“When you look good, you feel good. Teaching is hard, damn hard. You have all kinds of students to serve, planning, family contact, state assessments, teacher evals, grading, faculty commitments, and hundreds of personalities and land mines to navigate. You might as well look good as you juggle.”
Guiding Question: Would you be offended or flattered by being called a teacher bae?
Okay, so I really don’t want to give this any attention. There’s far more serious topics to discuss, but those far more serious topics, including the murders of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott are eating away at my stomach lining so I’m taking a leisurely stroll down the trivial lane, I’m sure you can use this frivolous detour as well. Plus, I really am working hard to get black teacher chronicles in front of the black teachers who it serves and teacher bae is a SEO boost that I just can’t ignore.
There is a lot to explore in this viral phenomena. The popularity of “teacher bae” speaks to the fantasy/rite of passage of crushing on your teacher. As a teacher, is this well accepted fantasy something that we should expect? And with that expectation is it something that we should actively deflect? Patrice Brown, better known to the world as teacher bae, is beautiful. She could have worn a sack of potatoes and still enlisted crushes from her pupils, though she certainly wouldn’t have broken the internet. Still, from one teacher to the next (we established last week that we use the broadest since of the term. So I am claiming teacher assistants as teachers), I had some questions and concerns about some of her wardrobe choices. Then I read a blog on http://www.essence.com/2016/09/16/teacher-bae-patrice-brown-exploitation that made me question my questions. Should curvy women have to mask their curves in order to be deemed professional? Demetria Lucas D’oyley’s blog spoke to the exploitation of teacher bae (yes I know I should use her name, but I really like saying teacher bae), how her pictures were procured from her IG account without her consent (the dangers of having a public profile) disseminated and dissected all across the internet resulting in shaming that includes a public statement from her employer saying she’s been “given guidance on her attire so that it’s in line the APS Employee Dress Code.” D’oyley contends that all of this is reflective of America’s fascination with Black women bodies and the subsequent policing of those same fascinating bodies.
Still, I didn’t have too much sympathy for teacher bae, I mean don’t we all post on social media for attention? Then one late night I was waxing sentimental to my husband as we got into bed. “This is the first time in eleven years that I started the school year without a class of my own.” (I know, what sexy pillow talk.)
He responded, “And to think you could have been teacher bae.”
“What? I never dressed like that.” Even laying down, my neck had the black woman’s tilt to it.
“You went to work sexy some days.”
“I was always professional.”
“You can’t be professional and sexy? I meant it as a compliment.” He rolled over, (I guess he already knew he wouldn’t be getting anything more that night) but his questions kept me up for a while. I mean I am sexy, but I can’t say that I ever entered the classroom with that intention. Sure, I love a good pencil skirt, a well-fitting dress, but when teaching my hemlines always touched my knees and low cut dresses were out. But couldn’t teacher bae say the same? One could argue that her clothes were too tight, but what is really the measure for tightness? Is every good looking thick teacher a potential teacher bae? Should we object to this objectification? I mean I looked at the pictures of Michelle Obama from the Essence spread and my first thought was “damn that ass is fat!” She was fully covered and in a dress that I wouldcertainly classify as professional. And does my reaction to her body take away from the absolute admiration I have for a woman whose intelligence and grace I aspire to? It adds that that admiration actually.
Should one be offended or flattered by being called a teacher bae?
As I stated in the pic I posted of myself on the way to the White House on my FB and IG accounts, (if that goes viral I will have no objections. Oh, please follow me across social media @banketheauthor) I’ve been exploring the power of femininity. That power does include sex appeal. So here are five lessons that all teachers can learn from teacher bae.
1) Teach the girls how to slay. Flats are my every day wear and I normally reserve heels for date nights with the hubby. Still, I’m sure to break them out whenever I’m commissioned to speak to young girls. I mean, have you seen today’s teenage girl? They rock stilettos, bundles, make-up, and lashes better than some grown women. And they’re quick to size you up too. My knee was bothering me one day that I ran a sister circle at a rec center so I kept my flats on. I peeped a couple girls eye my shoes and instantly dismiss me. Of course, I was able to win them back over, but my job would have been easier if I was in full teacher bae mode. I learned from that, so when I was the keynote speaker for an event for young girls, I showed out. Nice dress, dope blazer, heels on fleek. When those heels started to limit my mobility (if you’ve ever seen me in the classroom on a stage, you know I love to use proximity), I made a quick announcement. “Okay, y’all see me right? I put this outfit together to impress you. Is it working?”
The young ladies responded, “Yes!”
Okay, cool ‘cause these shoes are killing me.” Then I pulled a Patti Labelle/Fantasia and kicked them off. Though the shoes came off, it was important that I walked into that space dressed to slay. A high powered woman is expected to be in command of her appearance. We all watch Mary Jane and Scandal for the fashion as much as the plot twists. Beyond fashion, being a teacher bae teaches Black girls to love their Black bodies unabashedly
2) Schools favor the beautiful. Let’s be real, beautiful people are favored, especially nice beautiful people. Everybody likes something pleasant to look at and when that pleasant look is coupled with a good heart, a teacher bae is sure to reap the benefits. The secretaries look out more, the security guards give you the skinny, principals gives you the best administrative assignment. When someone needs to be interviewed by the media, it’ll be you. Sure teacher bae got reprimanded and I’m sure there’s some embarrassment with that, but she also broke the internet and thousands came to her defense. The business woman in me says she better find a way to parlay that.
3) When you look good, you feel good. Teaching is hard, damn hard. You have all kinds of students to serve, planning, family contact, state assessments, teacher evals, grading, faculty commitments, and hundreds of personalities and land mines to navigate. You might as well look good as you juggle. A quick bathroom break will brighten your spirits as you peer at your beautiful self and remember that no matter what happens, you look good. A quick selfie does the trick too. Posting a well posed pic of yourself doing noble work is sure to raise your endorphins, let alone your profile.
4) One way to boost Black male achievement. As I stated in the introduction, crushing on your teaching is a rite of passage. Of course, any teacher worthy of that title would never have inappropriate contact with a student nor encourage a crush. But that crush on its own, encourages your students to come to class, to work harder, to give their best. So all of the teacher baes (fine Black female teachers) are doing their part to boost Black male achievement. We know that the data shows that Black students perform better with Black teachers, but do we know what the gains are when that teacher is attractive? Hmm…that would be an interesting dissertation topic. Dr. Awopetu-McCullough. I like the sound of that.
5) Clear need for mentors. I won’t waste time debating whether teacher bae’s clothes were appropriate, but for the sake of this last point, let’s say that they weren’t. Which veteran teacher stepped in to have a sister girl moment and advise her? As a veteran teacher, I wondered if I would have provided that advisement. Perhaps. Guidance from one woman to another on anything related to appearance is typically deemed as hatin’ and maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to offend her. Ideally though, I would have seen teacher bae when she first started teaching in my building and built a relationship with her. I would have clapped and complimented her when she came into work strutting her stuff. And if I felt like some of that stuff was a little too much, I woulda said, “Uh, you teaching or twerking today?” She would have laughed and got the point. None of this is possible if Black teachers don’t link arms with each other and accept guidance that helps us all to serve the profession better. Hence the need for Black Teacher Chronicles and thank you for tuning in!