A few years ago, while leaving my classroom at dismissal, I ran into another teacher, who gave me an inquisitive look, puzzled by my extravagant style. (I think I was wearing a faux fur hat, boots, dramatic makeup, a gladiator belt over a winter dress… and more). In good humor, I paused, looked at my outfit, and said genuinely, ‘Well… maybe today I do look like I ran away from the crazy circus, don’t I?” He laughed and said, “It actually looks like you did not run away!”
I love dressing up for my students, and I love the idea of adding visuals to an idea or a lesson. I love dressing up in fun, unique outfits in life, I love makeup, and I especially love dressing up for work. I teach my students that words like “odd” and “weird” always deserve a chance to be seen as a compliment. (I get them a lot, and I love it).
I can think of a thousand good reasons for using props, makeup, costumes, and other colorful visuals to help maintain engagement in a classroom, but I guess in a nutshell, if my students have to look at me for several hours, the least I can do is to look fun and colorful and find ways to be engaging. At least, that’s my excuse… and it has been working! If I can integrate outfits and makeup with our content and lessons—which I usually can—even better!
When this school year began, we had our schedules for Zooms ready, schedules for subjects ready and and we had decided on our musical theme for the school year: the 80s! I kept wondering how I could adapt our virtual lessons in order to still create a classroom culture that would celebrate creativity, fun, color and visuals, as well as engage my students. I realized that if I had the energy to dress up and have fun with it, my new students would be at least amused by a new and somewhat odd teacher that often shows up with extravagant makeup and outfits. And luckily for me, October is at the beginning of the school year.
So the school year began, and our 80s musical theme was the perfect excuse to start with the colorful visuals and many faces. I sent every 3rd grader a pair of 80s sunglasses, a single fingerless net glove in a neon color, and several jelly bracelets, and we got the year started. I don’t know how many outfits and different faces I have worn this year already, but most of what I wear is related to a lesson, book, holiday, or something we are talking about in class. Sometimes, however, they are simply a fun way to keep my students amused and engaged.
My students continue to enjoy and look forward to Ms. Teixeira’s outfits and makeup, and many kids, when appropriate for a lesson or Zoom, have joined in with makeup, props, or fun outfits. I’ve heard from many parents that our students have a lot of fun in our meetings, and look forward to seeing us because they want to see what Ms. Teixeira will be wearing or doing. I wasn’t sure how this was going to help build a virtual classroom culture, but it definitely helps. Of course, it’s not a magic recipe or the only thing we do, and we will continue to face challenges while still teaching in a remote or hybrid setting, but if we keep trying creative and colorful ways to stay engaged with our students, I’d say we’re on the right path. We stand a chance.
Giséle Frazão Teixeira was born and raised in the Amazon in Brazil and comes from a family of educators. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, from The Federal University of Amazonas, and a Multiple Subject CLAD Teaching Credential from the Dominican University in San Rafael, CA. Giséle’s teaching experience includes schools in California, and American International Schools in Brazil and Venezuela. She currently teaches 3rd grade and loves it. Giséle is married and has two awesome sons, Diego and Caio. She loves her family, art and crafts, music, and creative, fearless people. In her spare time, Giséle likes to draw and paint, to play the guitar, to make jewelry, and to write and collect family anecdotes. She has been teaching for over 15 years. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.