Fashion Tips for Teachers

September 8, 2014


“Same pants, different day, A-OK.” If, like me, you teach some classes that meet Monday and Wednesday and others that meet Tuesday and Thursday, this is the perfect opportunity to wear the same pair of pants two days in a row. You’ll be seeing entirely new students, so no one will know you’re wearing the same pants (and most likely underwear) as the previous day. It’s theoretically possible to also wear the same shirt, but this is riskier, as someone in the teacher’s office might notice and then make disparaging remarks about you to the other teachers when you go to class. You should be fine with the pants, though, because none of the other teachers care about your pants.


If you have a really nice shirt that has a noticeable stain, don’t throw it away! You can wear it once for each new class you teach – just pretend you got the stain that day. Your students will think, “What a nice shirt that is, and how fashionable is my teacher,” while at the same time feeling sorry for you because of the stain. Everyone will think you’re having a bad day since you spilled something on your shirt, and they won’t want to make it worse, so they’ll be extra polite and well-behaved.


If you have a super fashionable coat, find an excuse to wear it to class. The best method is to arrive late. You can come straight from home, or just hang out in the teacher’s office until five minutes past starting time. Then you’ll need to rush to your classroom, where all your students will be waiting for you. As you prepare the day’s teaching materials, you can continue to wear your coat as you “warm up” while looking really stylish. Another tactic is to pretend the heater isn’t working. Then you can just go ahead and give your lecture wearing your coat, but be sure to periodically grumble about how cold the room is and complain about building management so the students know you’re on their side – you’re all in this together, suffering from the cold but looking great.


Frayed belt loops: everyone gets them. The material on the outside of the belt loop gets worn away over the years, revealing a sub-layer of embarrassingly white threads. You might think at this point that your only option is to throw the pants away, or maybe burn them, but this problem can actually be solved in the privacy of your own home with a simple classroom board marker. Just color in the white threads with the marker! image

The pants in the example photo are brown, and brown board markers don’t exist, so just go with black. Only the students in the front row will be able to notice the difference, and they won’t tell anyone because front row students are your friends and don’t want to hurt you. Please remember, though, that board markers aren’t waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply after each wash.

Keep looking good, teachers!


New Job

April 7, 2013

I’ve moved to Gwangju, South Korea to teach English at Chosun University.


Robert Rabbit

January 17, 2013

I created an “Amazing Pet!” activity for my students. This contribution is from Mickey, a sweet-hearted but mischievous 10-year-old girl. Most of the other students had pet puppies or dinosaurs. Mickey had a “Robert Rabbit.” In the picture I’m holding a carrot and a smart phone. Only one of these artistic choices is an accurate reflection of my current lifestyle. (UPDATE MARCH 2013: Now both are accurate.) My measurements are on the metric system. I like that she rounded my weight to that second decimal place. Also, I’m glad she changed her mind about my food preference. Also, “Rabbit Pong” is awesome – let’s play together some time.

Robert Rabbit


I created a conversation / debate activity for my Korean students called “The Lifeboat Game.” Here’s the scenario: the students in the class are passengers on a sinking ship. Luckily, there’s a lifeboat. Unluckily, the lifeboat can only hold six people. Since my debate classes have 14 students, this means that eight of my adorable pupils will meet a watery end in the cold arms of the Pacific Ocean. So it goes.

As chance would have it, there is a deserted island within rowing distance of the sinking ship. Those who are lucky enough to secure a spot in the lifeboat will float to the island and begin a new life there. Each student is randomly assigned a character to play, and the goal of the game is for the students to convince the rest of the class to vote them onto the lifeboat. As we all know, there are six criteria for a successful island utopia: food, shelter, peace, health, entertainment, and babies. Students should base their votes primarily on who they think can best provide these six elements, but arguments from other perspectives are also encouraged.

Here are some examples of the characters in the game:

Nurse Nancy is a 24-year-old nurse who is friendly and flirtatious. She won’t go on the lifeboat without her boyfriend, Steve Sloth, an arrogant, indolent (and possibly lecherous) buffoon.

Connie Carter is 31-year-old escaped prisoner. She was in jail for vehicular manslaughter after one foolish decision to drink and drive changed her life forever. She’s very kind-hearted and has a lovely singing voice.

Chris Carpenter, 35, is an expert builder. His specialty is hut design in areas with limited resources. He is gracious and jovial. He weighs 375 pounds and takes up two spaces on the lifeboat.

I’ve played the Lifeboat Game with three different classes. The students have made some great and surprising arguments for why they should be voted onto the lifeboat. Almost every character has made the cut, including all of the characters above. (In one game, Steve Sloth made such a good pitch that he ended up with more votes than Nurse Nancy.) However, one character has never made it on the boat. This poor misunderstood soul who is doomed to always drown in the Pacific Ocean is the writer Polly Pencil.

Trained in both poetry and prose and published in several well-respected literary journals, Polly Pencil was working on the Great American Novel when misfortune brought her to the high seas in search of a remedy for writer’s block. She’s described in the game as 29 years old, usually fun and friendly, although occasionally she will cry all day and refuse to work or talk to anyone. A typical writer, basically. As the only passenger with the skills to properly chronicle the survivors’ story, as well as being able to provide entertaining tales of adventure around the campfire, I thought she had as good a chance as anyone else. But she’s been shark food every time, never getting more than two or three votes.

Why the hard luck for Miss Pencil? Probably because it’s more difficult to justify bringing a writer on the lifeboat than, say, a sushi chef (Kate Cook), or a roofer (Rufus Randolph), and the “entertainment” element is usually satisfied by someone with musical or sports talents. Besides, Frank Fisher (a belligerent fisherman) can probably be a writer too – how hard can it be? Also, the young students have a hard time articulating the importance of writers to society. They lack the vocabulary to describe the ways literature can make our lives richer and fuller, more meaningful.

So I’m never that surprised when Polly doesn’t make the cut. Still, it’s always hard for me to leave her behind. I imagine her waving sadly to the lifeboat as the prow of the ship slips below the surface and she’s left treading water and thinking about her family and her unfinished novel and the seven other souls around her also preparing to leave this mortal coil.

On the lifeboat, Steve Sloth tells everyone he’s looking forward to working on his tan.

Avalon English

My new job is teaching English to Korean children. These children are aged 8-15 and vary widely in their personalities and English proficiency. The younger students tend to be boisterous and excitable and require a lot of energy to teach. The older students are usually tired and studious, and some of them speak exceptional English. I teach writing, reading, speaking, and debate classes.

Before starting teaching, of course, I had to go through training. So, on my first full day in Korea, I observed four classes taught by the other foreign teachers at the school. It was the last day of the term, so they mostly played games with their students such as hangman or Simon Says. The new term started the next day, and I was given my textbooks and told to go teach five classes. After my rigorous training, I felt fully prepared. However, I was getting over the flu and still completely disoriented from traveling, so I don’t remember much from those classes. I’m sure they went great.

During the first week of the term, I asked one of my classes to do a writing exercise answering the question: “What is your proudest moment?” I explained what this meant and let them get to work. One student answered with this response:

“I played rest time very interesting.”

Another student had this to say:

“My proud is exercise to, I proud exercise is soccer because my class soccer is first and each other people I really well the soccer and my well subject is math other people is difficult but I like math because math do it my head is smart then successful my dream.”

I especially like the end of that second response: “then successful my dream.” I think that’s a beautiful way to end any piece of writing.

For another class, I gave the students an assignment to write an essay about their hero. One of the students chose me. His thesis was that I was his hero because I’m smart and nice and I look like Steve Jobs and I didn’t give him homework on the first day of class. His supporting details were that I was born in America and I always wear “blue jeans and weird T-shirts.” I only wore button-down dress shirts the first week of class, so the last part was a factual error, but in general it was a solid essay.

My work day starts at 2:00pm. I usually leave my apartment at around 1:30pm and walk the 20-25 minutes to my school. Avalon English takes up two floors of an office building on a busy street in Jinju. I have two hours to lesson plan before classes begin. Starting at 4pm, I teach three 45-minute classes to different groups of the younger students. Then I usually teach two 50-minute classes to the older students. I work almost exclusively from the Avalon textbooks, which makes lesson planning very easy but doesn’t take a lot of creativity. My work day ends at 9:30pm, and then I go home and make dinner. It’s a nice schedule that lets me have time in the mornings to write and go to the gym.

So, while sometimes it can be stressful, I do enjoy this job very much. I like it because teaching in a foreign country is challenging and rewarding, then successful my dream.

How much is an essay worth?

November 18, 2010

Two very interesting essays by people who have earned their living writing term papers for college students:

The Shadow Scholar” by “Ed Dante”

The Term Paper Artist” by Nick Mamatas

Weight loss challenge!

August 24, 2010

Weight-loss Rhino

Interesting story at the Chronicle of Higher Education about an old woman who has pledged $1 million to her alma mater, Stephens College, if the employees of the college lose a total of 250 pounds by the stroke of midnight on January 1. She’ll throw in another $100,000 if the college’s president loses 25 pounds. Apparently the donor weighs the same (117 pounds) at age 87 as she did in college, and she thinks the educators at her old school need to slim down a little. Is this a brilliant and biting piece of social commentary or a condescending and mean-spirited act? Let’s ask Weight-loss Rhino.

Weight-loss Rhino says: “BRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAARRRRR!”