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Professional Dress

After a very long and busy week, it was overwhelming to sit down today and try to write a blog about teaching. On my wordpress dashboard is a set of preloaded blogs, one of which is The Daily Prompt. I decided to scroll down to find one that might focus my thoughts into something I could actually write about.

Yesterday’s prompt really aligned with some things I have been thinking about lately related to change and my image as a teacher and a person.

How important are clothes to you? Describe your style, if you have one, and tell us how appearance impacts how you feel about yourself.

In education dress codes vary. Different schools and different school districts handle the issue differently. Personally I began my career wanting to look as professional as possible. I wore suits, dress pants and button down shirts, and at my most casual I might have worn khaki pants and a nice sweater (I began teaching in a state with a colder climate). When I moved to the southwest and lost some weight, I was able to make my state of dress even nicer. With a smaller pant size I had more options available to me, and let’s face it: the smaller ladies get better, more stylish clothes. When I moved to the midwest and began doctoral study at a major research institution there, I viewed all of my activities there as my job, and so I tried to dress professionally as often as I could for my classes and especially for the undergraduate courses I was responsible for teaching.

Something changed when my husband and I moved to the southeast. I worked for an independent music company and had to drive to ten schools a week (two per day) to teach band lessons. I spent a significant amount of time in the car, the job required a lot of schlepping of instruments, stands, and music, all in the humidity and heat, and so my usual state of dress did not last long. Dress pants became khakis or capris. Dress shirts became polos. Nice shoes turned to sneakers. After two years in that position, dressing in that way, I have not been able to go back. In my last job I taught at an at-risk elementary school, and I don’t think I wore anything more professional than Dickies work pants and polos. Concerts were a different story, but the regular work day didn’t get anything special.

My current job at a low-performing high school, and I have been dressing in the same way that I dressed when I was teaching elementary school music simply because those are the clothes that I have. I am discovering that I could step up my game because I’m not moving around as much and the danger of getting spit/sneezed/thrown up on or having things thrown at me isn’t there anymore. So after we move over winter break, I should be able to start revamping my wardrobe.

How important are clothes to you? Clothes in general are not that important to me. My husband owns more clothes than I do. I own enough clothing to dress myself for casual things and work. I own just enough shoes to do what I need to do (house shoes, work shoes, sneakers, slippers). With the price of clothing so high, I just can’t justify buying it more often than when I absolutely need to. I wear things until they have holes and then I go buy more of the same thing. The are important in as much as I need to wear them to be socially acceptable, and I have what I need to meet the expectations of different social situations.

Describe your style, if you have one. My style apart from work is casual and fun. I love the t-shirts you can get that have retro themes on them like Sesame Street characters or Nintendo stuff.  Boot-cut jeans are my favorite pants, but in the heat where we currently live I can’t wear them very often and still be comfortable. I LOVE funky socks with different colors and designs and I wear them to work when I can so kids can see that I have a fun side. Casual and fun. 🙂

Tell us how appearance impacts how you feel about yourself. I have to be honest and say that my appearance in terms of clothes has a low impact on how I feel about myself. I can find clothes that make me look good. My weight has the greater effect on my self-esteem. There are clothes that would look great if not for the press of my body from beneath. I lost 40 pounds when I lived in the southwest and gained it all back while living in the midwest and dating my (now) husband. So dressing professionally may not be difficult, but how I feel in those clothes is affected by my weight. When I look lumpy in professional clothes I don’t feel as professional as I might if I was more streamlined in the same clothes. To me, fat seems frumpy even if it is dressed up in nice clothes. I’m working on that though. I have lost 6 pounds and I am looking to lose more this week.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are many educators that will say that how you dress influences how students view you and how they behave in your classroom. I would be interested to see what effect that has on actual classroom management and student performance. I assume that there has to be a dress code floor, where if you dress any worse than something, kids just can’t take you seriously no matter how good a teacher you are, and a dress code ceiling where if you dress any fancier the kids think you’re a weirdo (read: tux or prom dress). But I don’t see how jeans and a polo really interfere with learning as long as those jeans are clean and without holes, and the polo doesn’t have any inappropriate graphics on it and it fits. It is something to consider when putting forth an image to students, because sometimes something as small as the socks you wear can make that difference between respect and disdain. Know your environment, know your students, and know yourself and your choices for your professional dress will be informed and acceptable.

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2 thoughts on “Professional Dress

  1. Pingback: How important are clothes to you? | Processing the life

  2. Pingback: Princesses and Docs | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

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