Friday, February 17, 2012

Gibson Tuck

I have had a problem since I started teaching at E University: nobody believes I am a professor.  I definitely don't mind being mistaken for someone younger, and I am not at all yearning to look aged, but it is a bit off-putting at times: when I went to the registrar's office to have a student's grade changed, the registrar seemed suspicious that I was a student trying to commit some kind of grade fraud.  I actually started pulling out my ID card before she gave me the paperwork.  And, I guess, when I think about it, my look isn't helping much.  The picture below was, ironically, taken the day of the grade-change-incident.  It wasn't a teaching day, but I am still wearing a button-up shirt and dressy jeans and boots.  But...the hair, the trendy jacket, and the multiple bags probably don't communicate authority.
If it were only occasional cases of mistaken identity, I wouldn't mind so much, but something I read by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink has made me reconsider.  He cites a study in which students viewed two-seconds of video of a professor they had never met lecturing with the sound off and made a snap-judgment of that professor's effectiveness.  These judgments were identical to the evaluations made by students at the end of a whole semester.  Clearly, something about appearance is forming students' judgments and showing up in course evaluations.  Which made me think about the few comments I received on last semester's evaluations where students mentioned that I didn't seem authoritative, or lacked confidence, or seemed shy.  I am curious to see how appearance might play into this.  I did, after all, write a dissertation on how dress and appearance shape identity and can be manipulated to gain power.  So, I am conducting an experiment: this semester, I have worn my hair up every time I step on campus, I teach wearing dressing, skirts, hose, heels, the works.  The trendy bomber jacket stays home, as does the puffy blue parka.  So far, there have been a lot more addresses as "Dr."  rather than "Mrs." and definitely no "Miss."

I have tried several different hair styles and try to rotate between ponytails (the grown up kind, sleek, low, with hair parted in front) and various buns and braids.  I like period-hair styles, like the Gibson tuck below, but try not to wear them too often--I want to look more authoritative, not nuts.

I like the Gibson tuck.  It is very elegant, but easy to do--a basic ponytail tucked into itself with a few pins.  It looks a bit messy, because this is at the end of the day, but it actually has good staying power.  And, bonus, when I take it down at home in the evening, beautiful waves.
So, this will be a long-term experiment.  I will have to see how reactions go and student course evaluations.  Hopefully, these few tweaks will help students see me as a more authoritative figure.  Maybe they'll even start doing their reading!

And PS:  I know, the real focus should be--and it is--on crafting my teaching practice.  The appearance-manipulation is just a fun side-project.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Retreat

Last weekend, Jordan and I went with two other couples to Fort Caswell on Oak Island for a Worship Leader's Conference. I was just tagging along, rather than attending the conference, so I ran around like crazy with my camera and tripod. I woke up at 5:30 am (about the time I get up now, anyway) bundled up and crept outside to walk on the beach. The fort sits on the far end of the island where the Cape Fear meets the ocean, so I walked towards the end that faced out into the open sea. It was dark when I started--like pitch black, stars are shining, just a thin strip of blue on the horizon. My eyes adjusted and I could see just enough not to actually walk into the water. It was amazing--like an HG Wells novel, time travel kind of way, which may sound creepy, but I loved it. The sky got lighter slowly, and I saw birds swooping and scuttling in the surf.

Across the estuary is Baldhead Island, where the lighthouse is affectionately called Old Baldy.

Oak Island's own lighthouse isn't much of a looker, but apparently it is the strongest light in NC.

I really love this picture--the blueblack and orangegold.

While the conference was going on, the other tag-alongs and I went to Brunswick Town, a state historic site I had never heard of. It is the excavation of a pre-Revolutionary town along the Cape Fear that was razed by the British. The biggest structure left is the burned out church of St. Philip's.

The foundations of a home. They have estimated that only 15% of the entire site has been excavated, so this was actually a good sized port town in the 18th century.

During the Civil War, the Confederate army built Fort Anderson on the site. This is the earthworks. The fort was abandoned after a three day battle in February 1865.

Posted by Picasa