Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dressing Up the Profession

I have written a few previous blogs about dress codes in schools. There are all kinds of implications for school climate that hang on a school's dress code. Everything from student Belonging to consistency of disciplinary action. When I uncover a tattered faculty, somewhere at the bottom of the pile, typically,  are some members of staff who are buttoned down about the dress code and some members who aren't.

The news out of Manchester, NH yesterday was interesting. If you missed it, the Manchester school board voted 11-1 on alterations to the professional dress of their educators by snipping out 15 articles of clothing. The list includes Spandex, short skirts, jeans (ouch), flip-flops, and sneakers (except for PE teachers--who also have other exemptions). They stopped short of making male teachers wear ties after some knotty debate.

I have been in a lot of schools and conducted professional development for hundreds if not thousands of professional educators. I have worked with a staff who arrived in professional dress on a Saturday and I have seen flip-flops on Fridays. I have observed a teacher in jeans and sneakers commanding respect and a teacher in a jacket and tie commanding none. What is interesting to me about the Manchester story is what you learn when you scroll down past the story to the public's comments. Don't let time hamper this. The back and forth between the teachers who are commenting and the community is tailor-made for insights into how educators are viewed in our society.

There are any number of reasons people site for why they don't respect teachers to the same degree they respect other professionals--lawyers, doctors, business people. Summers "off" is one. "Short" work day is another. I suppose now we can add how they dress to the laundry list.

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