In many schools across the country, dress codes for teachers no longer exist. Unions’ refusal to back schools’ dress codes for teachers is one reason the codes are no longer. Society has also shifted to a more casual approach to what was once considered a profession.
Educators are still professionals and showing their professionalism in how they dress does make a difference. While some teachers prefer the more casual clothes, others still follow the dress codes that were in place when they started teaching. For men, this means slacks, nice shirts and the dreaded tie. For women, this means dresses, skirts, or dress pants and high heels.
The messages professional dress sends students are positive ones. For students who grow up with an absent father or with gang influence, a tie may show another side to the male role model in their lives. It may help show there are other options than gang life or poverty. Professional dress may show students how to respect themselves. It may show them how to dress for the world outside their neighborhood.
Professional dress demands respect. Many other professionals wear professional dress and get the respect they deserve. Educators are professionals and they should get respect, not only from their students, but also from others in their community. Once upon a time educators were highly respected. Perhaps if all educators were to look and act as professionals they would regain some of that respect.
Students are required to adhere to a dress code in many schools. If they see their teachers not dressing as nicely as they have to, they will question the discrepancy. A grant awarded to Jane E. Workman and Beth W. Freeburg from Southern Illinois University Carbondale to determine what professional and appropriate dress for educators. Their preliminary results showed educators who look just like the kids have trouble establishing discipline in the classroom.
Not all teachers need to wear professional dress. It depends on what and whom they’re teaching. A mechanics teacher probably wouldn’t feel comfortable in professional dress nor would it be appropriate. A special education teacher may find chinos and loafers more appropriate than heels.