lab supplies. As a messy eater, wearing an apron allows me to wear white jeans to school (almost) without fear. The pockets are packed with band-aids, tissues, my phone and an emergency candy stash.

While I’m the world’s biggest fan of aprons, I know they are not for everyone. What is your niche? Do you have a trademark item that you can’t live without in your school day? Share in the comments!

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