Have an idea for a topic you'd like me to blog about? Email it to teachpretty@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Life is Changing: Where does Lolita Fit In Now?

I am very pleased to announce to the blogging world that I have obtained full-time employment as a high school art teacher for the Kimberly Center in Davenport, IA. I feel that landing this job had a lot to do with luck and who I knew, though.

I student taught in Davenport this past winter, at both an elementary school and a high school. The principal I worked with at the elementary school had observed me teach, given me a mock interview, and wrote me a letter of recommendation. After being hired on by JB Young I got a phone call from this principal telling me she was moving to the Kimberly Center, and asked if she could interview me for a full-time position. Since I had not yet signed any contract that would place me in comittment to JB, I happily accepted to offer for an interview, which on the same day turned into an offer for a job.

In the span of one month and three weeks since graduation, I have landed full-time eployment in my career field of choice, put a deposit down on an aprtment, purchased furniture, and put my notice in to Woodlawn that I would be moving on (although they're determined to have me come back to do Japanese and Princess Academy in the summer). Things feel like they're happening so fast because...well...they are, and at times I find myself very stressed and overwhelmed. But despite the stress, I am aware of how lucky and blessed I am to be in this position, because not many fresh college graduates receive this type of opportunity (and of the four art education majors in the Augie class of '11, I'm the first and, as far as I know, only one who's gotten a job). I also have a great support system of family and friends to thank for their well-wishes, encouragement, and listening ear for when I need to vent.

Now, amidst all the excitement of beginning my adult life, I can't help but wonder what will become of the lolita aspect of myself? My budget will be very tight for a while, so my spending on new frills will be at a standstill until I have a good system worked out and am settled in (which could be a few months or over a year). My involvement with the community will also be affected, in that I won't be able to make more than a couple Chicago meetups a year, and local meetups that are on the pricier side I may have to back out of more often.

The other thing that has a strong possibility of changing is how often I wear lolita.

Before the end of the school year, I would dress up around once a week, mainly because I had a community to dress up and go do things with. Since the summer began I've only worn lolita a handful of times outside of Princess Academy classes. This is mainly because: 1. I have no one to dress up with, 2. there is never much of a reason to dress up in the first place, and 3. lolita makes my parents uncomfortable, and rather than whining about how they "just don't understand" I respect their concerns and try not to wear it around them too much.

Going into a full-time teaching career will have a greater bearing on how often I dress up as well, for the obvious reasons that lolita is not work appropriate, and there will be a small and constant worry of running into a student or a student's parents when I'm dressed up. This latter concern is one of the reasons I chose to live 20 minutes from where I teach. My students don't need to see me in a fluffy dress any more than they need to see me at a grocery store buying alcohol. Furhermore, where I am working is an alternative high school, so I need to make a much greater effort in seperating my personal life from my professional life if I ever want to gain respect and authority in the classroom.


While chatting with a friend the other night about all of this, he said, "Well, maybe it's time you think about leaving lolita soon. After all, you know you can't do this forever." My friend has a valid point, I will admit, but leaving something that has basically become a normal part of your life and an outlet through which you met some of your closest friends is more difficult than one would think. But at the same time, where will it fit into my life now that I'm beginning the next chapter?

Guess that's just something I'll figure out as I go.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Teach Pretty Spotlight: Lauri Eggert

This week I had the great opportunity to interview one of my close friends, Lauri Eggert, who has recently been diagnosed with stage one stomach cancer. As a fellow lolita in the community, I was curious as to how this unfortunate matter would effect her in terms of the fashion and her involvement in the community itself, and I was even more curious to know more about the cancer and how she was dealing with her situation. Below are my interview questions and her responses.

Lauri and myself (with a lovely photobomb from our friend Lyz! XD)

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Let's see. I'm 28. Eternally young at heart though. I love cute things like unicorns, plushes, glitter, balloons. I also love the strange and macabre. I would need a whole other interview just to say everything about me : )

2. When did you discover lolita?
It was May 2009 at Anime Central. I fell in love with these girls wearing ruffly dresses and eating ice cream together. I wanted in! Unfortunately I was married to a man who was less than enthusiastic about the fashion: told me it was childish and fetishistic. Needless to say I am no longer with that man. My first real attempt at Lolita was in august 2010 at the First Midwest Lolita meet and greet.

3. Why do you dress in lolita?
I like how I feel in it. Both elegant and pretty but also fun and whimsical.

4. Do you have a favorite style or brand?
I mainly dress in sweet/bittersweet but I also love gothic, kuro, shiro, and punk. I don't own any brand currently but I do like Angelic Pretty and some prints by Alice and the Pirates line.

5. You were unfortunately recenetly diagnosed with stomach cancer, although you had been struggling with intestinal problems for a few months. Can you explain the progession that your body went through from the beginning of your pain to your diagnosis?
 It all started probably in late April of this year. I've been having constant bouts of painful diarria, side and back pain, fever, exhaustion, general stomach troubles and I lost 20 lbs in one month. I had a CT scan to ensure my appendix was okay. Then, after visiting a GI, I had a colonoscopy and endoscopic surgery to remove parts of my stomach, gallbladder and pancreas. It wasn't until June 28th that I was diagnosed with stage one stomach cancer after freaking out cause I found blood in my stool.

6. Can you give us a few details on stomach cancer itself (the stage and what that means, what stomach cancer can do to the body, how it's being treated, etc - basically any info on the disease itself).
Stomach cancer is a scary form of cancer. It kills about 80,000 people a year! Usually by the time it's detected it's usually in the last stages. I was very lucky and pushed and pushed for more tests so I was diagnosed early. I am in stage one of the disease. I have a polyp that is cancerous in the left side of my stomach. It's also called carcinoma in situ, it's mainly in my muscle tissue. In the stage I'm in, it causes all the symptoms I explained above and others like poor appetite and poor nutritional absorption caused by poor diet. Stomach cancer can be caused by many things: genetics, smoking, abusing alcohol/drugs, environment, etc. Unfortunately I was just unlucky.

Im gonna go through 6 rounds of chemo. I'm lucky were my chemo is just shots in my stomach and not the normal intraveinous 8 hour long treatments. I have had one treatment so far ( as of July 4) and I'll be getting 3 more before the months over. I have an IV put in my arm for fluids and pain killers. Ever half an hour I get 5 shots put in my stomach. Then blood tests and X-rays. It's roughly a 2 hour doctors visit. On the 12th I'll be taking a pill camera ( a tiny camera I will swallow) to make sure my polyp hasn't gone into my bowels and then on the 18th im having an endoscopic ultrasound on top of them removing some of the polyp.

7. And how are you handling the treatement? Do you require any special accomodations to deal with the pain you've been in?
Dealing with cancer is an ordeal to say it bluntly. I was and still am an emotional wreck. I worry about losing my friends, my boyfriend, my life in all this. I really need to try to keep a positive outlook though. No one likes a mope : ) I currently take 4 pain killers a day to help me eat and help subside the pain. I'm physically very exhausted and cold, so I take more naps and wear more clothing than normal. Not fun when it's the summer.

8. Since you are being treated with chemo, there is a chance you will lose your hair, as well as a bit of weight. How does this effect you in regards to your own self-image, and your involvement in lolita fashion?
Oh my hair! That was honestly the first thing I cried about. Normally I don't care at all what people think about me: I'm tattooed, pierced, dress weirdly etc. But I like expressing myself through my hair. Yes, there are wigs but something about creating magic within your own hair is wonderful and artistic. I'm already roughly 100 lbs by the time this is done I might be close to 90. It's a little scary. With my current money situation I may not be able to afford new Lolita garments so I will have to make due with what I have, try to pin items snuggly etc.

To add on... It's also nerve wrecking to think of what the girls in my comm will think. Will they say I look ugly? Freakish? It is a thought that I do think about often.

9. Do you think that your illness will effect your involvement with the Chicago Lolita Community? Do you hope to remain as heavily involved as you have been, or take a break until you recover?
 I'm gonna try very hard to keep as active as I am in the Lolita community. I love my ladies in my comm, they give me much joy and I think they'll help me through this process. I may miss one or 2 meet ups but that may be caused by exhaustion or stomach ailments after chemo.

10. What message do you have for lolitas with cancer?
My message is to please keep upbeat! Im gonna try to take my own advice too. Positive thinking helps in the worst situations. Lean on your family and friends, they are there for you. Even if they don't understand they care. And don't blow up at people for asking how you're doing. People care. I know you'll be sick of saying how you are every 5 minutes.

11. Any messages for lolitas who are friends or family members of people fighting cancer?
Please be supportive. Listen. Hugs, cuddles etc. All we (I) want at this moment is a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold or an ear to listen. Let that person know you care about them often- there will be moments when they will feel all is lost and want to give up. A card or tiny nonsensical gift is nice too. Okay, material goods sounds greedy but sometimes that item us a wonder. I carry a stuffed unicorn with me to my doctors visits. It helps.

12. If there was only one specific thing you wanted readers to take away from this interview, what would that be?
Life is short. Things happen that are horrible. Let the people you love, know that you love them.

13. Anything else you'd like to add?
 I hope someone somewhere will take from this interview a bit of medical info and a bit of sparkly goodness that is me *^_^*

I am very grateful to Lauri for taking the time to answer my questions and share a little bit about herself and her situation with Teach Pretty! For anyone interested, she is currently writing a blog on her fight against stomach cancer: http://dinosaurcupcake.blogspot.com

As always, thank you for reading, and keep checking back for updates. I'm very pleased to see that I've lept from 4 to 10 followers here! Thank you very much for your support, everyone!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Lesson on Invitation Etiquette

I'd like to do a post that's a little bit different, if you don't mind. But I think that what I'll be discussing is a topic that doesn't get addressed nearly enough, and will serve as important knowledge for planning your future lolita gatherings and parties - invitation etiquette.

From Make-Your-Own-Invitations.com

Before I begin, I'd like to point out that I'm not writing this blog with the intent of putting anyone off or making people feel guilty. In fact, I'm mainly writing this while keeping a personal situation of my own in mind - one in which myself (the hostess) and the other party could have handled the situation more eloquently. Learning from my own mistakes I seek to only educate others and prevent misunderstandings from occuring in your lives!

Now, let's say you want to host a party. This party could be anything, from a birthday party, to a more intimate lolita gathering among close friends. You are the host or hostess and you have a few things to consider when figuring out who to invite to your event:

1. How many people can you have in your party?
2. Are the people you're planning to invite a good mix (aka will everyone get along? Does everyone know at least one other person attending?)
3. Where are you going and what will you be doing? (For example: going to a bar, only invite 21+ friends and fewer of them)

Once you've considered all of those factors and have a solid idea of who you'd like to have attend your gathering, the next step is invitations!

From weddingliasion.com

Many of you are quite aware that the age of paper, snail-mail invitations has been virtually dead since Facebook allowed us to "create an event", and in this day and age our entire lives are basically wired through social networkings sites. Obviously this has its ups and downs. Creating an event online is often the easiest and fastest way to get invitations out, as well as receive RSVPs, and you don't have to worry about anyone's card getting lost in the mail (in the case of weddings and other "milestone" events, a written invitation is still the more appropriate way to go). However, because we are so "wired" to the Internet, the downside of being able to create events online is that those who are not invited will find out one way or another. Facebook tries its best to counteract this by giving us the options of making "private" or "secret" events, however you have to take into consideration there will be friends of the invited party members who don't receive invitations, and photos will inevitably pop up after the event takes place.

In short, no matter what you do or which route you take with your invitations, someone's feelings will be hurt at some point. Most of us knows what it feels like to be that kid who didn't get an invitation to a birthday party or was "left out" at some point in life - it sucks, to put it bluntly. As the host or hostess, do you know how you're going to deal with those who's feelings are hurt? If you're the one who's been left out, how are you going to handle the situation? Here's my advice for both sides:

To the host/hostess:
1. Be prepared to explain your reasoning, but be kind about it. If there was a cap, explain that.
2. If someone was uninvited because of issues with someone who was invited, tread around that very carefully. In some cases the uninvited will be understanding, in other cases not so much. It depends on the person.
3. Reassure the person who wasn't invited that it's nothing personal, and when you plan your next event make sure they are included.

To the uninvited (I realize that's such a cruel sounding word but I can't think of a better one at this time >_<):
1. Take a deep breath before blowing up. If you allow yourself to blow up you will most likely say something you regret.
2. If you're concerned, talk to the host/hostess privately. Do not attack him/her, but rather ask them to explain. Most likely there will be a sound reason and no offense was meant.
3. Again, keep your cool, and try your best not to sweat it. Everything will most likely work itself out :)

Now, a word on the situation I was in, so that you can learn from my mistakes: I hosted a party recently and could only invite so many people. I tried to make sure that the people I invited would be a good mix and that there would be a few from each group of friends. I made an event on Facebook and set it as private so that it wouldn't show up publicly on anyone's page. There was one friend I did not invite because this friend lived in a different area, had a young child, and would be leaving for the military soon (or would already be gone by the time the part rolled around - I wasn't sure at the time, and hadn't talked to him in quite a while). Well, while a mutual friend who had been invited was hanging out with this friend, he found out about the party, and wondered if he was invited. When I explained that he wasn't, he got quite upset, and made a bit of a rage post on Facebook.

Now, I was in the wrong in a few ways for this. I should have allowed this person to come seeing as he happened to be in town - the handling wasn't exactly golden on my end. However, on the other side, my reasons were never asked, and if they had been this would have been a much calmer situation that would have easily been resolved. Instead of coming to me and talking to me about it, all communication was done through a third party, and angry posts were made on the Internet by this person (which then involves others who had nothing to do with the situation).

Both parties could have handled things better. I have definitely learned from my mistakes and will only improve from this point on in how I handle my own events and invitations!
Hopefully this little post has provided you with a bit of education on invitations and events as well! Good luck with your future party-plannings! :)


Monday, June 27, 2011

Letting Students In: How Much Should They Know?

Before I get into what I'd like to blog about this week, I'd like to give a special shout out to a special group of people: Team 4 from USA Summer Camp 2010!

Photo by Yuta Shinozaki

Today is the one year anniversary of our landing in Japan. I participated in a progran called USA Summer Camp, through which I spend my summer teaching Japanese students English on a team of 25 people made up of American Counselors, Japanese Counselors, and an awesome American and Japanese Director! Although most of us live pretty far apart, we try to see each other a couple times a year, and our reunions are always enjoyable! There are a few people from my team I still talk to very regularly and they've become very good friends of mine. So, Team 4, on our one year, I'd like to dedicate this blog to you! <3

All right, now on to the lolita-teacher part of this entry!

Each week in my Japanese class I try to focus one of the two lessons on something cultural, and I base it around what the students want to learn. My quietest student had a real interest in fashion in Japan, which of course was exciting for me since Japanese fashion as a whole is something I'm pretty into. So last Monday I excitedly came in to work with photos and my Gothic & Lolita Bibles, ready to do a fun and engaging lesson on the many unique fashion statements of Japan. We went over a few dfferent substyles, and we eventually came to lolita. Confidently and proudly, I told my students that I was one as well, and had been enjoying the fashion for over a year. I even showed them a photograph of myself dressed up.

Now most would think that this isn't a big deal at all - it was relevant to the lesson material, and the students were all old enough to understand and appreciate it for what it was, right? Unfortunately, though, with being a teacher we're always walking a fine line with how much of our personal lives we can allow our students to know. With lolita being as controversial as it is, I wanted to spend this blog discussing the pros and cons of letting a student know that you are a "loli sensei", as well as when it might or might not be appropriate to talk about your personal life in general (so this is good for teachers who are not lolitas, too! ;) )

Let's list off the pros and cons of "letting students in" first.

- Your students can know a bit about who you are as a human being
- You can help develop positive relationships with your students if  there are mutual interests (my quiet student turned out to love lolita and asked to borrow one of my GLBs after class)
- It makes you as the teacher appear more interesting - there's something unique about you that students can relate to and find interesting (which will help with making your lessons more successful!)

- Your interests and hobbies (in my case, the fashion) could be misunderstood and parents could be offended
- Making yourself more "human" can at times jeporadize your authority in the classroom (students might begin seeing you as more of a "friend" instead of as a teacher and a professional)
- Students, parents, and colleagues may lose respect for you and treat you differently (though I'd like to believe this is rare and only happens for more extreme cases, though for lolita this might be something serious to consider)

Looking at all of this, the points both sides make are highly valid, making it tough to determine if it's necessarily "right" or not to allow your students to know that you're a lolita.

The conclusion I've formed, therefore, is that it's entirely situational!

For me, personally, allowing my students to know I'm a lolita is acceptable. For starters, my workplace knows, so it wouldn't be a shock or surprise to my supervisors if this got back to them through student word-of-mouth. Secondly, I teach Princess Academy and last Saturday led a lolita fashion panel at Woodlawn, so I actually have the opportunity to attend work in my frills. Lastly, I was able to judge the appropriateness of telling my students through knowing who my students were - they're mature, they're genuinely interested in the topics we learn, and they're open-minded and nonjudgemental (not to mention that, again, it was relevant to the lesson plan).

I feel that my situation is a rare and golden one where I am able to be open with my students about something unusual that I enjoy and is part of who I am. Now, when I begin my district teaching job in August (yes, by the way, I am now a middle school art teacher - SURPRISE!) that will be a different story. I won't really know how the staff will react, and I don't know how mature my students would be or if there would even be a lesson where lolita fashion would be relevant (and even if it was, would it be appropriate to share that part of my life?)

Although my job at Woodlawn is just as serious as any other job, there is a bit more leeway that I'm being given in terms of teaching styles and methods. Since Woodlawn isn't an official "school" and is more an offshoot of the YMCA, I have to act professional but not to the extent that would be expected of me for teaching in a school district. So, I'm allowed to let my students in a bit more with who I am (as long as it's appropriate, of course. I'm certainly not going to tell my students about a Friday night I spent stumbling around drunk no matter WHERE I am teaching).

 Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that because you work in a super-official-teacher-district-job that you can't EVER be open with students or faculty about lolita. I have seen a couple lolita teachers who wear their outfits to class (in a more toned down manner), or are just open about what they do and enjoy. During student teaching I was able to tell one or two of my students about my interest and participation in lolita (and even anime conventions!), but I took the time to make sure those students would be mature and accepting of it. I also didn't just bring it up randomly, but rather let it come into a relevant conversation. Again, everything has to do with the situation.

But how can you tell what would be a good situation for being more open with your students in regards to your personal life? I judge by these guidelines:
- How does this class mix with you? Are you able to be more lenient with them in general, or is this a more challenging class you must be stricter with?
- Are your students mature?*
- When presenting subject matter in lessons that is new or unusual, how do your students react?
- Are your colleagues open-minded and open about their own personal lives?
- Are you established enough in your position that being (appropriately) open about your personal life would receive little to no negative reaction from colleagues/students/parents?*

(* = particularly important points to consider)

If there are a couple points where you are hesitant about your answer, then it's probably not a good idea to delve too much into the details of yourself with students. Remember that you're their teacher and not their friend, so it's not really a bad thing if they don't know you're afraid of clowns or you live alone with seven cats on day one of the school year.

Above all else, remember: it's okay to bond with your students. Just remember to bond over what's appropriate and relevant :)


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Princess Academy

I apologize for being a wee bit late with this week's entry. With the summer classes kicking off I've been quite busy getting used to the new routine.

My classes are going quite well, though, and I have absolutely no complaints. My Japanese for Teens class is a delight - with the exception of one girl all of my students are big anime/manga fans who have an interest in learning more about the language and culture. They are all very involved in class and the hour goes by like nothing! My Creative Writing class is also wonderful - five girls and one boy make up this course, and they are all very creative and sweet.

However, my one class I'd like to focus this particular entry on is Princess Academy. I've made a few mentions of it here and there on Facebook and some friends have asked questions, so I'd like to go into more detail about it here!

Photo from imagebarrel.com

Princess Academy was inspired by a thread on EGL that revolved around working children's birthday parties in lolita. Some girls said they would dress up as "princesses" and do tea parties and face painting. I got to thinking and I thought - "how neat would it be to have a class that teaches girls how to be princesses? I could dress up, they could dress up, and it would just be good, happy fun!"

I proposed the idea to my supervisors at Woodlawn. They said they'd offer it for registration but were a little hesitant at how well it would be received. This was around March. By the time I came home after graduation, and stopped in at the school, I was delighted to find out that Princess Academy was not only getting students, but it was full with a waitlist! I decided to open up a second section that would be directly after the first class, so I have 12 little princesses from 10am-11am and 6 more from 11am-12pm.

I want to keep this class as fun and imaginative as possible, so to do just that I created a princess persona to act under while I'm teaching: Princess Lillian. Lillian is just like any other "princess" - she's fun-loving and sweet with a soft, kind voice. Lillian's mother (known only as "the Queen"), has given her a special test that she must pass before she can receive her princess crown - that test is to successfully pass her knowledge of princess etiquette on to other young princesses-in-training. The benefit of this background information is to give the students a sense of purpose - they are the ones who can help Lillian get her crown by doing their best each class to be perfect ladies! ;)

What "Princess Lillian" wore to school today

Each class has a specfic schedule that I'll be following, for reaons that kids in this age range thrive on routine, and to keep things organized and keep them moving about, busy, and entertained for the full hour:
5 minutes: "The Princess Dance"
10 minutes: Story of the day
20 minutes: Activity 1 (normally something arts-and-crafts-related)
20 minutes: Activity 2 (etiquette)
5 minutes: "Every Girl Can Be a Princess"

For today's lesson, our first activity was talking about what princesses do - what do they wear? How do they act? How do they spend their day? After our discussion the girls drew their own princesses and showed them to the rest of the class. Our etiquette activity was "princess posture" - I overdramatically slouched myself over and asked, "Is this how a princess should stand?" After a chorus of enthusiastic "NO!"s erupted, I placed a book on my head and proceeded to stride about the room, demonstrating the proper princess walk and stance. I brought books for the girls to use, and they took turns walking about the room. The spectacle was quite adorable and hilarious to watch, because most of them basically held the book on top of their head as they walked, rather than trying to balance it, and to top it off, while holding said book, they'd walk very slowly, taking the littlest steps - too cute!

Photo from animegallery.com

I think my favorite thing about this class is that I'm making little girls believe that real princesses can exist, even in a town as small as the one I grew up in. Also, the fact that I'm making them believe that they too are princesses makes me feel that I'm doing great things for their self-confidence. Lastly, in a class where interaction is key, I'm happy to see that many of my students are already forming friendships with each other. :)

I am optimistic that this class will only continue to be successful and grow into something that will greatly benefit not only Woodlawn, but my own personal growth as a woman and teacher.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Photo Session and a Life Update

Greetings, blog readers!

I am very sorry I have not been updating this as often as I should be lately. With my summer classes starting next week I've been quite busy trying to figure out lesson ideas (as well as spend time with my hometown friends, of course!)

A brief life update: I still have not heard back for the part-time middle school art teacher position, but I fortunately have a phone interview tomorrow morning for an elementary school art position in the same city (also part-time). Here's hoping for the best! In the meantime, whilst hoping for a job in the Quad Cities, my lovely friend and fellow Art Education major Daun and I have been looking at apartments in the area. We both fell in love with the Moline High School Lofts, an apartment complex that was converted from an old high school. What could be better than two teachers living in an old school anyway?

I started my Japanese private lessons with my student who was continuing from my official class. It was very nice to be able to see and work with her again. We have some catching up to do since she's going to need to relearn the hiragana characters, but we started on adjectives and katakana yesterday and she's been doing well with that. I'll also now be taking on a second student for prviate lessons - the mother of the nine-year-old called me back and scheduled a time once a week for her son, which I'm very excited about!

In lolita news, I modeled for some summer photos today for my friend, Ben. In exchange for a free meal, he gave his portfolio some padding and I got a few gorgeous photos. Here are my favorites:

This coordinate is almost entirely Bodyline - the headbow, necklace, and wristcuffs are offbrand.

Working with Ben was a lot of fun! He normally shoots concert photographs, so lolita was very new to him. He basically gave me free reign over my poses and where I wanted to take pictures, which had its pros and cons (I tend to prefer a little more instruction from my photograhers, especially when they're trying to capture very specific auras). I will be doing cyberpunk fashion for Anime Iowa and will most likely commission him for that shoot since he did such a great job!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dealing with Parents: The Gifted Student and the Age Requirement Standard

Parents have got to be one of the biggest blessings and simultaneous challenges in the educational realm. As a teacher, you want to keep parents happy, but when it comes to dealing with their children, there are sometimes obstacles you have to overcome to get the parents to understand your reasons for doing things a certain way, or to even get them involved at all!

The triangle showing the influence of  relationships between parent-teacher-student. I found this on Google Image Search. I do not know who made this.

I have been working with WAA for the last couple summers and have usually been a hit with the parents - I always do my best to keep them informed. I'm friendly and love talking to them before and after classes. I want them to see that I am an involved and devoted teacher who puts their child's instructional needs above all else. Because of this, normally there are no problems. But I met with my first challenge today and it was definitely a tricky one to handle! I thought that this situation was a fantastic learning experience for myself as a new teacher, and decided to write the scenario and solution as a blog entry for other teachers to reference.

The Situation:

One of my summer classes is Japanese for Teens, which has an age limit of 13-17 (I also have an Adults class that goes for 18+). My supervisor called me a few days ago asking if I would be willing to let a nine-year-old into the teens section. I was fairly uncomfortable with the idea, despite the mother telling my supervisor that her son was very mature for his age and would be able to keep up just fine; it wasn't that I doubted the mother, it was more that I worried for the comfort level of my other students, as well as how much I'd have to alter the content of the course to make it understandable to a nine-year-old and still be interesting to a seventeen-year-old!

In the end, I told my supervisor that I did not feel comfortable taking the student, but when she talked to the mother, the mother was very upset about this. She did not understand why her son could not be an exception, especially since he is above-average intelligence (I'm not sure if he is a TAG student quite yet but some hints towards that were made) and "very mature". My supervisor recommended that I call the mother to talk the situation over with her, so of course I did just that.

Before I go into my personal solution to the situation, I'll lay out the challenge in bullet points for easy reference:
- A nine-year-old student's mother wants to register her son for a class where the earliest age accepted is thirteen.
-You as the teacher feel uncomfortable with this because of your students' comfort levels and content issues.
-Mother is upset and does not understand why her son can not be in the class if he is mature and intelligent enough to handle the content.

Pause and Reflect: before reading my solution, how would you handle the situation? What would you say to the mother? If you'd like, leave your solutation in the comments section and compare to the one I provide!

The Solution:

I called the mother of the nine-year-old student and began by introducing myself and stating my purpose. I said that I had called to talk to her about her concerns over the Japanese for Teens class so that she could understand my perspective and we could reach a solution that would benefit her son. I was very calm and even-toned, even going so far as to make sure my voice sounded cheerful and optimistic to ease the tension. I listened to the mother as she expressed her upsets to me and waited for her to allow me to speak. When I spoke, I started by saying that it is my top priority to make sure each and every one of my students gets the most out of my classes. I said that I want to give her son the best education possible, but that I did not think that it would be the best environment for him because it might make the older students uncomfortable to be in a class with a student so young. I said that that sort of discomfort could hinder their learning experience, as well as his. Explaining it this way really helped to calm the mother and understand things from a new perspective.

I continued by telling the mother I had no doubt that her son was very intelligent, and that I wanted to make sure he got the challenge he needed. Although I couldn't allow him into my class, I offered to give private lessons. Private lessons, I explained, would cost more, but it would allow her son to have plenty of one-on-one attention, the progression could go entirely at his pace, and the content could be focused around what he wanted to learn.

The Outcome

The mother was in much better spirits after we talked. She told me she would talk about private lessons with her husband, although she was still a bit disappointed there wasn't a chance her son could be allowed into the teens section.

Even though her son couldn't be included in the teens section of my Japanese class, the lesson that should be taken from this is that the mother was grateful to speak with me and a positive bond between teacher and parent was formed - a bond that is key to being a successful and outstanding teacher!

I hope this scenario proves useful to you fellow lolita (and non!) educators in the future.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts of Guidance

Every lolita, at one point in her frilly lifetime, was new. Maybe she was the type of new lolita who was patient, took her time, researched the fashion, and proceeded with caution. She took criticism with grace and spent countless amounts of time and effort in perfecting her look. On the opposite end, maybe she was over-excited, rushed in without spending much time lurking EGL or doing proper research, and made a few poor first coordinates. But over time made herself better, investing that same amount of energy.

No matter what type of new lolita you were, the fact is, at some point you WERE. A good majority of you probably went through what's known as an "ita phase". "Ita" comes from the Japanese word "ittai", which means "painful". The term "ita", therefore, refers to an (often) inexperienced lolita who is painful to the eyes, most likely due to poorly put-together outfits, and poor quality in those outfits. Some of the most common ita mistakes are also lack of proper petticoat and undone hair and makeup. Keep in mind, there are some who never leave the ita phase. The following is a photo of myself when I was in my own ita phase, just to give you a visual reference (fair warning, it's not pretty - that's why it's ita):

Now, why am I giving you so much information on the ita (and this is probably basic information most lolita viewers already know)? Well, for starters, to educate those reading this blog who might not exactly know lolita terminology. The main reason for this intro, though, is to segway into what I'd really like to talk about with this entry: the dos and don'ts of guiding new lolitas out of their ita phases.

Unfornutaley many girls who are interested in getting into lolita are turned off by people who may not exactly be the kindest to those in their ita phase. I myself had a bad experience when I was getting started, but instead of rambling about myself I decided to ask experiences lolis around me to share their horror stories (as well as their advice!) - I asked them, when they were starting, if there was anyone who discouraged them or put them down for being ita. A couple of the responses I got were heartbreaking, but I was relieved to hear there was at least a happy ending:

"I went alone [to a lolita picnic]. I wore a long sleeved black Bodyline OP with black boots. I know my mistakes: no petticoat or bloomers, etc etc. It was my very first attempt at Lolita and I had no loli friends to help me with concrit. So here I am, alone and a girl comes up to me and out right flames me! Asks me how much brand I own. None. She tells me my outfit is terrible and I will never be up to Lolita standards only wearing bodyline. I was crushed. Really thought about leaving the fashion but I met other girls who told me I looked cute, what sites to look at etc and it changed my view of Lolita and the comm in general."

"When I was first in to the fashion, I started by shopping around at ACen. I found a booth with cute petticoats. I was looking at them, and the "Large" looked to be around 32". I asked if she had anything bigger, and she literally looked me up and down, snorted, and said "Tch, we don't make clothes for fat people." I was heart broken. It was like telling me that Lolita was not for plus sized girls. I eventually met a few other girls selling things of a Lolita nature who really helped me feel better, and now I make Lolita clothing specializing in Plus sizes. I don't want any girl to think they're "too fat" for Lolita."

The fact that horror stories like these even exist is rather disappointing. No, I don't think all lolitas are required to be tea-sipping bags of sugary sweetness, but when we go out in public as lolitas, we are projecting an image and we are giving ourselves a reputation. Unfortunately, the lolita community has gotten itself a reputation of being mean and judgemental. I don't think this viewpoint is entirely fair, because I've met many very nice women in this fashion (some have even become my close friends!), but sometimes a loud minority gets the most attention. I didn't think the rumored reputation of the community as a whole was the sole reason for why new girls could have such bad experiences. So, I asked the lolitas I interviewed why they think new girls get so discouraged right away - one had this to say:

"Sometimes the criticism can get very personal, and go into namecallling, attacking the person's appearance rather than criticizing their clothing choices, etc. Some people are just very sensitive, and just can't take hearing it at all...But you can't really wear clothes that make you stand out as much as lolita unless you have a thick skin and don't take criticism personally."

I really liked the insight this young woman provided, and I liked the subject it revolved around: criticism. Criticism is at the heart of where bad experiences in lolita tend to begin  Some people can take it, and some can't. I myself was very sensitive when I began dressing in lolita, but I learned from my early mistakes and learned to toughen myself and take criticism with a grain of salt if it wasn't necessarily constructive or kind (and thank goodness I did because I would've had some serious moments of rage during student teaching otherwise).

I have this advice to offer for you new lolitas in regards to guidance:
1. Accept criticism with grace and kindness.
2. Keep in mind: most criticism is given to help you improve.
3. Do not ask for constructive criticism if you do not wish to receive it.
4. Even if you do not ask for it and still receive it, #1 applies.
5. Take the advice others give and apply it - who knows, maybe you'll like the change!
6. If the criticism is negative or discouraging, do not allow it to discourage you!
7. Learn from your mistakes because we all make them. Even women who have been lolitas for years make mistakes.

Now, to you frilly veternas: no one is perfect. We all at some point have probably said something that could have been worded more kindly, we could have been more patient, and we could have held our tongues entirely and chose not to. I had an instance once where I was helping a friend who was looking at purchasing her first lolita piece. She showed me a dress on Bodyline that wasn't exactly the best looking piece she could have picked. I wasn't kind nor a good role-model when I responded with, "Do you know what ita is? Because that's it right there" instead of ,"I don't think that's the best choice for you. Maybe I can help you find something that will work with you and make you look even better!" Even after apologizing for my rudeness, I still feel bad - a teacher shouldn't talk that way to a student (let alone a friend to a friend!)

In regards to providing guidance, here is my advice:
1. Constructive criticism should be constructive.
2. Don't make criticism personal.
3. Use the sandwhich technique: something you like, something that needs improvement, something you like.
4. Think before you speak - there might be a kinder way to word things.
5. Be patient, even when it's hard, and allow new girls to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn!
6. If you are ever too harsh or discouraging, apologize.
7. New girls see you as a role model - be one for them. You don't have to hold their hand through everything, but you can answer questions here and there when you have time.

I hope that these simple dos and don'ts of guiding new lolitas was helpful to all of you! New lolitas look to the experiences to be teachers and guides - be the best lolita teacher you can be!


Friday, May 27, 2011

Plagarism in Lolita: a Teacher's Perspective on Milanoo and the Replica Debates

A recent post on EGL inspired me to write about this, and it happened to be a post talking about how the infamous Milanoo company is now using its own product photos in advertising (you can read the original post here: http://egl.livejournal.com/17350082.html#cutid1).

About Milanoo
Now, for those of you who are unaware of the Milanoo drama, Milanoo is a Chinese wholesale company that sells a wide variety of products: wedding dresses, zentai suits, cosplays, and lolita fashion. This company also sells these clothes at suspiciously low (we're talking "too-good-to-be-true") prices - the average lolita JSK looks to be around $70 (for reference, a brand-name JSK runs anywhere between $130-$250 on average). Now, what makes Milanoo an absolute no-no for lolitas everywhere is that they have established themselves as scammers in the community. They steal stock photos of brand clothing and photoshop their own background into the image, making it look distorted and wonky. The following is an example of a stock image from FanplusFriend, a company that produces lolita clothing inspired by brand designs (note: inspired =/= stolen), and the stolen Milanoo image:

Original JSK from FanplusFriend (photo taken from FanplusFriend.com)

Milanoo image - stolen FanplusFriend stock photo (from milanoo.com)

Looks just a bit suspicious, doesn't it? Don't worry, the fun doesn't end there! Milanoo also is known to create sock puppet accounts that post false positive reviews of the site (luckily they are easy to target for poor English). It wasn't long before EGL caught on to Milanoo's deceitful business practices and signed a massive boycott petition against the company.

Why it's Plagarism
Well, as if stealing stock images from both high quality brands (Baby, Angelic Pretty, etc) and lesser brands (FanplusFriend, Bodyline) wasn't enough, the deceitful business practices such as sockpuppet accounts surely are the icing on the cupcake.

From the Perspective of a Teacher
From the perspective of a teacher, the Milanoo ordeal makes me sick inside. This is no different than plagarizing sources for a research paper, but to worsen the blow it's like the "student" not only plagarized research, but went the extra mile to make up his/her OWN research sources to quote for extra padding (or maybe that's because there weren't enough legitimate sources that supported the "student's" case in the first place, eh Milanoo?)

The Replica Debate
Now, this is a topic in the lolita community that has been beaten and revisted multiple times: replicas - are they products of theft that should be boycotted, or are they valued opportunities for the lolita on a budget?

The heat of the replica debate seemed to kick off via Dream of Lolita, a Chinese store on TaoBao (the Chinese equivalent to Amazon) that takes the prints off of brand designs and makes cheaper lolita clothing from them. Recently one of the hot replicas has been Sugary Carnival, a print by Angelic Pretty:

 Original Sugary Carnival by AP (photo from hellolace.net)

Sugary Carnival replica by Dream of Lolita (photo taken from CLOBBAONLINE)

As you can see, the print design of the replica has been taken piece-by-piece from the original Angelic Pretty print, but it's not hard to notice that the dress is made from materials that are not as high-quality as the original Sugary Carnival. Regardless, many who are opposed to replicas argue that stealing every bit of print (including the Angelic Pretty logo), is plagarism and art theft.

Why It's Plagarism
The anti-replica community is right in this regard - stealing a print without making any modifications to it is indeed art theft and a form of plagarism. However, what sets Dream of Lolita worlds apart from Milanoo is that this company takes photos of its own work, and does not create fake accounts that praise the comapny's work.

From the Perspective of a Teacher
As a teacher (specifically an ART teacher), the replica debate is a challenge. I see the good and the bad in them. The good points are that replicas allow highly desired prints that may be out of stock or very highly priced to be available to more people. Another plus is that unlike brands, Dream of Lolita can do custom sizing, meaning that the plus-sized lolita community can comfortably fit into a dress with a print they adore. But then there is still the matter of art theft, which is, well, wrong. With these contradictory feelings going on, I had to sort through them (especially since I preordered the replica of Vampire Requiem!) and figure out where exactly I stood in this. This is the conclusion I came to:

I'm sure at one point in a class you were given the situation: "A man's wife is very ill, and she needs a specific type of medicine. The medicine is unreasonably expensive and insurance won't cover it. The man loves his wife very much, so he steals the medicine to save her life. Should the man go to jail?" Now, let's change things around a little: "There's a print a lolita desires, but this print is very expensive. Not only is it expensive, the dress will not fit her measurements. A company makes replicas of this dress that will fit the lolita and be affordable, however the print designs are stolen. Should the company be boycotted?"

**Special Note**: In no way am I saying human life is on par with niche fashion - I'm more or less using the first scenario as an example that is commonly used for ethical debates.

My Conclusion
From looking at the replica issue in this way, I was able to conclude that yes, stealing is wrong, but the type of stealing that was done made something available to more people, therefore more people can be happy. On the other side, Milanoo stole stock photos and claimed them as their own. They did not feature photos of their original products, replica or no, for the longest time, and sent people products that barely passed for costume quality. THAT is out-and-out wrong, whereas there's a bit more grey area in the Dream of Lolita replicas, which is probably why there is so much debate about it at all. In fact there is so much grey area that this more-or-less becomes an issue about personal opinion. I certainly believe "to each their own", and I don't look down upon those who are anti-replica, because I certainly understand their reasonings and rights to their opinion; it's just a challenging situation overall.

A Lesson Plan Can Come of This!
Since art theft is a topic that was brought up in this blog, I'd like to briefly mention that replicas can easily become a lesson in the classroom (this mainly applies to visual art but could probably be tweaked to fit other subject areas). When I was student teaching, as a project I had my painting students actually replicate some of my fractal designs in order to practice color mixing and matching as well as shading. Through this project I was able to give my students a mini lesson on copyright and art theft by explaining that I gave them permission to use my work, so it's okay, but it's considered theft to take something without the permission of the original artist. Feel free to use this idea in your own classroom and even take it a step further and pose the "Is it ethical if...?" questions that I had to pose to myself!

Hopefully this particular blog educated you on some debates and issues within lolita fashion, as well as inspired some lesson planning!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Graduation Day - A New Chapter Begins!

Sunday the 22nd was my college graduation ceremony. Although it was a rather strange day, sitting for two hours in uncomfortably close quarters between two girls I didn't know, surrounded by over 5,000 graduate family members, it was a day that marks an important transition in my life. I walked across that stage when my name was called, and was handed a diploma case. I shook hands with the college president, had my photo taken, and then walked back to my chair with the realization that my life would now change. No longer am I a college student, but now I am officially a "grown up", off to bigger and better things - off to begin my career, and up to my elbows in debt no less!

The scary thing about graduating college is that it marks the beginning of a chapter where everything is uncertain. When we graduate high school, we know certain factors will remain the same. We know that most likely we will still see our close friends, because we are all from the same hometown. We also know that we are either going to go to college, or go into the workforce. We also know that *most* of us will still have our families to support us. College graduation is another story - I don't know if I will see many of my friends again apart from occassional Facebook chatting. I also don't know where I will end up, or when I will get a job. Lastly, while I'm lucky and grateful that my family is willing to continue supporting me until said job comes along, I know many college graduates might be feeling the pressure to leave home right away and no longer be a "financial burden" unto their parents. I didn't cry at my graduation ceremony but I certainly cried when I was alone in my room afterwards, because I am genuinely afraid of all these uncertainties. But, I know I'm one of 700+ students in my graduating class who is going through the exact same thing.

 Yours truly in cap and gown
 Can you see the little bit of concern for the future there? ;)
Where my graduation ceremony took place

However, I'm hoping that the uncertainty doesn't have to last for too much longer! Last Friday I had an interview in Davenport, IA to teach middle school art part-time. It wouldn't be the most high-paying job in the world, and I'm not entirely sure what I'd do in the summer to make sure the bills are paid, but I do know that it would be a job and that's more than 85% of my graduating class would have at this point. I will find out whether or not I got the job on Friday. Please keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer that everything will work out the way it's supposed to!

I guess, though, even if I don't get this particular job all hope isn't lost! I will be teaching summer classes at Woodlawn Arts Academy in Sterling, and I'm very excited to blog about them. I will be teaching three sections of Japanese: one for teens, one for adults, and one private tutoring session to two young women who have already taken my Japanese for teens course. I will also be teaching creative writing for 10-13 year-olds, and hosting two seminar sessions on lolita fashion. But my big class that I am especially looking forward to is Princess Academy (a seperate blog entry on what Princess Academy is will be written at another time).

So although the future is uncertain, my bank account is tight, and I'm worried about what might be coming, I am trying to look towards the unknown with hope and excitement. I am now an educated lolita teacher, ready to go forth and leave my mark on the world!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Product Review: John Frieda Precision Foam Colour

Seeing as my college graduation ceremony is tomorrow I figured my hair could use a color boost. I've decided to review the product I used here because haircare is something that matters in both the lolita and educational realms. In regards to lolita, hair is simply part of the package deal - you want it to look nice, and if you color your hair and choose not to wear wigs you want something that will go with your style. With being a teacher you want to keep yourself looking clean and well put-together (again, it's really just part of the package).

This was my first time trying out this coloring product. I used John Frieda Precision Foam Colour in 3VR (Deep Cherry Brown). I purchased this from my local Wal*Mart for about $12, placing it as one of the more expensive hair coloring products Wal*Mart had to offer (I'm sure you could find this at Sally's or another beauty supply store too).

The box came with the colourant, developer, conditioner, foamer, instructions, and gloves - so the standard box-hair-dye package. What was different about this product, however, was that the dye came out as foam rather than liquid.

Using foam over the normal liquid hair-dye was interesting. I liked it in that it was easy to get everything covered, but not having the standard dye bottle with the fine tip for sectioning made it hard to cover areas without getting dye on the skin (such as around the ears). The instructions were pretty straight forward and easy to follow. I liked that there were photographs instead of just written instructions, so if you're a visual person such as myself you'll probably find these more user-friendly as well.

Mixing the developer and color was also different from the norm, in that you don't shake the bottle but rather tilt it back and forth a few times (the instructions don't recommend more than 5 to keep the foam from getting too liquidy). After the dye is mixed you place the foamer on top and squeeze the sides of the bottle to release the foam - pretty straight-forward and easy and figure out, just different.

You only have to let the dye sit in your hair for 20 minutes, but I normally do 30 just to be safe. This was the end result:

Overall, I don't think it turned out half bad! I like the end result and the process was a bit easier than the standard coloring routine. I would recommend this product, just prepare to have your ears turned whatever color you're using (unless you're quite skilled with foam).

As a final hair tip, I use this product to help keep the color longer:

Tiger Protein Reconstructor costs about $30 and can be found in a general hair salon; it's pricey but trust me, it's worth it, especially if you use red coloring. Using Tiger will keep your color longer and and will help keep it very healthy if you are someone who dyes their hair frequently.

Got a favorite coloring product that you swear by? Please comment and let the world know!


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Obligatory Introduction Post

Greetings to all who may stumble across this, and heaven forbid - read this of their own free will!

I'd like to introduce myself, as I feel that introductions are the proper thing to do in a first blog post. Although those who already know me will recognize my identity through the outfit photos and such I will be posting on this blog, the rest of the world can know me as Loli-Sensei. Or, if you happen to frequent LiveJournal, you might also know me as Esperella. I am choosing to write as Loli-Sensei on this particular blog, because I am a lolita as well as a teacher, and this is what this blog is about - being a lolita, and a teacher (ta-da!)

I wanted to start a blog about this because I know that there are many lolita teachers out there, however I haven't seen any blogs about this existence between two worlds, and I feel like just maybe I could give some good insight into what this existence is all about. I don't want to bore you all with day-to-day drab and nonsense. I'd like to talk about real issues that I face in the education world, such as:

budget cuts
classroom management
lesson planning
community events

And I'd also like to look at issues that I face in the lolita world:

new print releases
hair/makeup tutorials
outfit posts
purchase reviews
public reactions

Of course, I believe that my topics should also be influenced by what people want to read about. So your suggestions and questions are always welcome! You can email them to me at teachpretty@gmail.com. Just put in the subject "Blog Topic", so that I know not to delete it.

Now, I'd like to spend the rest of this post telling you a little more about myself and what I am currently doing. I've been wearing lolita for over one year - I will never claim to be an "expert" on the fashion, or the "best" lolita in existence, because there are many young women out there who have been doing this for far longer. But, after a year I've gone through and come out of my "ita phase", found what styles work best for me, and have made and learned from all of the classic newbie mistakes so that I can better educate those interested in taking the plunge into lolifying their wardrobes. I do take lolita seriously - while I respect it as a hobby and something to have fun with, I recognize that it is something that takes a lot of time, and a lot of money. I would never recommend someone to begin being lolita unless they completely understood the investment, an investment that is to the self.

What gives me the greatest joy about lolita is that it has helped me learn to take better time in making my appearance in and out of the fashion a priority, and it has helped me learn to better coordinate my mainstream and professional attire while giving me a boost in self confidence (you need it to go out in public looking like you hopped right out of a fairy tale book) and a pride in a hobby that is not entirely well-known in America.

In two days, I will be receiving my BA in Art Education, which is extremely exciting! Art has always been something I've been very passionate about. As a small side-job I design fractal posters to sell, and I love digital photography - portraits and nature photos particularly. Here are a couple samples of my work:

 In case the watermark didn't give it away, the studio name I work under is "New Era Artwork". I have a Facebook fanpage you can find and "like", if you wish.

But hand-in-hand with my passion for art is my love of teaching children to appreciate art and find a new way to express themselves creatively and safely. Although I am certified to teach K-12 Art, I would love to eventually obtain a K-5 job, since the younger crowd is where I shine the most. Today I actually interviewed for a part-time art teaching job at an intermediate school in the town over from where I went to college, which is great because this happens to be the same district I student taught in. I will know by next week whether or not I got the job and will be moving to Iowa!

I feel that this has probably sufficed in terms of introductions. I hope you continue to check back for more updates. But of course, before I close out for the evening, I'll present you with an outfit post:

This is what I wore yesterday - a more "artsy" take on classic lolita in attempt to bring good vibes my way before the job interview that was this afternoon. My friend took me to Panera to celebrate being done with college; it was quite nice! The skirt is from Bodyline (great quality, by the way), but the rest of the outfit is offbrand.

Thank you for reading! I hope you check back in the future and follow Teach Pretty to hear more about the life of a wacky lolita teacher!