Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Late October Brooklyn Attitude

Wearing clothes is all about feeling good in them, wearing clothes that fit your personality as well as your surroundings.

I pride myself in being a Brooklynite, for chrissakes, I named my first born Breuckelen. Being a Brooklynite, i embrace the blue collar work ethic that built this wonderful place. Yes, all you Williamsburg hipsters and Park Slope mommies who have your own idea of what makes Brooklyn, Brooklyn, you're dead wrong. Its not you.

Its not that we don't appreciate all that you bring to our great borough. Not at all. Who else would we have to sneer at, or mock for living off of mommy and daddy's inheritance while occupying a loft and playing in a band only your friends pretend to think is talent laden? Who else would we give the Brooklyn salute to, when your strollers block the sidewalks of 7th Avenue while you stop and talk the latest craze sweeping over early childhood education over a $7 cup of coffee, totally losing in your own self-importance, the fact that people are actually trying to get to and from places on that very same slab of sidewalk? So, don't read this post, and assume that real Brooklynites want you gone. We don't. Because after a long day of hard work, we need an outlet for our frustrations and a viable source to mock.

So, my dad may laugh at my use of the words "blue collar" when referring to my family upbringing. But I'm not the one with the statue of the Virgin Mary in my backyard. Even though my parents were both educators, and successful ones, the blue collar mentality that their parents raised them on, squeaked through the generations and X&Y chromosomes to the way I was raised. Anyway, I digress. Back to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is an attitude. Work hard, play hard. Brooklyn, we go hard. Fughedaboudit, you've heard all the cliches. Well, as I mentioned in my opening, if you can confidently wear your clothes, you will look great in them. What I was wearing this Friday, 10/29, is a clear example of that in full effect. My suit, was a vintage one. I don't think I spent more than $100 on this mid weight tweed two piece suit. It a Turnbull & Asser that i scored off of eBay a few years ago. Its double vented with hacking and a ticket pocket in the true English fashion. Its also from the early 1970's or late 1960's, making it almost 40 years old, older than me. Not much was changed on this. I shortened the pant leg, and gave them 2 inch cuffs, shortened the sleeves, and had the shoulder pads removed. That's it.

Now, the suit was only part of Friday's rig. I had my tailor Frank, at Ercole's in Dyker Heights, make me a shirt and tie that i could wear with this. With all the colors and patterns, it was not an easy task, and after looking through several books of shirting fabric, and hundreds of silk tie swatches, we settled on the pair you see. A blue on blue striped shirt and a floral navy, blue and red neck tie. Add to that a classic English silk paisley scarf from Drakes of London, a Donegal Tweed Kangol flat cap, and Alden tobacco calfskin long wing bluchers and you're set.

But the apparel is only half of what makes the look work so well. The other half is the attitude, the surroundings, and the photographer. thankfully, I have a wife who has an eye for picture taking, and when given creative reign, does some real wonderful things. But enough of me talking, I'll let you be the judge. And with true Brooklyn attitude and grit, if you don't like it, go take a long walk off a short pier.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Peggy Olson of My Mad World

Thats me. I am Peggy Olson. The Bay Ridger more famous for being a woman in a man's world than for her excellent work. You know, the person who busts their ass, but is never really fully appreciated or partially understood because people can't get past the fact that she is one gender and not the other. This is the struggle of every male teacher who teaches in an elementary or secondary educational environment.

Lets look back upon them, the male role models from the schools of our youth. They were either two things: the jock gym teacher/coach or the looney scientist/historian who wore the same tweed jacket and bean blucher mocs. That's it. The "real" educators, the ones who "made a difference", "who cared for their students" and lacked the balls (pun intended) to tell kids how life really is, and what they really needed to do to be successful in the real world were always the motherly role models I couldn't stand as a kid growing up. Sure they may be molding our youth to be fine young educators of the future, but our educational subculture is one that is completely opposite of how the real world works, and for our soon to be young men, the way we view male teachers is a real disservice..

Is it because I don't bake cookies for my class or my clearly visible tattoos that I make no effort to disguise? Maybe its my freakish beard that I let grow each winter. Maybe its not what's on the outside at all, but my masculinity that makes me the outcast in an insiders world. Remember, i grew up in a family of educators. My mother and father both taught school, and both went on to become highly successful principals. My mother, in a rough and tumble public middle school in Sunset Park which she single handedly turned around before retiring to a "cushy" job at a Staten Island Catholic grammar school ; and my father, who was the Associate Principal at a Brooklyn all girls Catholic HS, before finishing his career as the Principal of another one on Staten Island. The irony of the fact that my most important male role model worked with women and girls for most of his educational life is not lost on me. I've been on the inside, and I've seen how it works. On top of that, I've been teaching 7th and 8th grade in a K-8 school for 10 years now. I know I am a GREAT teacher, my kids will tell you that. Well, the ones who passed will. And even the ones who didn't have grown to realize that me being a hard-ass to them, and forcing them to work, was for their own good. Pushing students to do their best is not an easy task. Sometimes they push back. Literally.

I'm pretty sure my supervisors recognize that I do a good job, but I'm not so sure that they know how or why I work the way I do. I get the feeling a lot of people roll their eyes and think, "what a nutter" each time I'm crowing like a bird, hiding a "corpse" under a bedsheet behind police tape in the back of my room, or when I'm screaming as if I've been shot through the heart, and you're to blame. Yes you. Because its you, who continue to expect the same thing from your children's teachers who allow this stereotype of male teachers to live on. You want the teachers to bake cake. You want them to say "OK" without asking why. You're the ones who think the same things that women in the profession do when they see a man behind the desk or at the board. He's either a coach, or a whack job. Well, sorry to tell you, he's none of those. He's a man.

Part of the reason I enjoy dressing like I do is because it makes me feel like a man, in an emasculating profession. It separates me from the rest of my male colleagues, yet unfortunately it doesn't take me far enough away from the male educator stereotype. Maybe its that I love tweed too much, maybe its not. Men are different than women, for better AND for worse, and there's nothing wrong with being who you are no matter what you do. Right Peggy? Am I less of a teacher for not cutting out little fucking butterflies to post on my bulletin board, no, but you know what, I'm more of a man for not, and thats seriously lacking in secondary and elementary education.

Men don't back down when they think they're right. Men don't get involved in the caddy nature of the "educator", and when they don't, their seen as outcasts, or not part of the team. The problem is, is that the team isn't co-ed, its all girls. Its the same way that Peggy Olsen is viewed by her bosses on AMC's popular Sunday drama Mad Men. She does things the way a woman does, in a man's world, and she's damn good at it, but she's seen as a bit of a freak for being who she is, a woman. Well, ladies and gentlemen, she's not alone, because there are tens of thousands of male Peggy Olsen's teaching your children. Lets just hope that they all don't sell their balls down the river. If not for themselves, then for the sake of 50% of their kids that also have their reproductive organs on the outside. Y'ever wonder why it is that the boys are usually the ones who are in the most trouble in school? Its because the few male role models they do have aren't taken as seriously as their female educators, unless of course they are administrators. Where I'm sure my nagging mother (yea, another stereotype right atcha) will be thrilled when she hears thats where I'm headed next. I wish I wasn't, but I don't think I can take being pigeonholed much more. To all my fellow male teachers who read this, or my fellow male friends who are looking towards education as a career, this Bud's for you.