Vanguard Teaching

Front and center of tomorrow's society – learn smarter, teach harder

Clothes Do Make the Teacher

The controversy of the young Atlanta teacher’s clothing choice hit very close to home for me. The topic of “professionalism” in the field of education is a passionate subject I like to speak about. After a few days of scouring the social media universe, I would like to refute the following thematic defenses of her style of dress from an administrator/educator’s perspective. This is assuming that the outfits she chose to pose for her Instagram account are the same as/similar to what she chooses to wear when the students are present as well:

1. “If she were a man wearing something that showed his chest and arms, then we wouldn’t have this debate.” [RED HERRING ALERT!]

More than likely, we would not have a “break the internet” type of debate if it were a male in this situation (sexism is real). HOWEVER, society’s ills do not justify what she chose to wear in school. This just skirts issue (pun intended, I won’t lie). All educational professionals must be held to a high standard regarding their professional nature of character and dress.

2. “Fourth graders are not thinking about women or sex.” [AU CONTRAIRE MON FRERE]

This is purely wishful thinking. Many people who made this comment have not been in the 4th grade in over twenty years. Many studies have raised the issue of how our young boys are falling victim to the ills of pornography mainly due to its easy availability online. Female or male teachers wearing sexually provocative attire at school is inappropriate.

3. “There is no agreed upon standard for “professional” attire in schools.”

Here lies the root of the problem. Unlike most schools’ approach to student dress codes, a vast majority of schools and districts do not have any clear-cut guidelines and expectations for teacher attire. This folly needs to be corrected. The way teachers dress affect students’ learning and perceptions of the educator – i.e. the type of clothing the teacher wears plays a major factor in the ethos of the educator in the minds of many students. Most studies on teacher attire in the classroom, many students prefer that their teacher wears semi-formal clothing for them to take the teacher seriously. According to my research on male teacher clothing, African American students prefer that their teachers wear formal clothing to get their utmost respect and receptivity to learning.  It is already difficult to teach, wearing clothing that does not promote or mesh (and another pun) with a healthy student learning environment is a disservice to children’s future.

So where do we go from here?

I am not imploring nor suggesting that all female educators wear burqas/abayas or attire from a 1905 Sears Roebuck catalog. Classy and professional does not mean dull and Puritanical. Administrators and educational professionals, if there are no set guidelines on what teacher should wear, then create it. I highly suggest including teachers, students, and parents on this board as well.

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This entry was posted on September 15, 2016 by in Tips For Teachers and tagged , , , , , .
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