Monday, August 2, 2010

Is Your Professional Image Wearing Thin?

1)  Assigned as an English teacher at a luxury accessory store in Paris, I was sent to the head quarters in the chic 14th district. Immediately greeting me at the door, the head of human resources looked me up and down and said, curtly, "Oh...I expected somebody older."

2) Later, at another school, upon seeing all the female teachers working there, a prospective, adult male student asked me, "Gosh, are all the teachers who work here pretty?" Without missing a beat, I replied, touching my hair, "Why yes, Monsieur, we are." 

3)  Not too long ago, I was standing in a Parisian commuter train on my way to class when an ad for a successful home-tutoring service caught my eye.  A beautiful, young woman with wavy brown locks sits at her cafe table with an esperesso tasse, pensively looking at the sky. The ad reads that she's a teacher - hoping she's been all she can be.  But what jumps out, or rather pops out, is her plunging neckline.  I had to smile, wondering if fathers would call up the school asking for a tutor "just like that one!"  

The above examples got me thinking. What is an English teacher in the 21st Century supposed to look like? Do clients expect they'll be getting the present perfect with Juliette Binoche?  Honestly, today, clients are getting scarcer and pickier, and with that the expectations for professionalism and perfectionism are getting higher.

I'm not saying we should all go get face lifts and hair plugs. But teachers, especially independents who bounce from the classroom to the human resources office and back again, need to be aware of their professional image. 

We've already acknowledged that the job is difficult and the conditions are harsh. But as ugly as this may sound, I do believe learners prefer a teacher who is pleasantly put together.   We teachers need to start thinking about the nonverbal messages we send to our learners if we come into class looking like, well, we've been run over by that commuter train.