Physical Presence

Students can infer many things about you from how you dress, stand, and move in the classroom.

  • If you dress like your students, particularly if you are a teaching assistant, students may think of you more as a student than an instructor—at least at the beginning of the semester. You certainly don’t need to buy a new wardrobe, but consider dressing more formally for at least a few weeks. Then once you have established a teacher-student relationship, you can start wearing more casual attire, such as jeans. Faculty members at UI tend to dress more formally than teaching assistants, so use your department colleagues as a guide.
  • Whether and where you stand also says something about you and your relationship with students. Many instructors like an informal atmosphere where everyone is gathered around a table, or chairs are in a circle. Others prefer to stand behind a lectern, which can be a symbol of authority. 

Perhaps some combination of informal and formal is best, depending on the message you want to convey. Coming out from behind the lectern can sharpen students’ attention and indicate that you feel comfortable with the course content. If the class gets out of hand when you are seated, just standing up might refocus student attention on the learning tasks at hand. Walking among your students during discussion can demonstrate your confidence.