Earlier today, Jezebel posted a short article in response to an article in USA Today about schools implementing dress codes for teachers. The original USA Today article seems to suggest that teachers are being asked to follow the dress codes students are asked to follow (gasp). The biggest points emphasized by this article seem to be that tattoos must be covered up, teachers cannot have “outlandish hairstyles or facial piercings”, jeans aren’t allowed, and female teachers aren’t allowed to wear skinny-strapped tank tops.
Jezebel’s opening paragraph read,
A wave of new teacher dress codes is inundating schools across America and threatening to sap the last little bit of dignity that the much-maligned school teacher has left. The Wichita School District has made it a point to regulate teachers’ appearance, from the number of visible tattoos a teacher is allowed to have (that number would be zero), to the width of straps on female teachers’ sleeveless shirts. If you can think of anything more humiliating than a teacher standing in the principal’s office while a hall monitor measures the straps on her shirt, congratulations — you are the most pessimistic person in the world.
I have so much to say in response to these two articles.
First…why is this news? It’s hypocritical to expect students to follow a dresscode and allow teachers to wear whatever they want. I don’t necessarily think teachers should have to hide tattoos or be “outlandish hair and facial piercing” free, but they should carry themselves with pride and dignity as they educate the children of the world. I’m pretty certain that my teachers growing up never wore jeans or had their chests hanging out of spaghetti straps. If you have a job that requires you to be a role model to students, act like it. You can still be a role model with tattoos, piercings, and purple hair… but you don’t need to lose your dignity and the respect of your students along the way.
Next, while the restrictions on dress codes for teachers may be a little extreme in some scenarios, have you looked at high school dress codes lately?
In a randomly selected school district in my state, the high school “Code of Attire” reads:
Code of Attire
A student’s choice of dress can contribute positively to the school’s climate and demonstrates a respectful attitude toward the school staff, and other students. All students are expected to dress in a manner conducive to a learning environment. Consequently, dress must meet the following guidelines:
· It should be safe.
· It should be clean.
· It should be situationally appropriate.
Students in violation of the Code of Attire will be expected to change/remove the offending article and parents may be notified. Continued violation of the Code of Attire will result in administrative disciplinary action.
B.O.E. Code of Attire Policy can be found in the Policy Manual located in the Central Office.
Certain settings may necessitate alternative attire, e.g., in the gym, in industrial arts or science classrooms, in the theater. Teachers have the discretion to determine the appropriateness of dress in these situations.
To support this code, the following articles are EXCLUDED:
· Items promoting sale/consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or drug use
· Items with indecent and/or offensive writing, pictures, or slogans
· Clothing which is extremely tight, transparent, and/or overly revealing
· Spaghetti straps, tank tops, halter tops (tie-strings or the like), open backed tops, off the shoulder tops, tops that are lower than a horizontal line drawn from armpit to armpit or any other type of clothing which does not cover the shoulders and abdomen – straps should be one inch wide on the shoulder
· Undergarments worn as outerwear
· Skirts and shorts that fall above the student’s fingertips on extended arms
· Overly baggy and sagging pants that reveal undergarments
· Bare feet
· Items which could damage property or injure others, such as heavy chains or large rings
· Headwear, such as headbands, hats, sport bands, and full-head scarves, unless worn for religious or health reasons
· Sunglasses, unless required by a medical condition
· Walkman, head phones, iPods, MP3 players, electronic music/communication devices
· Valuable articles which cannot be safely stored in lockers and, thus, provide a target for potential theft
While I don’t necessarily agree with the restrictions against headbands and scarves (that would really destroy my love of accessories!), for the most part, these restrictions make sense. In overcrowded hallways, safety is key. You shouldn’t be at risk for injury because of the outfit you’re wearing! I remember ripping many peasant skirts in high school because the hallways were overpacked and it was nearly impossible to move. The stairs were just as bad. It was really easy to get hurt due to your wardrobe, and dresscodes like the ones discussed can help prevent that lack of safety.
As a future teacher, does it piss me off that my sense of style will probably be stifled due to dress codes? Absolutely. Do I think some restrictions for both teachers and students are a little silly? Of course. But you know what? I’m going into the teaching profession to make a difference in the lives of my students. I want to inspire them to try their hardest to do their best at all times. I want to help a student find confidence in him or herself. I want to be a role model, make a difference, and look back at my teaching career knowing I changed lives for the better. Give me some credit! I don’t need to look good to make a difference. I do need to be a role model, which isn’t possible without respect and dignity. Dressing like one of my students won’t earn me that.