Wednesday, September 29, 2010

At our inservice last week, the conversation turned to that of teacher dress. Apparently, some people - staff, community members, board members - had made comments to the adminstration about the overly casual dress of some of our teaching staff.

I admit to being as guilty as the next of tossing on a paper of not-too-wrinkly khakis and a polo on many too many mornings. Corduroys tend to be my pant of choice on cooler days. I much prefer to toss on something snuggly and comfy, to high heels and a skirt.

The discussion continued with different people citing their reasons for their own frequent casual dress being everything to health reasons, to comfort levels, to not insulting parents. No one ventured to comment advocating we SHOULD dress more professionally as a group.

When I was in college, one of my education professors lectured us on our professionalism - everything from our dress (NO DENIM EVER) to not hanging out in the teachers' lounge bashing parents and adminstrators to the appearance of our desk/classroom. To this day, her words echo in my head when I pull on my jeans on Jeans Friday. On days I slip into a blazer and a skirt, I see her smile at me.

Do our students CARE what we wear? Do they learn better just because we dress up or down? The latter, I am not so sure... but the first question? I think they do notice. A young lady once complimented me, saying, "You always look nice, like being here at school is important."

When I was a teenager, it was the rage to wear your casual clothes, jeans especially, to church. My mother was appalled. She admitted God didn't likely care what I wore, but pointed out if I wasn't going to value church enough to wear my very best clothes there, when was more important than church to wear them.

To me, school, my job, my professional appearance, reflects how I think about myself and my job. If I dress the part, I feel the part, and I tend to more walk the walk that day.

I do teach in an impoversished area, where parents tend to dress casually, often in what most teachers would toss in the dumpster, stained, worn, ripped. But, that is all they have. I don't think they are offended by their child's teachers wearing respectable, PROFESSIONAL clothing. When they go to their doctor, their lawyer, the bank, the insurance office, etc... they see professionals wearing professional attire. I think they expect us to also dress the part. Parents view teachers in this community as well paid (and compared to Average Joe, we are), educated and a notch 'above'. Wearing clothes that make us look that part would not be insulting, but rather expected.

I don't think teachers need a tie, high heels, or fancy duds, to be effective. We need to be comfortable, able to move, walk, stand, bend, move. We need to be active among our students, and wear clothing that does not hamper our abilities to do that.

But on the other hand, would it be so terrible to show up looking as if SCHOOL IS IMPORTANT TO US? Perception IS reality, and I want students and parents to look at me, my actions as well as my attire, and think, "Mrs. George looks and acts the part of a teacher."

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