Educators give back to the future of the teaching field

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 at 6:53 PM
Educators give back to the future of the teaching field by Nathan Brennan
Graphic: Eboni Yancey

After several years of dormancy, the event “My Professor’s Closet” made its return to Edinboro on Oct. 22 at Butterfield Hall.

The purpose of the event was to provide perhaps less-privileged students, generally in the field of teaching, an opportunity to obtain professional-looking clothes for their work as student-teachers.

According to Dr. Mary Jo Melvin, chairperson for the department of early childhood education and reading, and organizer of this year’s event, most students are in need of appropriate clothing at little to no cost. “You come to college and you’re here for three and 1/2 years, and you have your sweats and your jeans and everything… [then] all of a sudden you’re thrown into this situation where you have to dress professionally, and [you] just didn’t have the clothing.”

The event tries to serve this need. Taking clothing donations from Oct. 15 to Oct. 19, the students were then able to come in on Oct. 22 to get whatever clothes or accessories they wanted free of charge. After the event, the rest of the remaining clothes were donated. 

The event was started 10 years ago by Dr. Kathy Stevens, where she asked faculty, students and community members to help students out with clothing donations. A fair number of professors donated, which helped lend its name to the event.

However, due to the workload associated with holding the donations, it hasn’t been done for the last couple of years. Recently, though, Melvin has noticed that the need for professional clothing has become prominent once more, and thought it was time to bring the event back. 

While the event is mainly beneficial to financially-strapped students, it can still be helpful to those who are not. According to Heather McMillen, a graduate assistant in the early childhood education department, just having a chance to get clothes if one needs them “open[s] doors” to seeing how one should look when trying to find work in the education field.

This brought up a common theme in education, one which Melvin stressed: appearance. “I think we do a very good job of preparing them; they have all their clearances, they go out there knowing what they have to do,” she said. “But if they don’t have the attire, then they’re going to be judged.”

Melvin finds that this judgment, often just a part of human nature, is a result of education remaining a reserved profession. “You’re in a profession where students and young people are looking up to you. You’re a role model, and what you wear is going to be what they think is the right thing to do.”

However, she does note that this sometimes puts up a barrier that might prevent someone from becoming an educator. A popular subject on social media, people often debate what the “right” attire should be to count as professional, and whether one who lacks these clothes should be disqualified from their employment. 

This is furthered by the words said by a student of Melvin’s, who finds their loyalties have them at a crossroads: “If it’s between dressing professionally and putting food on the table for my family, I [have] to put food on the table.”

Melvin acknowledged this, saying: “Is it fair? Absolutely not, but that’s life.” She would add, “We want to cover all those avenues and make sure that everything that we can support, we do.”

Whether the societal pressure to dress professionally is fair or not, “My Professor’s Closet” was put on with the goal of helping students “put their best self forward,” and possibly help them cross that barrier in order to become a teacher. 

Nathan Brennan can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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