In and Out of the Classroom

Posted by Dr. Beth Reaves

When we talk about the growth of our students, we often refer to simultaneous development both “in and out of the classroom.” We want our students to lead healthy, productive lives both professionally and personally. But who they are in the classroom is different than who they are at home and who they are when they’re out with their friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am in my professional and personal lives and what example I try to set for students. Currently, Work Beth is a more relaxed version of the professionalism that defined my early experience working in a corporate setting. I started working at a time when women dressed very conservatively – dark suits preferably with a skirt and low heels. My professional persona mirrored this uniform – serious, practical and all business. Nowadays as the President of WSG, Work Beth still wears suits and skirts but also mixes in dresses, sweaters, fun heels and a diverse color palette, less authoritarian and more reflective of an open and collaborative leadership style. My clothes now are perhaps more fashion-forward than the sober suits of yore, but I still aim to project an image of a woman who is pulled together and ready to do the work.

Conversely, Home Beth is all about comfort. Jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirts and, like many modern weekend warriors, work-out clothes sans the workout. While I don’t think much about what I’m wearing outside of the office, I focus on feeling calm, composed and able to take on chores, pets, kids, hobbies and even the occasional social gathering. Like Work Beth, Home Beth feels most in her element when she is prepared to tackle the many tasks of the day, from the very mundane (laundry) to the most precious (art-making with my teenage daughter). Both Work Beth and Home Beth are confident and secure knowing that I can focus on my responsibilities and that others will see my best self.

Of course, clothes do not make the woman and are certainly an imperfect metaphor for the challenges of balancing personal and professional lives. For me, at least, knowing what makes me feel confident and empowered both in and out of the office is an important lesson of adulthood. I want our girls to find that balance as well. To understand that personal care and attention are powerful tools, but so is being comfortable in your own skin so that you can accomplish your goals and demonstrate that you are ready and able to do what needs to be done.