A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 08 2009

Bowties and Unexpected Things at Unexpected Times

Bowties are such wonderful things.  In a previous post, I mentioned that I was contemplating busting out my bowtie collection.  What kept me from wearing this wonderful accessory was that I was never sure how my students would perceive me.  I am enough of an “outsider” as it is; there really should be no reason for me to make the differences between me and my students even sharper, right?

Well, that’s what I initially thought.  Recently, however, I decided that I needed to show some personality–some flair, if you will.

This leads to one of my beliefs about being a successful teacher: you need to have quirks.  You have to do unexpected things at unexpected times.  You have to shock your students.  Throw some thunderbolts at them and see if their bodies tingle and their arm-hairs stand on end.

At least in my experience, the teachers that have done the unexpected, uncanny things are the ones that I remember most vividly.  Mr. H, one of my middle school science teachers, is a perfect example.  A science geek, he had an extensive collection of wacky, nerdy ties (in the hundreds, for sure).  In fact, he never wore the same tie in a single year.  He’d have ties with books, with the periodic table, with test tubes, eye charts and other dizzying patterns.

More than a decade later, I remember that.  Not only do I remember his tie collection, but I remember his face, I remember the set up of the classroom. I remember doing one experiment where we had to evaporate alcohol off of a table as quickly as possible (hint: you spread it out).  It’s not surprising, then, that he was one of my best and favorite teachers.  There must be some link between his quirk and his awesomeness.

On the other hand, the ones that don’t surprise you–well, you forget about them quickly.  I have no examples. I blame memory loss.


Anyways, getting back to bowties.  I’ve hung up regular ties for the bow variety about three times in the past 2 weeks.  With such little bowtie exposure, I was flabbergasted to discover today that I now have a reputation as the “bowtie teacher”.  AP revealed this to me implicitly and explicitly during first period today.

Let me explain: during today’s lesson (we were writing “Where I’m From” poems, my favorite lesson!), I noticed AP diligently folding up a sheet of lined paper.  Soon enough, he was meticulously tracing something onto it.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but, later, when we were presenting poems, AP volunteered to take a seat in the “Writer’s Chair” and deliver his poem.  That’s when I observed something distinct had changed about AP’s attire.  He was wearing a lined-paper bowtie! (cropped because of privacy issues; blurry because it is a still frame from a video clip):

AP is a clown in general, but it was entertaining to see him attempt to create his own bow tie and wear it.  I wasn’t sure if he was trying to mock me, so I decided I would inquire with him after class.  I gave AP a small compliment.  He responded, “Mr. K, I love your bowtie. You know, everyone here knows you as the bowtie man?”  What a priceless moment.

Well, this encounter has convinced me that, no matter what sort of budget I am now on, I will need to add some bowties to my collection. I had recently ordered three beautiful handmade ties from Ellie LaVeer Stager, an amazing bowtie maker, and I will probably go back to her for more (for all you men out there, try out her custom-made bowties–they’re fantastic!).

Bowties, like letter writing, are under-appreciated these days.  I intend to bring them back; they seem to be ubiquitous in the world of education, anyways.

So the lesson I’ve learned today: “Don’t be ashamed to do unexpected things at unexpected times.”

Tomorrow, I learn whether or not students can follow directions by re-writing their “Where I’m From” poems on a clean sheet of paper (I expect some powerful poems).
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9 Responses

  1. Will

    This is awesome, Mr. K. I wish I had some bowties. I agree that keeping students on their toes is a key to success.
    Glad to see things are going well!

  2. Keep up all the blogging. Your blog was viewed 3,479 times in the past month!

  3. abcde

    Will do my best!

    • Thanks for shrnaig. Always good to find a real expert.

  4. This is a great post! I’m glad that the bow ties I made for you are helping you connect with your students.

    Within 10 minutes of reading this post, I heard from another group of gentlemen who had purchased ties from me that are teachers. They have started bow tie Wednesday at their school and have quite a few teachers and students sporting the bow ties. So cool! What a fun way to connect with the students.

    Now you just need to post a couple of pictures of how awesome you look in your ties!

    Bow Tie maker – The Cordial Churchman

  5. MJL

    Most of those hits are me I read it every day :)
    Just kidding I’m just one of hundreds of people who read your blog every day

  6. Bow ties are great for the person who want to show their individualism. It shows the self-confidence one has in himself.

  7. Uttara

    WK! A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog, I opened the page, only to realize that I know you! Anyways I’ve been reading for the past hour (can’t stop!) fabulous stuff and I’m glad you gave a shout out to one of my favorite teachers as well: Mr. H… Keep up the good work!

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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High School

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