Friday, February 28, 2014

Dress for Success?

So, I just read this article about schools implementing dress codes for teachers.  My overall reaction includes an eye roll and some head shaking.

First, let me address what should be the bleeding obvious.  Of COURSE teachers shouldn't be coming to work in clothes that are revealing cleavage, bare midriffs, or underwear.  Anyone who argues that they should be able to wear those clothes to work is also worthy of an eye roll and a head shake.  As far as clothes that are excessively tight, light exercise or yoga pants, well, that's a trickier topic.  Personally, I think they are unprofessional.  When your pants are so tight that I can answer the questions, "Panties or thong?" without having to ask, it's unprofessional.  Beyond unprofessional, it's gross.  But I understand that this is the style, so I guess I can just let it slide, much like the low-rise jeans fad (which enables me to often answer the question, "Panties, thong, or nothing?" without having to ask) and hope it goes away soon.  But it sure won't stop me from saying things behind someone's back, as women are wont to do at times.

Shoes?  I don't care about shoes.  Wear flip flops.  Wear gym shoes.  Wear stripper heels.  Teachers are on their feet a lot, so I really feel that shoes can be whatever the person feels most comfortable in.

Now let's get to the items that are likely to cause the most controversy.  Let's start with hair color.  Personally, I think it's ridiculous to dictate to a teacher what hair color is appropriate.  How long until hair color guidelines lead to makeup guidelines?  It's just hair.  Get over it.  If the hair doesn't pose a danger to the students of fellow employees, then leave it alone, and I can't see how hair color can pose any credible danger.

Next, jeans.  I wear jeans to work usually once or twice a week.  I tend to pair my jeans with a nice top or some sort of school-related spirit wear.  The jeans I wear don't have holes in them and they aren't skin tight (or low rise!).  They are just jeans that I can't believe would draw attention from anyone.  Yes, jeans can look unprofessional, but they also can look just fine for a teacher at work, too.  Jeans are a staple in the American wardrobe; I see no reason to ban them outright.  Let teachers be adults; they know which jeans are okay for school (the dark blue ones with the buttons on the back pockets) and which ones are not okay for school (the ones that have a 2 1/2" zipper, a hole over the right cheek, shreds down the fronts of the thighs, and make my ass look fabulous!).

How about tattoos?  As a teacher with a dozen tattoos, of course I have an opinion.  On average, only 2 - 6 of may tattoos might show.  The ones that always are visible are the ones I have on my wrists -- my daughter's name in Hebrew and a bracelet of pink and yellow roses to recognize my mother and me.  Clearly tasteless and vulgar.  The other ones that might show include a cross on the back of my neck if my hair is in a pony tail (another one that is horrible inappropriate), a strawberry on one ankle and a bracelet around my other ankle (these show if I am wearing capris or a dress or skirt).  Those are also pretty naughty for school, don't you think?  I also have a flower on my upper left arm that sometimes shows if I am wearing something with a really short sleeve.  Horrors!  The other tats are always covered because I don't dress like a tramp for work.  That means nobody sees the parrot on my upper thigh or my tramp stamp or the opening line from The Prayer of St. Francis on my upper back.  In fact, nobody ever really sees the green heart on my left ring finger because it's covered by my wedding ring, or the number 3 tucked far behind one of my ears.  If I DID decide to get any ink that might be considered inappropriate for school, then it would be inappropriate for the general public, so I'd get it someplace that it would always be covered.  I wonder how many teachers actually have tattoos with swear words, alcohol logos, naked people, or references to dugs or sex AND have them visible to students.  I'm betting that number is astronomically LOW.  So cut the crap on tattoos.  The only reason someone would want to label tattoos inappropriate for school is due to a personal bias.

If a staff member is dressing unprofessionally, the administrator should deal with that individual personally.  Why come down on an entire staff for the actions of one?  I suspect that's because it allows for a blanket statement to be made without having to single anyone out, which can make for an uncomfortable conversation.  So a dress code based on the inappropriate dress of an individual is the coward's way of handling it.  Applause, applause.  Way to step up and be a leader to your staff.

The lip service that is paid to teachers always amuses me in a sad way.  "Teachers are professionals."  Yes, we are.  But really, that's a load of hooey.  Nobody really thinks of us as professionals.  We have to have a four-year degree and to be licensed like other professionals -- doctors, lawyers, accountants -- and we have to engage in professional development like other licensed professionals, but nobody sees teachers in the same light as doctors, lawyers, and CPAs.

And if you want teachers to dress like "professionals", in "professional attire", then please pay me a salary that will allow me to purchase that wardrobe.  Until then, I'm going to continue to wear my khakis and polo shirts.  I might even throw on my fleece jacket with the school's logo embroidered on it when I get chilly!

Imposing a dress code on teachers is the passive-aggressive way of saying, "You're too damn stupid to know how to dress yourself."

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