Sunday, April 3, 2016

... dressing up at work, stereotypes in literature, and teachers...

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child.
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.”

~ Shel Silverstein

To write that it’s been a busy week seems like an understatement especially since I’m at work this weekend and won’t go home until Tuesday evening. To many this might sound like a drag but I actually volunteered to do this; and, I’m not getting paid anything extra.

My university, like many, hosts various youth programs. This weekend is a reading competition for middle school students. This summer marks the tenth year I’ve been at my university. Before that, I was a teacher. I taught both high school and middle school students. While I’m childfree by choice, I think kids are pretty darn amazing. They know how to have fun! Sadly, some adults do not… but I do (wink!) 

This weekend, I’m one of the judges for the competition so I decided (because I had the dress in my closet) to dress up like Mrs. Jeepers, the Transylvanian teacher who begins teaching at the Bailey School in the book Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots.

blurry as always :p 
Mrs. Jeepers is considered weird because she’s moved into the Clancy estate which appears to be a Victorian Queen Anne style home that is a bit run-down. She wears a bat bracelet that her late-husband gave her and a bright green brooch that she continually rubs. I find Mrs. Jeepers interesting. I loved having teachers who were not like everyone else... the ones who dressed a bit differently and who did not seem to care when they were perceived as odd. In fact, those teachers were always my favorite. They didn't follow the undocumented rules of fashion or style; they didn't follow everyone else's taste in literature or music. Those were the teachers who broadened my understanding of people, and those were the teachers who helped me find my own authentic self. They taught me that anything is possible. 

We know that Mrs. Jeepers' family was “forced to leave” the Transylvanian Alps (Dadey & Jones 11); and, that when asked if she lives alone, she looks at the large wooden box (presumably a coffin) and answers, “Well, not exactly alone. But it is quiet most of the time” (18). In chapter 12, we even discover that she's allergic to garlic. 

Mrs. Jeepers also has the power to either hypnotize her students or simply control them. And while the book does have Mrs. Jeepers wearing black at times, she arguably cannot be a vampire because she shows up in a pink dress with polka dots. Hey there, stereotype much?!?

In fact, the only real part of Mrs. Jeepers' personality is that she reveals that she gets lonely at times (18). 

As a literary critic, I could go on and on about the pejorative stereotypes of Romanians and our fear of *foreigners* but this book, like so many others, is simply reproducing Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It's also reproducing our culture's gender stereotypes, especially when it comes to stereotypes about females without children and the professions they're allowed to pursue. If Mrs. Jeepers wasn't a vampire, she would probably be a (gasp) witch. Oh, and the two are lumped together when the character Howie finds a book titled, Vampires and Witches:The True Story, in his public library. Yay for kids going to the library and doing some research but come on! 

Nevertheless, today I don my bat earrings, coffin brooch, and a bright green pendant along with my own polka dot dress to channel my inner Mrs. Jeepers. While the book doesn't present the character in the best light, I believe that Mrs. Jeepers has an interesting story that isn't revealed. Perhaps I'll write an unauthorized sequel ;) 


  1. All I say is I wish I`d had teachers like you and Mrs Jeepers. and leave it at that!

  2. Sounds like fun!! If you DO write that sequel, I want to be a proofreader, okay? Pleeeeaaazzzz??? ;-)

    1. I really should write one... hmmm. Ha, of course you can be my proofreader!

  3. Replies
    1. Ha ha, thanks! I like how that reads a bit ominous :p

  4. Loved this post! That competition and working at it sounds really interesting. :) And I really like your analysis about the "Vampires don't wear polka dots", I have not read it and now I really want to read more children's books!

    1. Overall, it isn't THE BEST children's book but I have to say that I like how it ends not revealing if Mrs. Jeepers is or isn't a vampire. It also isn't clear if her husband or if she rests in the coffin that the children try to open... see, now I'm liking it more just picking it apart :p

  5. I love people like Mrs J! Ever since I was a kid the eccentric have inspired me! Go you!

    1. Ha ha, thanks! Yep, me too. I like when people are their own freaky selves!