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  • cogswellmatt77

Sometimes the Clothes Do Not Make the Man

I'm sitting at a desk in my classroom, 41 minutes before the class is even set to begin. I've already written on the board and prepared links to content to hopefully get 80 minutes of content for a speech class with 5 or 6 students. I've already walked heavy-footed to the bathroom, wearing my work clothes that are old and too big, at least the shirt is. I feel differently when I wear these costumes. I long ago abandoned ties as part of my costume, but even being casually professional does not work for me.

It's only my second week (and third day due to cancellations) back, but it feels different. It feels forced, and I hate that. Public Speaking is my favorite course to teach (outside of the one time I taught Acting), but I'm just not enthused. I don't belong in a classroom. I don't know how to get where I belong.

I can't afford new clothes. I did invest in some new pants for the semester. I haven't broken them in yet. I tried yesterday. They were too snug for comfort. I really need to get back to the gym. I don't particularly like this shirt or how I look in it. It's comfy when I'm at home and it's not tucked in and just hangs open. This button-up shirt shit is for the birds.

I'm wearing my slightly scuffed dress shoes because I paid for them. I imagine soon enough I'll just start wearing sneakers again. In this class I talk about clothing and footwear, how it impacts your presentation style and confidence. I don't like being looked at in front of the classroom. I feel judged, exposed, on display as "Professor" when I just want to be Matt. This particular class has good students, but the other day they just stared at me most of the time. It's almost less preferable to distracted students.

At home this morning I responded to some first assignments, where they were asked to analyze their voice and speech patterns. They were to theorize on what makes public speaking a nightmare or pleasure for them. Some put more effort into that than others. It's not easy being "up here." I often feel like a facsimile of myself, even when I'm in my groove. The classes where I really shine because I'm doing well and they are entertained and learning leave me exhausted because it takes tremendous effort to put on a show. The same thoughts they may have go through my brain in my 24th year of teaching. One of my students who is a fellow theater brat talked about the joy in playing a part because it's not you. I reminded her that it is her up there, but I appreciated the sentiment. There is value in not having to present as yourself in front of an audience.

Part of today's lesson plan is to share my process for nights I perform. I draw connections between that and giving speeches in class. I share my joy but realize it's just masturbatory and they don't care. They won't be as energized as I am. That's a tough audience.

The performance officially begins in 20 minutes. No one is here yet.

I'll find the strength to perform.

It's my job.

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