Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What is Professional Dress for Teachers?

     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.


  1. Hi Tim,
    I think it depends on the school culture. I teach in a Quaker school where simplicity is reinforced. Teachers are encouraged to dress in what is comfortable. While we obviously need to be presentable, there is a wide range, from t-shirt and jeans, to business casual. I used to teach in a school with a more strict dress code for teachers - I have to say, it is nice to be able to throw on something comfortable on days when I need that. The only time I have heard the kids comment on a teacher's choice of clothes is when one of us dresses out of the ordinary (so if I wear a nice dress or another teacher who is usually at the other end of the spectrum wears jeans). Thanks for the post. I'm interested to read what others have to say!

  2. ... oh, and the students don't seem to equate respect or expertise with choice of wardrobe (important point to add). ~@MrsC_Teach

  3. Absolutely on the last part, even though I really used to think so.

    Also it is interesting to hear kids comment when things are different (i.e. me in a suit and you wearing a nice dress). It goes to show how students pick up on everything we do even down to dress. They pick up in things I don't even notice!

    I to am interested in others ideas. Thanks for the comment.

  4. I work at a private school where it used to be common that teachers at an elementary level wear a "suit" every day. While we fought to have this decision over turned; mostly the women on staff who were spending a fortune on hose every year, we did get this over turned.
    As a male teacher, I like dressing up rather than down, and the kids give me a hard time on casual days that I am not "untucked" enough! While it may be old school to dress up, I think students respond to teachers differently based on how they dress. When I throw on a jacket instead of the regular shirt and tie, the students seem to change their demeanor. I have less behavioral and respect issues on those days, could just be a coincidence.

  5. I work in a school that is flexible. Clothing varies from yoga pants to jeans to skirts or dress pants. From polo shirts to tshirts to hoodies. For me, it depends on the day. What I wear has no reflection on what I do. Personally, I prefer to be comfortable. It allows me to easily move within the classroom. It is easier for me to crouch down beside a student when I am wearing comfortable pants than a skirt. I'm fortunate to be in a district where there is a lot of flexibility.

    And to be honest - I don't know the last time I saw a teacher in a tie! But truthfully it doesn't matter. Each teacher can discern for themselves what makes them comfortable and what they deem appropriate.

  6. Thanks so much for the comments.

    I feel that you said it best when you said,

    "Each teacher can discern for themselves what makes them comfortable and what they deem appropriate."


  7. I am a male teacher who wears a shirt and tie Monday through Thursday and then on Friday goes jeans and a polo. The students due take notice of how I present myself and realize you can be a "cool" teacher and still dress nicely. I think when students see teachers that are sloppy and not dressed nicely they lose a bit of respect for that teacher because if the teacher can't take the time to look presentable for the kids,then why should the kids respond and be engaged to the teacher.

  8. I agree with you 100%! I also wrote a post about this same topic. Teachers have become lax in the way they dress. In an ideal world, the way you dress wouldn't matter, but this is the real world!

  9. Yes, It depend on School Culture.Male Teacher are not Interested to do Primary School Job longer.Because most of them said Low Salary is the main reason. Do you think is it the main reason?