Dress Code?

A while ago an administrator approached me, since I am on the union Exec. Board, about whether or not a teacher dress code is warranted. I simply said “no” and would not really entertain the notion knowing that the teachers would not wish to engage in this discussion and would not work to include one in the contract.

However, I must admit it’s an issue I’ve mulled over a time or two. I used to be more of a jeans and polo shirt man but now tend to wear sweaters or shirts and ties (like the ones in the picture) and khakis.

If teachers wish to be seen as and paid as professionals, do teachers need to dress the part?

Where is the line between professional and unprofessional attire?

What is appropriate attire for content areas or departments around the building?

I definitely see a stark difference between the elder teachers in the building and the new crop coming in to the building. More experienced teachers tend to dress more formally with collared shirts, ties, and dress pants while younger teachers regularly arrive in jeans, khakis, t-shirts, and polo shirts.

Does attire affect student behavior (positively or negatively)? Can attire affect job performance? I know one student who said he doesn’t like teachers who wear ties and sports jackets because he thinks they’re too separate from his world; he can’t relate to them. Another student said she doesn’t respect a teacher who dresses every day as if on vacation; she wants to learn from an expert who dresses the part.

Do you have dress codes? Are there unspoken rules for attire? What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Dress Code?

  1. mrschili

    I believe TCC has a dress code for teachers, but it’s far more lax than my own personal dress code, so I can’t really tell you what it says. I never, EVER wear jeans or sweatshirts to work – EVER. The most casual I’ll get is trousers and a sweater, but I always look professional. When it’s not STUPID COLD, I can usually be found in skirts, too; I really think having that professional distance (and being a good role model for how a professional behaves and dresses) is important to me, and my attire contributes to those goals.

  2. Loraine

    As a parent, I never thought about this until I recently toured elementary schools to choose a school for my daughter. (We have public school choice here.) I was amazed to find some teachers – NOT the gym teacher, either – in sweats from head to toe. I could understand kindergarten and early grades, but these were the fifth grade teachers and their kids weren’t on the floor for circle time.

    Yes, my husband and I talked about it after we left. We couldn’t believe it. That said, it’s a really successful school.

    At another school, the teacher’s hair was what I would call, “high school pony tail hung-over, circa 1990” and she was in sweats and jeans, with no makeup. Basically, it’s the way you dress after a long night of partying when you’re late for class at college. Not pretty. Maybe she was sick. At least, unlike the other schools, she didn’t know there’d be a parent tour!

    I’m not big on dressing up – being a freelance writer – but I have to say, my knee-jerk reaction was, “No wonder the kids aren’t taking them seriously.” My teachers always dressed nicely, particularly the high school teachers. My aunt said she can count on one hand the times she wore slacks.

    That said, I don’t see how her back stood all those days in heels. And I think suits would be overkill.

    Here’s why teachers, particularly high school teachers, should dress professionally: You’re modeling what’s appropriate at work. For better or worse, you are the only real-life model some kids will see for what’s appropriate in the work world. Let me tell you, if you show up in jeans, even khakis, the first day of work – unless you’re at an Internet start-up – people talk.

    I’d recommend business casual, which can include nice, stylish jeans, but generally does not.

    Has anybody noticed a difference between how subs are treated based on their dress? Might be a good litmus test.

  3. Jim Van Pelt

    We’ve gone around and around on dress in our high school. Fortunately (for me) we’ve never codified a dress code. Personally, I don’t buy that the kids will treat you as a professional if you dress as a professional. Whatever message the clothes send will be overwhelmed almost immediately by the teacher’s behavior. A well-dressed bad teacher isn’t any better because of a professional appearance, and a good teacher is good in sackcloth or a suit.

    When I was subbing in the late 70s at Cherry Creek High School, one of the richest and highest achieving schools in Colorado, the teacher of the year was the same fellow two years in a row. He was a social studies teacher who was just spectacular. Parents battled to get their kids in his class. He was also a dedicated runner. He would go out on a long run during lunch, then teach his afternoon classes in his shorts and running shirt. He didn’t look professional, but I would rather hold him up as a model than anyone else.

    Dress is for first impressions and for parents. I don’t dress slobbily (if that is a word), but I dress comfortably: khakis, collared shirt, running shoes. I don’t own a tie or suit.


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