Friday, November 13, 2015
Year 6: Week 11 - Looking The Part
I've given up trying to look like a teacher.
At my first teaching job, where I taught high school, we were instructed told to dress business casual and then on Fridays, we could dress down in jeans and a polo shirt. The idea was that it was important to dress-up to distinguish ourselves from the students. So I would wear khakis, a dress shirts and sometime I wore a tie. Yes, this did separate me from the students but as most of the kids were taller than me and a lot of guys had more facial hair than me, simply dressing fancy didn't really help me get authority as a teacher.
More than anything I was uncomfortable and I felt like it I was putting on an act. This only added to my feeling that I couldn't authentically be myself at this job and I think that many of my students sensed this.
When I entered elementary school land at my second job, more than the abundance of scarves, I noticed that teachers dressed my pragmatically. Teachers wore clothing that allowed them to comfortable sit in little chairs, and sit on the floor. At this school teachers still dressed up but there was more individuality. One teacher always wore varying colored converse sneakers and there was one teacher who had matching earrings, vest and sock sets for every single has holiday.
On my first day, I was told to wear comfortable pants like jeans and athletic shoes because the student I was working with was a flight risk (a kid who
previously tried to run out of the school) and I needed to be ready to chase him if he ran. I went with jeans and a nice shirt and this felt more natural.
My current school is a JK-12 school. While the administration dresses formally every day, the faculty dresses in all kinds of different ways. Some teachers dress formally, others in t-shirts and jeans while others like myself are somewhere in-between.
Faculty members' dress seems to reflect the individuality we value in our students. One English teacher wears suits with quirky shoes, one teacher only wears purple clothing and some of our teachers dress in traditional ethnic clothing.
For me this means this means that my earring is in, I got jeans on, I wear colorful dress shirts and matching colored Qalo silicon wedding ring (my current obsession). In years passed I wore friendship bracelets too, which I'm getting interested in revisiting.
We still need to have a certain level of professionalism in our dress but that doesn't mean that we can't be individuals at the same time.
My school doesn't place high value on us looking like teachers. This is clear in the way that teachers dress. For us, it's more about helping students know us as people than seeing us as authority figures. It's interesting that while this has never been explicitly stated during my time at the school, the teachers and the community have picked up on this.
Teachers are at their best when they are able to be themselves in front of their students. For some of us, what we wear helps teaching become an expression of who we truly are, which helps our students embrace their own individuality.