Perhaps you have had one of those off-handed conversations where something someone says winds up nagging you for months or years to come. A few years ago a fellow teacher said, “I make sure I don’t dress too nice because one of my students said it made her feel like I was trying to show I was better than her.” I respect this teacher and think she’s one of the most gifted educators on our staff, but her comment has stayed with me…
That’s the staff of the Ron Clark Academy. They look like that every day. I wear skirts or dresses most days to school, and I never wear jeans. That’s my personal preference. When my students have a free dress day, I wear uniform (which they love SO MUCH). Reading Ron Clark’s chapter on teacher dress brought my thoughts on the issue to the forefront.
I hesitate to say I support a strict teacher dress code. After all, I’ve seen teachers dress professionally in jeans, heels, and a nice blouse. Alternately, people have commented on the distracting nature of my towering yellow high heels, my pink hair, and my cloche hats (I haven’t worn them all at once. Yet.). Banning certain items is shaky, so how does an administrator tell someone, “Um, I think you’ve crossed the line.” ? Does it matter? Does it impact instruction or teacher morale? I think it does.
I LOVED it when fellow staffers wore outrageous socks and tights to celebrate my wedding shower. Even our principal on the left. (Who, BTW, is wearing jeans. And is still professional.) I’m wearing the nude fishnets second from the right.
That said, I also think we need to point out that “traditionally” “appropriate” “attire” can be inexpensive. If our kids think they don’t have access to the clothing they need to look professional, there’s a chance they won’t see themselves as future professionals. When a student complements me on a belt or a neat necklace (before class time, of course), I never hesitate to say I found it at Goodwill, Value Village or Target.
That’s why I think organizations like Dress for Success are so important. We talk about helping our students from poverty navigate the hidden codes of the middle class, and I think dressing snazzy is one of the codes they would benefit from knowing. This year, I’m planning to recruit some family members to help repair the inevitable blown-out knees and ripped shirts our students accumulate so they can be proud of the way they present themselves.
Again, looks don’t necessarily define a person. But I know I stand a little taller when I wear a crinoline-puffed shirtdress or my crocodile boots. I see teachers have a little spring in their step when they dress up for conferences. We have a little more energy, and sometimes that extra bump of energy is what’s going to make the difference in our students’ learning.
OK. Well. This started out as a vanity post of the rad items I found yesterday, but it has quickly morphed into something more. Ponder this all as you see fit. But I can’t wait any longer to show you my amazing steals!
$6 felt fedora from The Woodward Shop at Hudsons. Hand-formed hats like these sell for upwards of $300 today.
$5 Lilly Pulitzer skirt. They cost $80-$130 if you want to get one today. And none of their current patterns have zebras and antelope.
$10 Talbots suit. Whenever I wear dress pants or pinstripes, one of my students inevitably says, “You look like an office worker today, Miz Houghton.”
$5 Ann Taylor silk blouse. I’d been looking for a blouse that I could tuck in to my pencil skirts and circle skirts. Perfect. Also, I have a tattoo. Thoughts on the professional nature of a visible tattoo? Our admins don’t have a problem with it, and I told my kids if it was a distraction, I would just keep it covered up. We had the same conversation when my hair was streaked pink — if it interfered with their learning, I’d dye it back to brown.
Despite these wonderful new acquisitions, I still haven’t decided on my First Day of School outfit yet. What about you? How do you decide what to teach in?