Saturday, April 23, 2005

Professional Attire

On my first official day of observing a teacher, I walked into the classroom with my shirt and tie, slacks pressed. The teacher wore jeans and a loose t-shirt. Throughout my student teaching experience, last year's long-term substitute experiment, and this my first official year of teaching, button up shirts, tie, and dress slacks have been the norm.
There have been days throughout this year, half-days before breaks, pep-assembly days, or Spirit Week promotions that I have ventured away from the shirt and tie concept. However, it is one of my quirky opinions that creates this need for professional attire, or business attire. I think that as teachers, we often are not viewed by the public as professionals. Somehow, teacher and professional don't seem to match up for the regular tax payer. So when we, our unions and our peers, walk the picket lines or write editorials about teacher pay and lack of respect from our students in the classroom, often we are viewed with contempt. "You work 10 months out of the year, get every holiday off, not to mention winter break, mid-winter break, and spring break. A bevy of in-service days," is what we hear.
If we looked like professionals, do you suppose we might start convincing more than ourselves that we are professionals?
A recent experiment, though not started as an experiment, openned my eyes to just how much of an impact my attire has in the classroom. We are WASL'ing this week--Washington Assessment of Student Learning, or Why Are Students Lazy to some. During the testing period, the Sophomores WASL, the Freshman take the ITBS/ITED. Here at our school, we offer enrichment opportunities to the Juniors and Seniors. Mostly, these enrichment classes are designed to be fun, a way to keep the students on campus and off the city streets.
I offered Dodgeball and Whiffleball. Both were well attended. But, a shirt and tie doesn't quite fit the appropriate dress code for either game. So, in light of the casual atmosphere, I wore sweats, shorts, t-shirt, track-suit, and always my luck Red Sox hat.
So, we had three academic periods and one testing period each day. During my academic periods, I could not get my students to focus on the task at hand. They were much more conversational with me about non-academic things than they ever have been. Now, some of that could have been the mood of the testing week, but I had to wonder if it had anything to do with my attire. Do I lose some authority in the classroom based on the way I dress for teaching?


At 1:54 AM , Blogger EdWonk said...

We have linked this post in our latest Tales From The Trenches: Classroom Teachers Speak which can be seen here

At 6:59 PM , Blogger Mrs. Ris said...

I really enjoyed your comments and experiment!

So much so that I responded to your interesting post at my blog

At 7:00 PM , Blogger The Science Goddess said...

I looked at this idea (and posted on it) a few weeks ago. There doesn't seem to be a lot of good research, just anecdotal stuff (like your observations). I wish I had something better to share.

One more week of WASL! Huzzah!

At 5:24 AM , Blogger Nancy said...

Here's my theory, and it may only apply to those who wear heels...when I wear dress pants or a skirt with a pair of heels, I feel more much confident, I carry myself differently and this carries over into the classroom. I'm less likely to slouch and act a little more seriously, which the kids pick up on. On the other hand, if I decide to wear jeans to work, as I sometimes do on short days or on Fridays, I feel more relaxed and not as professional, which the kids also pick up on. So, I think besides outward appearance, what you choose to wear also affects attitude and behavior, which kids pick up on very easily.

At 10:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I drive three high schoolers into zero hour, my own freshman, one sophomore and one junior. Our school is all over the place every day these past two testing weeks with schedules.
Every night I call around and find out who needs to be where and when.

So I'm voting for *consistency*, or the lack of it, in their lives right now, as the reason your kids are a bit off.

Or as one of my favorite teachers at the high school says 'we should just CANCEL April!'.

At 8:54 PM , Blogger chiselandflame said...

I have developed a blog and a chat group on this topic. See my blog at and my yahoo group chisel and flame, under employment.

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