This is the exciting third post in a series I call: Everything Speaks!
What makes a great teacher? Can great teachers be created or molded? What things can I do to be a great teacher? One tenet understood and magnified by all great teachers is everything speaks. This is a focal point of the trainings we offer for educators, and one I continue to implement in my own profession. Simply put, everything speaks means that everything we do as educators sends a message to students about learning (and school). Great teachers understand the gravity of this tenet and pay careful attention to the messages they are sending to students. Some obvious examples of this tenet include teachers’ verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and dress/appearance. My focus for this post is on the latter: teacher dress.
The clothes that we wear send a message. The clothes that teachers wear send a message about school and learning. Teacher attire has become increasingly scrutinized and regulated by districts across the country. Some schools and districts allow teachers complete discretion when selecting clothes for teaching. Others encourage teachers to dress “professionally.” Still others prohibit blue jeans and t-shirts for all teachers, or require ties for men and dresses for women. I am not here to advocate one way or another. Many days I wore ties to class. Many days I wore collared shirts to class. Many days I wore jeans and a t-shirt to class. On themed days, I jumped right in with the students and wore pajama pants and slippers. As I have done with other posts in this series, let me pose some questions for your consideration. Remember, everything speaks. Remember, the clothes that teachers wear send a message about teaching and learning. Now, what messages do you want to send about teaching and learning? Are you sending these messages with your teacher dress? Would some modifications bring your attire closer in line with your desired messages? Of course, there are many factors that influence these decisions, including the subjects you teach, the age of students, and working conditions. But I always encourage teachers to send the most positive, growth-promoting messages they can about learning, and our dress can assist us with that goal.