Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Should I Dress?

workIn Professional Dress For Teachers – Sending an Important Message from Tips For New Teachers and Student Teachers, Sam asks

“What do you think? Is how we dress for work significant? Does it matter? Do kids really care? Should there be a teacher dress code? How would you define professional dress?”

This week I worked at a charity golf tournament and was given some dress code information. No blue jeans allowed but white, khaki, or blue slacks/capris/shorts are allowed. Ladies were warned not to wear their shorts too short. Even on a golf course there are requirements!

I think what you wear to work is very important. There are appropriate dress for different kinds of occupations. Doctors and Nurses wear their kind of clothes. Construction workers wear the clothes that work best for their kind of work.

Teachers have a certain dress that they should wear

I started off teaching in a self contained class for students with emotional disabilities. I was told to wear tshirts and blue jeans which I did for 3 years. Then I switched to high school where no blue jeans or tshirts were allowed. What a difference it made. It made a difference in how I felt about myself and also how the students saw me.

I felt more confident and self assured. I felt better about myself and what I was hoping to do by teaching. I wanted to make a difference and I felt I was now in a position to do so. I think by changing how I dressed was a step in the right direction. By dressing professionally I was also showing that I respect myself and I expect others to respect me also.

Now students saw me as a role model. By dressing this way, I was making an impression on what students thought and how they saw the world. They could see that there are different ways to dress for different types of situations.

When I helped my students get a job at a local fast food restaurant, there was a requirement that boy’s pants had to be pulled up and they had to wear a belt around their pants. At first my boys were resistant to this dress code but they complied. As soon as they got their first pay check and saw what their actions resulted in, I never had a problem with sagging pants any more.

Even dressing for the prom requires something different than every day dress. Students have an opportunity to dress in formal clothes. This is actually a wonderful learning experience for teenagers. Not only do they learn how to dress for a different situation but they also learn social skills for this.

I really feel it is a shame that employers need to tell teachers that they need to dress professionally. I think it falls in the same category as having to tell an employee to arrive to work on time, be prepared to work, and do their job correctly. None of this should have to be said. I think when teachers need to be told these things; it really demeans the teaching profession. By needing to be told this, others get the message that we don’t care about what we do.

For me, dressing professionally means dressing in nice business clothes. I would not wear these clothes to do yard work or play. It involves wearing nice pants/tops or dresses that I don’t normally wear to hang around the house. It is clothes that make people look at me and say I value and respect my profession.

How do you feel about dressing professionally? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Working from home FUTAB'


Mike said...

I totally agree with you. Modeling professionalism is one of the more important things we do for our students. For many of them, unfortunately, we are the only professionals they come into contact with. Dressing appropriately doesn't automatically assure you that you'll be respected. You need to act professionally as well. Dressing inappropriately will assure you that you won't be taken seriously, though.

loonyhiker said...

Thanks Mike. You are right. Just dressing professionally doesn't mean everything. You need to act that way too!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Dressing professionally shows your students you care. You care about the job you do for them. And that's vitally important.

Clix said...

I do not understand professional dress AT ALL. What is it that determines whether clothing is "professional" or not? Is it the cut (tailored vs straight)? The amount of skin shown? The fabric (cotton seems to get snubbed)? The comfort? The care instructions?

Neatness, modesty, and safety are important, but do not require "professional dress." I don't see how the clothing in the picture is any less appropriate than a knee-length rayon skirt and a pair of cute strappy sandals for a woman. (Open-toed shoes CAN be a safety issue but seem to be ok.)

OTOH, putting your feet up on your desk is not professional BEHAVIOR and sends the message "I don't plan to exert any effort."

loonyhiker said...

@Clix I think dressing appropriately is dependent on your job description. I feel like my job as a teacher is to be a good role model for my students which involve dressing "seriously." This means neat, clean, and more than casual. In the same respect, I would not expect my roofer to show up at my house in a suit and tie because I would suspect his ability, skills, and even knowledge to do his job correctly.

Clix said...

Can you define "seriously," then? What is it that makes certain garments and/or outfits "serious"?

loonyhiker said...

@Clix When I was growing up I came home from school and had to put on my "play clothes." I learned at an early age that there were clothes I wore to school and then there were clothes I wore to play in. I think that is what I meant by serious. Whatever I wear to school as a teacher is not something I would wear to work in the yard or clean house in. It is something that is neat and what cruise ships call "business or business casual." I want to send a message to my students that I am serious about my job as a teacher and that my students are important to me. The time I spend with them is more important than just "play" time.

Clix said...

Since I still have more to say I think I'm going to go ahead & work it into a blog post :)

loonyhiker said...

@Clix Thanks so much for continuing this conversation! This is exactly why I love blogging!! I look forward to your post!

Charity said...

Dressing professional in the teaching profession should be a requirement. We are professionals and we should dress like it. If students at our school sites are held to certain standards and have a dress code, then I believe that teachers should have a dress code as well. We are role models and our students look up to us. We need to differentiate ourselves from the students, so we should not wear casual clothing to school (unless it is a predetermined day to show school spirit). There are some teachers at my school site that come to school looking like they just got out of bed. I think this is setting a bad example. My school administrator or school district should enforce the dress code policy because we are teachers and should dress appropriately for our career.

loonyhiker said...

@Charity Thanks for your comments. I totally agree! I don't understand how some teachers can come to school looking the way they do. Do they not look in the mirror before they leave home? :)

Miss, Jen said...

Because I work with individuals with significant cognitive disabilities I felt justified wearing jeans and tee-shirts. After all much of my day consisted of chasing students that chose to run, getting spit on and on some occasions having to use manual restraint. Why would I wear nice clothes to be ruined? This year I have had added responsibility to my current duties as a classroom teacher. I have chosen to wear slacks and nice shirts. I have felt an added confidence as I have decided to dress more professionally.

loonyhiker said...

@Miss Jen Thanks for adding your comment. Sometimes what I wear can really add to my confidence level. I try to tell my students that is another reason for dressing nicely for an interview.