Both my seventh and eighth grade Social Studies classes are in the middle of a project right now. One calls for them to pretend they are lawyers and one calls for them to pretend they are congressmen and women. As I introduced these projects last week, I thought it would be fun to dress up in a suit. I did this as part of the intro event to generate excitement for the projects. The students had a blast seeing me in a suit and many asked me why I was in a tux (to which I promptly explained the difference). Based on the response and also due to a general slacking in taking in my dry cleaning, I wore a suit everyday last week. Whenever students asked why I was dressed so nice I said three things
1) You deserve it
2) Because you are lawyers and congressman and we are conducting serious research here
3) Mr. Monreal hasn't done his laundry
All this got me thinking, what is professional dress for teachers? For me it is a tie everyday. I used to say I did this for respect and I did. As I grow in my understanding of classroom management, respect, and teaching, I really hope my students don't buy into my methods just because I wear a tie. Yet, I still do it everyday. While my dream classroom is more of a learning lounge, I would never dream (nor would my principal endorse) of walking into class with a T-shirt and jeans. To be sure you can be a good teacher and not wear a tie, but can you be a good teacher if you wear a T-shirt everyday? I would say yes, but once again I would never dream of doing it. I tend to rationalize my dress as a way of representing the profession of teaching; the years of post-grad instruction and the various degrees to show from it. Thinking of that I am then thrown in two directions. Yes, I have a lot of pride in how teachers are educated and how they are specially trained for their craft, but at the same time we are regular people who learn and grow from interacting with our students as equals. We do not need to act elitist. So all this comes from the simple question--Does it matter how teachers dress?
I would love your feed back and answers.