My beliefs & values pertaining to professional dress are deep rooted. As a head coach it was important to me that my assistant coaches understood that they were a reflection of our team, our school and our community. We dressed professionally at practice and at games, wearing school colors only. During games we all wore the same Khaki pants (or shorts) and the same collared shirts, tucked in. Our shoes were all black. Our athletes respected this, and were held to the same expectations- matching practice shirts, undershirts and socks. If our captains wanted socks up, then all socks were worn up. I often told the team that "if you dress good, you play good!" I am a big proponent of not asking anyone to do anything that I have not done, or am willing to do. I also believe that professional dress on the field reflects attention to detail and pride in what we do.
I believe the same holds true with my educational experiences. I strongly believe that administration, faculty and staff are a reflection of our school, our students and our community - how we dress sends a message. I also believe in what @ToddWhitaker tweeted, that "dress is important, but one small piece of being a professional, not the most important one." He also pointed out that "if your worst teacher wears a tuxedo, they are still your worst teacher." I think the point is that professional dress is not a life or death decision, but one that is important to discuss.
@GraemeCampbell had several outstanding responses to my tweet, including a link to an interesting blog post via @DaveDodgson http://www.davedodgson.com/2011/06/suits-you-sir.html. Excellent post with terrific comments, I suggest you read. Graeme Campbell believed that how educator's dress was a reflection of "how they are conveyed and viewed," and @blairteach added "dress may not affect teaching, but does affect perception of professionalism," I concur.
At our school, our new principal shared my values on professional dress. At our first meeting it was never mandated that we all need to wear x and y, professional dress was explained as part of the entire culture shift we anticipated making. It was well-received by our staff. Our administration and teacher's bought in, dressed in ties, suits, dresses & other professional attire. Our students, parents, central office administration and community noticed immediately and we received several compliments. What a difference when parents come in for a meeting and all educators are dressed impressively, it sends a message that we take our profession seriously.
Educator's are now under fire more than ever, being scapegoated for many of our countries woes. I often hear the education community asking- what can we do to fight back? Although there are several pro-active measures we can take, I am a proponent of making small, lasting changes reflective in a school's core values. "Dressing to impress" is one small step that shows the public; and more importantly, our students, that we are professionals who take our job extremely serious.
Furthermore, I don't think dressing professionally makes you a "stuffed suit." A stuffed suit is filled with stuffing, my suit is filled with passion, pride and tenacity-it's what's in the suit that matters. I also realize teachers get dirty - I can still get dirty in a suit, often taking my tie off to play catch with the kids at lunch, or to help the custodians move furniture. We need to do whatever it takes to help students succeed and learn, but we can do it looking good!
I would like to thank @ToddWhitaker, @GraemeCampbell, @phsprincipal, @pjenn86, @blairteach, @Coleprincipal and @JenRoberts1 for an outstanding discussion on this topic today (6.12.11). Your ideas, thoughts and opinions are respected and appreciated!
Please feel free to comment- we can learn from each other on this topic!