Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Would Voltaire wear shorts or a nose ring?

More than likely, your contract has some kind of “professional dress” clause or item in it. Some are more specific than others; they might reference types of shoes, pants or jewelry that can or can’t be worn to work. Some contracts simply use the term “professional dress” leaving it up to interpretation.

The problem is when you get the whole “professional dress” term, you leave it up to interpretation. As we all know, interpretations of your contract by fellow teachers who consider themselves to be armchair union representatives vary widely. Some think running pants are professional dress, others think visors or ball caps are professional. Shorts are viewed by some as professional (after all, Physical Education teachers around the country do get away with wearing them) so are extreme haircuts, scraggly beards, sandals and facial piercings.

Personally, I think there’s an intangible line of good taste that teachers shouldn’t cross when it comes to dress. I think the more professional you dress, the fewer management issues you have (both in your classroom and with your administration). Generally if it’s against the student dress code, then teachers shouldn’t wear it—I won’t ask my kids to do something that I don’t do myself. However, I will be like Voltaire and say “I disapprove of what you wear, but I will defend the contract and your right to wear it.”

I’ve only worn shorts on the last day of school (a tradition I have engaged in for several years now) or on a day where we are outside for a field trip (zoo or some place like that). With the weather lately, I’ve been tempted to throw on some shorts—I’ve even tried to justify it to myself that once the temperature hits 90 degrees then it’ll be okay to put ‘em on. Luckily it hasn’t hit 90 degrees, so I haven’t had to test my resolve.

I do wear jeans, perhaps a little too much. No one’s ever said anything, but I remember during my first year of teaching, I was professionally dressed 5 days a week (and I mean truly professionally dressed). Only around the second half of the year did I wear jeans on Fridays—it felt like a guilty pleasure. I remember my mentor’s words on dress code (even though teachers in my district do not have one).

“In my first teaching job I was working in Philadelphia,” he said. “I had a Principal who told me that I should wear a coat and tie every day. He did tell me on hot days I was allowed to take the coat off, but that it should stay on the back of my chair in my room.”

What, you may ask, is the reason for my missive? A Martin County, Florida teacher was disciplined for wearing a nose ring. The 40 year old teacher got the piercing to commemorate the one year anniversary of her father’s death, but had to take it out after parents complained to an assistant principal that it was unprofessional. The union filed a grievance, and a federal arbitrator found in favor of the school district, saying it was not professional dress. You can read more about it here.


Anonymous said...

New York City has no dress code as far as I know.

ms-teacher said...

Just curious how they would have handled this situation if it was a cultural issue.

My nose is pierced, but the stud I wear is very small and not very noticeable. It's never been a problem for me where I am at, but I concede that if I ever choose to change districts, it might be a problem then.

Mister Teacher said...

I like to wear a thin white tank top, tucked into my Speedo on casual Fridays.
So far, no one has complained about it!

Pissedoffteacher said...

I wore my shorts today. I know they get on Principal Suit's nerves and there is nothing he can do about it.

NYC Educator said...

I'm almost ashamed to admit I wear a tie almost every day, usually with a jacket or even a suit. Although at 86 degrees today, no jacket anymore.

My job is more important than that of the APs, so I dress for it.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I tend to wear jeans often, but that's becuase I've noticed that it makes the students less intimidated when I discuss deep subjects, like the Defenestration of Prague or the historical significance of the Paxton Boys. Put on dress clothes, and I would probably scare the crap out of them.

But I am always modestly attired, and I have to say that I don't go in for multiple piercings or tattoos. I was a Preppy once, you know.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm a Tie Guy, myself. Although I don't particularly like that band of cloth wrapped around my neck, I think it does serve notice to my students: "Mr. CTG is serious about what he does--and we'd better be serious too."


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