Ode to the Sweater Vest

I’m wearing a sweater vest today. A grey one.

I’ve had this sweater vest for many moons. Many suns too. A long time.

I wore this sweater vest when I was a high school English teacher. I wore it as a doctoral student. Now I’m wearing it as a professor. English teachers, doctoral students, and professors strike me as the sorts of people who wear sweater vests. Particular versions of these people, anyway.

Wearing a sweater vest always felt like putting on a costume. A silly, white, middle-class costume. So I’m wearing a silly costume this morning.

You’d think this sweater vest would have holes in it by now. Nope. It’s durable. It’s whole. Like me. Like me career as an English teacher, doctoral student, and professor. I’ve seen all sorts of things in those roles that could unravel a person, let alone a sweater. Unravel a career. Not me. I’m hearty. A survivor. Like this sweater vest.

This ancient sweater vest is not alone in my wardrobe. I’ve got relics in my closet that would blow your mind. Outfits that were hip as all get out in 2006. Sadly, it’s 2023. My days of setting trends are likely in the rearview mirror. My days of caring about fashion trends are certainly in the rearview mirror. I’d rather be comfortable. And something about this sweater vest, this silly costume, gives me comfort.


And I need some comfort this morning.

The boys are back in school. I’ve got a slate of meetings on my calendar. Classes start up again next week. I’m after some comfort as I stumble forward into the Spring 2023 semester at the prestigious University of Iowa (go Hawks). Another academic cycle begins.

This grey sweater vests has seen me through all sorts of academic cycles. Creating seating charts. Drafting syllabi. Destroying large swathes of the Amazonian rainforests as I stand at ancient copiers. Buying all the playing cards that Target has in service of my opening activity about building card houses (the opening activity that opens this book.) Learning names and making sense of the vibe of groups of students. These are games I’ve played at length. Still playing them in my early forties. Durable like this sweater vest.

I suspect this coming semester will be easier than the last semester. Knock on wood. Knock on a sweater vest. I’ve got a much stronger sense of where I’m at now. Improvisers should listen deeply to what’s going on before they join a scene. The same way jazz musicians should understand the melody before they add to it. The same way teachers should to understand the cultures they find themselves in before their pedagogy really starts to sing. So here’s hoping my pedagogy sings this semester. At the very least, I’m hoping to be a little more in tune.

Not only my pedagogy. My writing too. My parenting. My husbanding. My work-life-balancing. My video-gaming. My going-for-runs-in-the-morning-ingy. My Iowa-ing. Looking to be a little more in tune. Maybe this sweater vest can help? It sure is comfortable.


Ode is the sort of word that a person wearing a sweater vest might use. So let this short blog by an ode to my grey sweater vest. Not to be confused with a grecian urn. I’m certainly not to be confused with John Keats. That was a real English major move I just made there. Shall I measure my life with coffee spoons? Or maybe sweater vests?

Anyway, I look good today. That’s all I’m trying to write.

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