Dress Code Controversy

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Yesterday, I posted the above graphic I created on Twitter to encourage other educators to have fun and participate in Bow Tie Tuesday this year.

Someone read that post and wondered, “Why aren’t teachers expected to wear ties every day?” I asked if they were a public school teacher and what would they recommend for a dress code for teachers.

Hundreds of notifications later, clearly this has touched a nerve with folks.

Someone remarked, “If teachers want to be taken as professionals, then they should dress like professionals.” Another person commented, “It doesn’t take clothes to make for a professional.”

I believe something in the middle works best.

For the past twenty years in the two districts I’ve worked in, there has not been a dress code for the adults who work in the schools. However, there were many iterations of dress codes for students. I always thought it was curious that we had many standards for student dress but none for adults.

My style is to wear a suit, shirt, and tie most days. I’m comfortable in that attire but I don’t espouse that for everyone. There are many opinions about dress expectations for educators. While on one hand, dressing casually and comfortably for physical education, art, recess, hand-on activities, field trips, outdoor learning, and sitting on the floor makes sense, you don’t want that casualness to be extreme. Some folks on Twitter felt jeans, t-shirts, leggings, and shorts are too casual for the workplace.

Do teachers need to wear suits, ties, dress shoes, dresses, pantyhose, or heels to be taken seriously and look professional? Do teachers who wear jeans need to work harder to earn respect and be treated professionally?

I don’t think there’s a right answer. I do believe teachers need to find a balance and discover what works for them.

Another comment in the Twitter conversation was, “If you want to be treated like a professional, act like one.” I totally agree. I believe professionalism encompasses much more than dress. It includes attitude, behavior, language, personality, spirit, relationships, and work ethic, and I get to see great examples of professionalism every day.

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