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Should teachers wear business attire to school?


If educators want to be paid and treated as professionals, we should carry ourselves as professionals. An already tarnished image of public education is further sullied by teachers who choose to enter a classroom dressed for a day at the beach or for yard work.

Business attire in the classroom portrays an image of an educator who is proud of the work he or she does. What degree of respect can teachers expect to receive if they don’t dress like adult role models intent on providing the very best education for their students? Would a doctor see patients in shorts and a T-shirt? Would an attorney enter a courtroom with flip-flops and Capri pants? Would a businessperson attend a corporate board meeting in a warm-up suit?

Our school, as with most high schools, has theme days—pep rally Fridays and homecoming week—when casual, or even bizarre, dress is encouraged. However, when the “fun” is over, school administrators should ensure that the faculty dress appropriately for the classroom. The job of an administrator is to create a culture at a school that accepts nothing short of the most professional behavior. Appropriate dress is not the only quality of professionalism, but it is the most conspicuous.

Previous Debate
Should teachers eat lunch with their students?

The tally on the debate in the last NEA Today:

38% Yes
62% No
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Evaluation instruments should include sections on professional dress. Warm-up suits, jeans, Birkenstocks, T-shirts, and Hawaiian print shirts are the daily attire of a few members of our faculty. High school students are mature enough to see hypocrisy. If students are required to meet an appropriate standard of dress, why aren’t educators?

If educators are ever to enjoy the respect of the public and the compensation we deserve, let’s start with something we can control. Let’s outwardly show our pride in our profession by implementing dress codes for teachers.

Ray Waters teaches English at Gulf Breeze High School in Gulf Breeze, Florida.


Form follows function and never is that more true than in defining “professional attire” in a school setting. Our duties are as varied as our job descriptions and attire must follow accordingly.

I will not forget the day I smugly walked down the hall after breakfast duty, proudly wearing my new dress pants and blouse, only to look down to see the label from a student’s breakfast syrup container stuck to my pants. I’ve also learned that the red paint used in lower grades bonds permanently to better clothing.

My vest of bright green fabric depicting construction tractors might not portray the most professional air, but it stimulates children to talk. The merits of each tractor and brand have been described at length by even the quietest child. These were students who had been shy and uncertain of themselves. The vest got them talking.

Weaving dog and cat buttons into my shoelaces would not make a favorable impression in the corporate world, but it entertains young children who sit on the rug for a story.

My winter coat must lie either on a chair or on the floor because no closet or coat rack is available. Even those fortunate enough to have closets find them so full the doors won’t close. Therefore, we wear washable work jackets.

I allow school spirit to override stereotyped professionalism when I wear the sweatshirts that are gifts from the wrestling team and coach. The gift of popular clothing is priceless and wearing these items tells team members, “You are important.”

When choosing how we will dress our primary thought must be for our children and the tasks we do. We should not select clothing to make a fashion statement. Clothing is part of our curriculum.

Eileen Elrod is a guidance counselor for Grayson County Schools in Virginia.

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