The Petite Philosopher
Some kids might be embarrassed to show up to class wearing the same thing as their teacher. I, on the other hand, was secretly pleased when it happened. The piece in question? A dark turquoise three quarter sleeve knit from H&M.
The year was 2008. It was her first year of teaching and my first year of high school. Back then, I called her Ms. Plourde. From day one, I always thought she was so hip and fun. (I mean, her favourite book is Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan.) She taught me Canadian History, World Religions, and "Challenge & Change in Society." Lessons took a modern, nuanced approach. Keynote was her application of choice (not Powerpoint), her Walrus license plate was a Beatles reference, and she had a flair for the dramatic
"I'd like to think I'm an eclectic person," Ms. Plourde said. Indeed, I remember she was the only teacher who didn't reprimand me for attempting to wear a different coloured jacket on our school trip to Vimy Ridge.
Ten years later, we are on a first name basis … and both of our styles have evolved. (I even had the privilege of attending her wedding at the Capitol Theatre to a man she describes as her supportive and creative best friend.) At the risk of sounding cheesy, because I've been acquainted with this wonderful educator since my formative teen years, I can honestly say that her relationship has inspired me to never settle for a partner who won't encourage my sartorial endeavours!
I am thrilled to share this interview with Vanessa of The Petite Philosopher.
RS: I have fond memories of the Clown Club you started in high school. We wore red noses to raise money for Fools for Health. Your family was very involved in community theatre? Can you give us a little info on your drama background in Windsor?
VP: I pursued a university degree in Drama in Education and Community, which linked my love of drama and my ambition to become a teacher. I do not currently teach drama, but I implement it into my social science lessons. I tend to be on the left of the political spectrum. In the past it led me to start a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at the high school I teach at. It also inspired me to include social justice themes in my history and philosophy lesson plans.
RS: Your classroom was always very distinct…
VP: I tend to dwell in cluttered spaces. I'm not an extreme hoarder, but walking into either my home or classroom, you can clearly see I like to collect stuff. I find the stuff I surround myself with (records, books, etc.) reflects my personality.
RS: Who are some of your favourite artists?
VP: My favourite film directors are Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson. My favourite fine artists are Mucha, Klimt, Dali, and Warhol. And favourite bands/musicians? The Beatles, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground, Smashing Pumpkins, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Parquet Courts, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Protomartyr, Fever Ray, Elliott Smith, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Cure, LCD Soundsystem, Washed Out, Destroyer...
RS: You've been to a lot of concerts in your day! You piqued your students' interest in Detroit. Can you give us some Motor City recommendations?
VP: Detroit is an amazing city filled with hidden gems. I recommend the Detroit Institute of Arts, Hitsville USA (Motown Museum), the Detroit Public Library, Eastern Market, and Mexican Town. In Detroit though, it’s been all about the food lately.
My favourite restaurants include the following:
Wright & Co., Takoi, Ima, Selden Standard, Sugar House, Taqueria El Rey, Imperial, Grey Ghost, Motor City Brewing Works, Slows, Republic, The Peterboro, Lafayette Coney Island, Gold Cash Gold, Batch Brewing Co., Ottava Via, Johnny Noodle King, and Flowers of Vietnam.
RS: Thanks! (My mouth is watering.) So how did you start The Petite Philosopher?
VP: About two years ago a colleague of mine suggested I start a blog. She told me a lot of people admire my fashion choices and that a blog would be a great way to let people know where I purchased my clothes. I didn't want it to be just about fashion, so I incorporated another passion of mine, philosophy. I tend to think a lot (maybe too much?) and I thought blogging would be a great way for me to articulate all the random things that go on inside my brain.
RS: What's a day in your life like?
VP: From Monday to Friday, my days are very routine. I get up in the morning, shower, pack my lunch, eat a protein bar, and head to work. Every semester my teaching schedule changes. After school I like to relax, exercise, and hang out with my husband. Together we cook, watch TV, listen to music, and attend concerts. I'm happiest when I'm with my husband, whether it's relaxing or spending a day together in Detroit.
RS: Something that people never believe when you tell them?
VP: I think people are surprised to find out I don't know how to ride a bicycle! I also think people would be surprised to learn that I lack self confidence even though my blog is full of pictures of me.
RS: What gets you down?
VP: I feel frustrated with myself on a daily basis when it comes to my diet/eating habits. It frustrates me that I feel guilty when I overindulge. I tend to be very hard on myself, so I can feel down too easily. A lack of appreciation from my students, or the lack of acknowledgement from my principal can be upsetting. I need to learn that it isn't necessary for me to receive praise from others in order to be happy. To get out of a funk, I need to travel. A change in scenery can do wonders.
RS: Let's talk about death for a minute.
VP: The thought of my consciousness no longer existing freaks me out. The philosophers that have impacted me the most are Bertrand Russell and Albert Camus. When I read their works there’s a bit on confirmation bias on my part, but I find they are able to best articulate the thoughts that tend to simmer in my brain. I have an existential crisis every day, and both philosophers allow me to come to terms with my own existence and eventual death.
RS: We don't often associate fashionistas with powerlifting… I love that about you.
VP: I want to keep up with my powerlifting, that I know for sure. I guess I'm always just working on accepting myself more. When putting together an outfit, I want it to be a true representation of me. I want to feel good wearing it. I want to feel confident in it. I tend to be more attracted to bold colours and patterns.
RS: What are your main challenges with blogging?
VP: The main challenge is trying to produce something unique and authentic. In a world full of copy cats and "influencers," a lot of the popular bloggers look the same. I want to be different, and I want to be true to myself. I'd rather the people who read my blog be real than paid for. I don't want to cheat the system. For those wanting to start a blog, I say go for it. Whether you have 200 followers or 200k, do it for you; let it be YOUR creative outlet.
RS: How do you balance being a social media influencer, if you will, with your career as a high school teacher?
VP: It can be challenging. I find that sometimes teachers are held to an unrealistic standard in terms of having to be perfect flawless people. The reality is, however, that we’re human just like everyone else. So, I try my best to be as real as possible, but I have to sometimes be cautious about what I post and whether or not it fits into the professional standards of educators. For example, I posted a picture of me in a bikini on Instagram, and shortly afterwards I questioned whether or not it was appropriate. In the end I kept the post because I thought about a rule I once set for myself - don’t post anything I wouldn’t mind seeing on the front page of the newspaper. It was just a picture of myself and I wasn’t engaged in anything illegal, dangerous, harmful, or offensive. I think some teachers prefer to shield their private lives from their students. I support their decisions, but I want to be as authentic as possible.
And authentic she is.
Read more about Vanessa's sartorial & travel choices @ thepetitephilosopher.com.