Banker, doctor, attorney, minister, psychologist, politician, principal, and other professionals – when you envision them, how are they dressed? Most would say, “Coat and tie or business dress.”
Now, envision the typical teacher. Does the same image come to mind? Doubtful.
Over the past 50 years when it comes to attire, teachers’ standards have been allowed to decay until in many districts there almost seems to be no dress code at all.
Interestingly, during the same period discipline in the classroom has eroded. Teachers overlook students using profanity in the classroom, chewing gum and disposing of it improperly, coming to school with no homework or supplies, and attending school irregularly.
Parental involvement in the schools is often minimal, and teachers understand that if the principal has to choose between a parent’s complaint and a teacher’s reputation, the teacher often comes out the loser. That is just the way it is.
Could there be a connection between how teachers present themselves and how they are perceived today?
There is no denying that since the early 1960s the threat of lawsuits against teachers and school districts has changed the academic environment. Clothes have become a tool of individual expression for the students – no longer will a female student be sent home early because she chose to wear kulats to school.
Without delving into the studies which point to the fact that "teacher credibility ratings indicate that the teachers who wore the most formal attire consistently received the highest ratings of credibility from students", students’ perceptions of teachers are directly affected by the teachers’ clothing. It is time to recognize the obvious.
If we hope students will work to the best of their abilities in and out of the classroom, teachers must not only demand, but command their respect. Dressing up for the job, just as does the banker, doctor, attorney, minister, psychologist, politician, or principal, helps pave the way to these means.