Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

LINKS: Blogger
Canadian Chalkboard
Coffee, Calculations and Colombia!
Progressively Unnecessary
TeacHer Finance
It's Not All Flowers and Sausages
So You Want To Teach?
Classroom Confessions
Teach Hub
Web English Teacher
Blogging the Renaissance

ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

Dress Codes
Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ashley, from Canadian Chalkboard gave me the idea of posting about dress codes. I'm a little surprised that we haven't touched on this topic yet but hey, we're doing it now.

When you think back on teachers you've known or seen, you can probably see a large range between what they've worn to school. I, personally, have seen teachers go anywhere between jeans and a t-shirt, to full out business attire (complete with suit and everything). So what does that mean for us young and upcoming teacher candidates?

From what I've been told by various principals (who are normally the ones responsible for the dress code), elementary school teachers have the privilege of having more lax dress codes than high school teachers. I mean, that makes sense; one of the main functions of dressing professionally as a high school teacher is to distinguish yourself from the students so obviously, this is less of an issue in elementary schools.

I've been told that for the most part, as young teachers, we should always err on the side of professionalism. As a guy (Courtney could probably tell you more from the girls side), the most casual attire I wear to prac is a polo shirt and khakis. I have, on a few occasions, worn jeans to teach but those days have always been accompanied by a professional-ish looking sweater. I don't recall ever having worn jeans and a T-shirt to teach. Most teachers/principals would probably tell you that it's not such a good idea, particularly if you're young looking. Generally, as a guy, khakis and a polo shirt is probably as casual as you want go get if you're a young teacher.

On the flip side, I have never been able to bring myself to wear a jacket (of the suit variety I mean). I know some teachers like to do this; I honestly think that it's unnecessary if all you want to do is look professional. If suits are your thing then go right ahead; no one is going to criticize you for looking too professional. I also don't like wearing a tie. That's not to say that I don't wear them during prac. I just don't like them... which translates into me forcing myself to wear them maybe once or twice a week. I personally don't see anything wrong with wearing dress pants, belt, and a dress shirt, sans tie but some people will also say that it looks sloppy.

So for the most part, here is what I've done (and I've yet to hear someone criticize me on my system). Mondays are almost always business attire, sans jacket - that is to say, dress shoes, dress pants, belt, dress shirt, and tie. Fridays are almost always casual - that is to say, polo and khakis. And the rest of the week falls somewhere in between, following in a natural progression. Sometimes I wear a tie on Tuesdays, sometimes I wear a polo shirt on Thursdays. BUT, the one rule I have (if you haven't noticed) is that I always go from more professional to less. It just... works better that way.

Winter/cold weather makes things easier (for me) because professional looking sweaters are more comfortable than ties and you can pretty much substitute one for the other. Right? Because when the weather gets warm and, understandably, you want to wear a short-sleeve dress shirt, I feel like I have to compensate by wearing a tie.

And really, all this is just what I've found works for me. The point is just to make sure you, a. don't look like a student, and b. look like you're a professional. Your demeanor and the way you carry yourself is part of that too. If you walk professionally and talk professionally, no one's really going to notice that you're not wearing a suit. And while we're still young and we're used to caring about fashion, the truth is that you could probably wear the same 3 to 4 sets of clothes every week for the entire year, and nobody would notice. Seriously, the students don't care enough about us to notice what we're wearing. The only exception is if you wear literally the same thing everyday. Then they will notice. And even then, it won't really matter either way.

I should probably stress the demeanor part. Except I don't really know what to say except to reiterate what I said above. Professional behavior is just as much a part of appearing professional as the actual clothes you wear.

I would also like to point out that I'm pretty sure Dr. Morrison wore a suit to every class.

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Jonathan posted at 11:10 PM - Comments (3)


Hi! I just found your site on Canadian Chalkboard. I completely agree that too many teachers dress unprofessionally. I think it is the #1 reason our profession is sometimes not taken as seriously as it should be.
My students definitely notice what I wear though (I teach 9th-12th). To the point of asking me where I bought a shirt, or bracelet, etc. They would most certainly notice if I wore the same thing, but I pretty much rock the same 8 pairs of pants all year. I just have lots of tops and accessories.
Love the site!

By OpenID classroomconfessions, at August 23, 2009 at 1:00 AM  

Thanks for the response Jon! I like your idea of starting more professional and moving towards casual throughout the week. This really makes sense for the most part (Monday being after the weekend and all).

My only concern is the idea that Friday's, everywhere, seem more lax in the dress code area. Students are already dying to get out of class for the weekend and I feel that casual clothing might distract student minds (subconsciously) towards thinking about the weekend rather than focusing on the activity at hand. Of course there are always ways to work around this.

The amount of attention that your students pay attention to your clothing depends on a couple of things. First and foremost is how eccentric/different your clothing is from your coworkers. Second is how you define yourself compared to them. I know one of the teachers at my high school dressed slightly closer to what we were wearing so she was seen as younger (which is actually one of the factors some of the boys who had a crush on her mentioned).

By Blogger Ashley, at August 23, 2009 at 9:16 AM  

classroomconfessions: it's good that your students notice what you wear. Maybe my clothes are simply not noteworthy enough, although it's hard to make my kind of clothes noteworthy. My dress shirt-dress pants rotation really just differs by color. Ties can be interesting! But I hate ties...

Ashley: I tend to accept Fridays as lax days. I mean, that's not to say that I turn my week into a 4-day week, but I try to plan a different kind of lesson for Friday if I can. Role-playing, debates, activities, and - hopefully in the future - broader-context lessons.

By Blogger Jonathan, at August 23, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

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