Saturday, April 29, 2017

And Then It Was Friday...

Let's be honest--Fridays are the best! You've made it to the end of the week, haven't yet procrastinated on your weekend to-do list, and you can enjoy the evening because you can tell yourself you'll do all of those things on Saturday. It's the best.

My Friday teacher style has evolved over the years. At my first teaching gig, we all wore school colors on Friday. At my current school, most people still wear school shirts on Friday, but I'm a bum. I don't.

Why, you might ask, did I stop wearing my Friday uniform? Well, if you must know, it's my couch's fault. You see, if I wear my school shirt to work, then I have to go home to change before I meet friends for the evening.
If I go home to change, then I will sit on my couch.
If I sit on my couch, I will realize how tired I am.
If I realize how tired I am, then I will be absorbed by my couch and never leave my apartment again...or at least not that night.
So, after many cancelled Friday night plans, I decided that momentum is my friend, so I go straight from work to my evening outings whenever possible. I know--this is when you start to realize that I really am an 85-year-old woman stuck in a not-85-year-old body. Just wait until the strawberries are ripe and I start talking about making jam.

Before I get to today's outfit, I thought I would mention a few things I have figured out about Friday nights.
1. Keep your Friday nights low-key if you can. Teaching requires quite a bit of attention to other people, and by the end of the week you might very well be ready for some time that doesn't require you to be quite as socially engaged. So--things like movies, dinner with a few good friends, or a baseball game can be much preferred over parties, group outings, or other things that require meeting new people or really deep conversations.
2. Don't let cultural norms dictate your Friday night. If you are tired, emotionally drained, or getting sick, stay home. Watch bad TV, order pizza, put your pajamas on whenever you feel like it. And don't judge yourself or become overwhelmed by FOMO.
3. Not every hangout has to be filled with serious, deep conversation. Going to the movies and laughing with a friend can be meaningful. Watching a game and eating nachos can be good for you. Sometimes not talking or only talking about trivial things is just the break you need. And sometimes it seems counter intuitive, but if you've had a really hard week, sometimes talking about other parts of who you are is just what you need.

Okay--back to my Friday uniform.

This outfit seems to be pretty teacher-y, but I'm a teacher, so I think that's okay. My new Friday uniform is typically skinny jeans, a non-t-shirt top, and shoes that can handle a day at work and then walking around a bit at night. As I mentioned earlier, I try to keep my Friday night plans low-key when possible, so I don't really need to be club-ready straight from work, but I also want to avoid looking like a wiped out teacher when I meet friends for an early dinner. This uniform seems to, at least for me, give me the comfort to move from one part of my life to another.

My Birks are my current favorites for Fridays. I hadn't had a pair since college, and I had forgotten how comfy they are. They were a bit of an investment, but I'll tell more about how I decide when to spend big bucks and when I stay cheap some other day, but just to say, these were a good purchase. They've already sustained me on a two-hour walk around the Cherry Blossoms, a few days of teaching, and a week walking around with my family over spring break.

As for buying tips, here's what I have:
1. Much like Thursday's outfit, I typically build up the basics and then enjoy mixing and matching. J Crew Factory, every season, puts out a ton of these cardigans in different colors. This means I can buy one or two here and there and then have all kinds of options for how I style things. Here is the link to this season's options:
Basic J Crew Factory Cardigan
It will probably require you to use a sweater stone or something similar from time-to-time, but other than that, it seems to hold up pretty well.

2. Take the time to really find jeans that work for you. Most of my favorites right now are from Banana Republic, but that keeps changing from season to season, and I have a weird body type, so I can't really say that they're a good fit for anyone else.

3. I'm a sucker for a summer denim/chambray shirt. I think it looks cute with skinny jeans and a cardigan, but I also think it looks cute with bright shorts or a basic pencil skirt. This shirt is 2 or 3 years old, but here's something similar:
Loft Option 1
Loft Option 2

Okay--Hope that helps!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some Days are Delightful.

Today was one of those really fun teacher days. It was my first full day with my new pencil sharpener. I'll have to dedicate another post to my love of small joys, but just know that having a pencil sharpener that produces perfectly sharp pencils is a beautiful thing. I say this to say that I wish I had known during my first years of teaching to really get to know the people in my building and appreciate the things they do for my students. One of our awesome building managers found me a pencil sharpener and installed it for me the same day I asked him about it. This may sound small, but it wasn't. And I am a happier person when I take time to truly enjoy these kind acts.

Later in the day, my students and I had the pleasure of hearing Bob Wittman talk about his writing and his adventures. It was fascinating, and we all got to get our books signed. It felt very college-like, and I'm so glad my students got to meet such a kind and interesting author. The librarians at my school are amazing, and they do more than I can describe to help my students love reading and prepare for life outside of high school. I wish I had known the first few years I was teaching how important it would be for me to know the resources available to me and my students. The knowledge these librarians possess has been a huge resource for me and my students. I wish I had known sooner that I could work with them to create meaningful experiences for my students--research lessons, book speed dating, and opportunities to meet authors. When you first start teaching, it can be really overwhelming. It conserves your energy to partner with the experts around you.

But the fun didn't end there. One of my favorite co-workers came to my room to have lunch with me today. Her shirt was so cute, I thought we should take a picture. So we did. Mandy is one of those amazing people that makes your day better by being around her. I can't say this strongly enough--one of the ways I survive a crazy day, month or year is by spending time with people that encourage me, can remind me to focus on things besides my job, and genuinely care about my well-being. I was very fortunate when I first started teaching. God gave me some great co-workers that were so patient with me while I really struggled with so many aspects of my job and my life in general. It's probably the only reason I made it through that first part of my teaching career. And I've found the same thing in my current gig.

After lunch there was class time, a parent meeting and a debate meeting, but before I left, I stopped by my friend's room to say goodbye. She graciously photographed me in front of the amazing wall declaring where her students and former students are going to school.

As we walked out, I was tired from a busy day, but happy to be reminded of all of the ways I am cared for while I care for my students. I know that may sound cheesy and like it came out of a Hallmark movie, but it's true. I don't say that to say that every day I feel that way. I don't. If you talked to my parents, they could easily tell you of days I call them crying or yelling about something that happened that I don't know how to handle. But the way I make it through days like that is trying to really soak in good days like today.

Okay--so on to today's wardrobe tip. My mom, for as long as I can remember, has been a big believer that one of the ways to build up a relevant wardrobe without going broke is to focus on classic pieces and then add a few noteworthy, trendy or statement pieces. After over a decade of dressing for a classroom, I have become a firm believer in this. This basic denim dress is my go-to for days when I'm not ready to surrender to jeans and a cardigan, but I'm way too close to Friday to put on a fitted dress. I feel like there are about a million ways to style a dress like this, and it transitions well between seasons. In the fall, I wore this with my riding boots, and today (sorry--no pictures of the shoes...), I wore some peep-toe booties. I bought this in the fall, so it's not around anymore, but here are two options: one from J Crew Factory and one from Gap. 

The necklace was one of those pieces I bought knowing it might not stay in style for long, but also knowing that I would love wearing it while I could. I bought it from Banana Republic with a 50% off coupon, and it was totally worth it. I've started buying jewelry from Banana when I can get it on sale because it seems to be sturdier than the things I bought at other places. I think it might save me money because I rarely have to replace these pieces of jewelry. I bought this necklace three or four years ago, so it's long gone, but here are some similar options. 
Once again--I emphasize that I tend to find jewelry I like and then wait for a sale. :) 

Okay--hope that helps. Goodnight. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ode to Dresses

Today was "Dress for Success" day at school, but being that it is almost May and has been raining for 4 days, I didn't really plan my outfit around that. I would consider today "Make as Few Decisions as Possible" day. Hence the dress. I'm a little obsessed with dresses. Sometimes I get kind comments from co-workers that seem to indicate they take my love of dresses to be connected to me being girly. It's actually the opposite. I love dresses because they are super easy. If you find a good dress, all you have to do is zip one zipper, and you're ready to go. You don't have to decide if a shirt goes with the skirt or if you need to tuck your shirt in and find a belt. It's the best. Here are my thoughts on dresses:

If you are starting to build a teacher wardrobe, take the time to find a brand that makes dresses that fit you well. It's so nice to know that you have a go-to store. For me, Banana Republic is my best friend...I mean my best friend that takes way too much of my money...but like most best friends, they make me look put together, so I like them. Anyway--for me, they make dresses that fit me well, make me feel polished, and are built to last. They are not only well made and hold up well, they are normally cut in ways that keep them relevant for a good while (at least for someone like me that isn't super hip). It's worth it to me to spend a bit more for a dress that will hold up well, and since they stay relevant for a while, I can add a few each year.

Having a few dresses that you can grab when you know you have a parent conference after school or a guest speaker coming makes life easier. But they're also great for rainy days when making too many decisions is more than I'm willing to do. On a totally girly note--I also like dresses like this one because the simple color and shape means I can add a colorful cardigan, piece of jewelry or shoes.

Okay--so there's my dress opinion. Find a brand that gets you and stock up!

PS--My love of cardigans will definitely come up later as well as my thoughts on flats vs. heels. I feel like Elle Woods writing that, but I'm trying to get over my fears of being trivial or self-important. Hope this helps.

Welcome, and Feel Free to Take Bets on How Long It Will Take Me to Quit Posting Here

Hi! My name is Ms. Taylor. I teach outside of DC.  Not to sound like those cheesy teachers in the back to school commercials, but I really do love my job. And I really love working with future teachers. Having conversations with future teachers always makes me think back to when I first started out, and, if I'm not careful, I try to tell them everything I wish people would have told me. But I try to cover it all in the 5 minutes in between the class they just observed and the next class. I have to measure out my advice, or I can see the overloaded look come across their faces, and then I feel bad. So, I think this blog is a way for me to get all the advice out in one place. Here's hoping it helps someone not have to figure it all out by themselves.

I've also been known to feel a sense of victory when I get the perfect dress at half price or stumble on a store-wide sale. So--I thought I might try to pass on the things I've figured out about making my teacher wardrobe work for me. I should warn you:
1. I have no hopes of being a fashion blogger--I'm not that hip, I'm too lazy, and I'm probably too cheap. So this is more of a tips, tricks and basics kind of blog.
2. I'm super picky about my clothes, but, much like my approach to friendship, I'm picky but loyal. My goal is to help you have the option to do the same--find pieces you like and can keep forever. I don't know about you, but the rush I get when I realize that I've had the same piece for 5 years, and I've worn it in 4 different ways is almost embarrassing...okay...maybe it is embarrassing.
3. My teacher style is based on my belief that it helps kids know that I take them seriously if I look like I take my job seriously. It's also rooted in the belief that I want to give my students a model of what professional wardrobes look like. Finally, it comes from the belief that I want my profession, as a whole, to be taken seriously, and I think it's hard to expect people to do that if we, as a group, don't look like we consider ourselves professionals.
4. I'm really bad at starting blogs and then forgetting about them. We'll see how long I can keep this up.

Okay--so there's the intro.