Do Teachers Need Dress Codes to Know What to Wear at School?

tatooedteacher-copyAlthough the vast majority of educators dress in professional attire for the classrooms and schools where they work, some schools districts are nonetheless drafting and implementing dress code policies for school employees. While the push towards standards may seem relatively benign, these efforts bring up renewed questions about teacher professionalism and what constitutes “required educator attire.”

Teachers in West Virginia’s Kanawha County School District are protesting a proposed dress code that’s currently being considered by the local school board.

The teacher dress code would ban facial piercings, visible tattoos (teachers would have to cover them up), flip-flops, and “immodest” dress. Hair and nails are to be clean and neatly groomed, and those who work around moving equipment will be required to maintain shoulder length hair or secure it in place.

One of the more ambiguous inclusions is the prohibition of blue jeans, unless they are “dress jeans.” It’s these kinds of vague policies and stipulations that have teachers, who move from role to role within a school on a moment’s notice, wondering why standards are becoming a hot-button issue when the vast majority of teachers dress in a professional manner that suits their in-school role.

Several right-wing media outlets naturally have seized upon the episode in Kanawha County as a way to portray teachers’ displeasure as privilege and pettiness. The real issue, of course, is respect, says teacher Donna Hanshew.

“It makes you feel like you’re not considered a professional,” Hanshew told the Charlestown Gazette. “It’s just like everything else — you deal with the people who are the problem; you don’t need to punish the majority. It’s just like in school — you don’t punish the whole class for what one student did.”

“When you’ve got schools that are falling down — literally falling down around you — and then you’re making a big deal out of a dress code for teachers, what does that say about your priorities?” Hanshew added.

For Parents As Well?
In April, a school board member in Palm Beach County, Florida, suggested a new dress code – not for students or teachers, but for parents. Karen Brill said she was miffed at the sight of parents picking up or dropping off their children looking unkempt and wearing ill-fitting pants, pajamas or “short shorts.”
The idea failed to gain any traction as other board members said it was important that schools are inviting to parents, regardless of what they may be wearing.
Debra Wilhelm, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, strongly opposed dress codes for parents, calling them a waste of time and impractical.
“Who’s going to enforce it?” she asked. “Are they going to have school police arrest parents?”

“Our association believes the administration should address inappropriate dress by professionals on an individual basis as opposed to throwing everyone under the bus,” explains Dinah Adkins, president of the Kanawha County Education Association. “The large majority of educators dress professionally and appropriate for daily activities. In our county only one board member actually supported the implementation of a dress code.”

Many educators object to teacher dress codes, not because they want to look unprofessional, but because they see this as yet another unnecessary and insulting attempt to limit their rights and demean the profession.

“We are professionals, and we don’t need somebody telling us what we need to wear to work,” says Bill McConnell, an English Teacher in Ontario, California and a member of the California Teachers Association. “We understand that we shouldn’t show up for work in sweat pants. We are adults and can make our own decisions. I dress in clothes that are practical for my job. I don’t need to wear a pair of $100 slacks to teach. It’s more practical and efficient to teach in blue jeans with a button-down shirt or a polo shirt.”

It’s true that being taken seriously as a teacher necessitates that one look professionally ready for the classroom, but what exactly does “professional attire” for educators look like? In a world where “business casual” can refer to a wide variety of attire, how should a teacher—who, it should be noted, often assumes other school responsibilities such as lunch duty, afterschool duty, and a bevvy of other impromptu roles that require mobility and comfort—be “professionally” dressed?

Almost every teacher has a basic understanding of what constitutes school-friendly attire. Dressing too casually sends off a blasé vibe to students and fellow faculty that might undermine their ability to teach from a position of respect and authority. But dressing too rigidly could have the opposite effect, creating a sense of separation between the teacher and students.

“It’s important to dress the part,” says Sherell Lanoix, a 4th grade teacher in Los Angeles, California. “Students, parents, and administrators take you more seriously when you come to work dressed as a professional.”

With almost half of all public school students required to follow dress codes, wouldn’t it make sense for teachers to do so as well? In fact, the overwhelming majority of teachers comply with the parameters of “professional attire,” knowing full well what their roles and responsibilities in school will require.

Teachers know to avoid revealing clothing and ultracasual attire; those who make that mistake are reprimanded by their school administrators. But stipulating that teachers follow an uncompromising guideline without understanding the required duties of the teachers isn’t the right way to go.

Teachers should have a say in defining their profession, and most already know what’s the best approach. The bottom line, says Dr. Janet Stramel, an Assistant Professor at the College of Education and Technology at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, is teachers should dress in a way that promotes respect and shows students that they’re the authority in the classroom.

“Dress like a professional. A teacher who wears jeans or sweats, or tops that show cleavage, does not promote respect.”

  • Gary

    We had principals that wanted the women to wear very revealing tops,and show their cleverage assets,and never say a word to them,and wear short shorts to work, but myself being a man I got reprimanded for wearing shorts the last day of school, when we were going to be outside the whole day,and then pack up our classrooms after students left. This was with women down the hall, with their asses hanging out their shorts,and nobody said anything to them….so yeah…we need dress codes,and then it needs to be enforced for both teachers, and students.

  • Bo

    Actually, I believe that teachers should have a dress code that requires professional dress and grooming (and I’m very liberal-minded in general in other aspects of life).

    Yet, I can easily see how administrators could abuse such a policy as well.

    My aunt, who is not a teacher, said it this way, “one should be able to look at a group of students and teachers and be able to distinguish the teacher from the students.”

    Admittedly, I’m sure that if it’s the last day of school, or a field trip, or any event where it was SINCERELY NOT PRACTICAL to be dressed in a dress shirt and tie, administrators must be willing to bend. For this reason, I will remain cautiously optimistic about dress codes in general. As we all know, rule have a tendency to get misconstrued at times, especially in public school systems.

  • Meg

    Speaking in terms of practicality, the most stringent interpretation of professional dress is simply impossible in some school settings. Spending an exorbitant amount to purchase “business attire” in an environment that requires dressing in layers for safety as well as comfort results in already limited monetary resources being wasted on clothing that cannot be dry-cleaned anywhere within a 500 mile radius of teacher housing, and would require two flights to do so.
    Besides which, it would not pass muster after hiking across the tundra in a -50 degree blizzard, being worn underneath parkas, snow pants and balaclavas. It is far more practical to wear layers of washable knits and denims that are adaptable to varied conditions and temperatures. As long as they are in good repair and clean, this clothing will still be more modest, stylish, and suitable for school environments than 2/3 of our student population’s attire.
    When I first came to the Bush, my then-principal (I have seen 8 come and go over the past 16 years) told me to “dress about two shades better than the students and [he] wouldn’t have a problem with it.” In my humble opinion, teachers who have been in a school for at least a year should have some sense of what is practical and promotes positive interaction with students. If they do not, hopefully their mentor teacher will clue them in.
    There are far more important issues for schools to deal with than this one.

  • Lisa Rodrigues

    In my local it seems to be adouble standard. Men get away with wearing polo shirts and shorts, while the women tend to over dress. I tend towards practical/conservative and am bothered by the extremes of too casual and (for lack of a better wrod) too “hoochy.”

    My tattoos are mostly covered and reflect who I am. I don’t thinkanything which does not interfere with my ability to work should be monitored.

  • Gloria Ball

    Yes, a dress code is needed if we want to be considered “professionals.” The way some teachers now dress is way too casual. The dress code doesn’t need to be ultra-conservative should earn respect.

  • Linda

    Unfortunately, dress codes are needed. I have seen cleavage, tight shorts, old jeans worn consistently, flip-flops, sweatshirts, t-shirts, very short skirts, etc. You don’t have to spend lots of money to dress professionally. Nice pants and shirts or tops can be purchased at places like Old Navy. Teachers are role models, and those who say that students don’t notice what teachers wear just are wrong!

  • Cassie

    I’d love it if we could be left to our own devices and treated like the professionals we are, but some teachers in my building would wear jeans and sloppy t-shirts every day if given the chance. My building has a pretty liberal dress code (no shorts, no jeans unless it’s Friday, no cleavage or too-short skirts, etc), yet people still complain about it. I don’t think we should have to wear a suit and tie or fancy dresses every day, but a bit nicer than the kids isn’t too much to expect.

  • Administrator

    As an administrator (and former classroom teacher) I see both sides of the coin. As a teacher, I wanted to dress comfortably based on my grade level. I would never dress in a button down shirt and tie when I taught 1st grade – it would have be stained within the first 30 seconds of walking in my classroom. But I also had the wherewithal to know not to show up in shorts, flip flops and a Hawaiian shirt (unless of course it was Tiki Party day). However, as an administrator, I have seen teachers show up in shorts, flip flops, sweat pants and other inappropriate attire that most teachers know better not to wear. However, without a dress policy and strong unions you can’t say anything. They could wear that everyday and I am left powerless. So unless I had an actual policy to enforce, then this teacher can come in daily dressed unprofessionally. So what I would like to see, is each school dictating what is NOT appropriate, rather than saying what should be worn. I would be happy telling teachers no flip flops, no shorts, no sweatpants. I am perfectly content with jeans, tennis shoes, and polo shirts.

  • As a retired educator I can not believe how teachers dress!
    I worked with substitute teachers and could not believe their attire.
    Some look like they just go out of bed.
    Students look up to (or should) their classroom teachers and notice what they wear.
    I can see if a kindergarten teacher has to spend time on the floor with he/she
    working with the children on a carpet wearing jeans and a casual shirt/top; not something you would wear to the beach!

    You as a teacher should not look like one of the students!
    Take pride in your profession! These are our future leaders!

  • Giffin

    As a Middle School Engineering and Technology teacher who has been both building level and district level administration, I think the whole dress code debate is asinine. When I had teachers who dressed in appropriately they were dealt with systemically (a peer conference, administrative verbal warning, written warning, sent home to change into appropriate attire.) in 13 years I had nor teacher get that far. I didn’t need a written policy to deal with this most of the issues that are dealt with administratively don’t have written policies. As a teacher, many times with my subject matter things are messy and dirty so on those days I wear jeans, even though our superintendent has stated, “Jeans are not professional attire and should not be worn.” For some of my students they will be professional attire so I will continue to wear them as needed. Learned my lesson 27 years ago as a beginning teacher who ruined two brand new 50 dollar shirts working in my Lab. Since then, I dress appropriately for out lab time and class time. As a first year teacher though I was listening to what my fellow professionals were telling me, but not a single one had a clean and dirty area in which they worked.

  • gilbert

    Yes! This is long over due, since too many teachers today dress like kids, slobs, prostitutes, or beach bums. I wore a long-sleeve shirt and tie every day for 33 years as a teacher. Only during so-called “spirit” days would I wear a school t-shirt or something. Never denim jeans, which should be banned for any teacher. Coaches can wear shorts in the gym but not in the classroom. Flip flops absolutely have no place in a professional environment. And while we’re at it, I think it’s high time students have either strict dress codes or uniforms. Seems to work well in many charter and private schools as well an in places like Japan. In general, Americans, for all of our obsession with the Kardashians, dress like pigs.

  • Carla

    Most schools have a dress code for students. Teachers should not break that dress code. Our school system, for example, doesn’t allow sweatpants or revealing clothing, so that’s for the teachers as well. At my school, we can wear jeans any day we want, but most teachers wear either a school shirt or professional tops with the jeans. As a teacher who is small and looks young, it doesn’t matter how professionally I dress, I get mistaken for a student. Just look for the wrinkles.

    We are professionals, and it should be dealt with on a case by case basis. If a professional is incapable of dressing appropriately, that’s a prompt for discussion. A blanket restrictive dress code that would be difficult for first year teachers to fulfill on a first year salary is counterintuitive and wasteful.

    As for tattoos…if you are a good teacher, piercings and tattoos don’t bother me. It’s time to value what is important.

  • Yes, teachers do need dress codes. I was observing in a classroom this spring and the teacher had on nice pants (khaki) that were too big and hung down mid-buttocks. I was embarrassed for the teaching profession in seeing his attire in the front of a class. Later I saw the same teacher in a PE class with a pair of silk gym shorts on that were hanging down past his butt cheeks. He looked like a high school student that was trying to be cool. Do people not know the fashion of sagging one’s pants was born of a prison mode of signaling sexual availability. Bet if they did know they wouldn’t be running around looking so ridiculous.

  • slk

    unfortunately, for the not so bright, YES!!!

  • Melissa

    Elementary school teachers have to be out on the playground or in the lunchroom doing duty, not to mention dealing with little kids, crayons, pencils, markers, and other messy hazards. I believe my colleagues and I dress appropriately for the weather and job conditions. With everything else we’re dealing with, isn’t worrying about a dress code a little much?

  • Hell no! I am sick and tired of educators thinking we should set an example but having no individuality! Clean cloths is about all the requirement we should ever be expected to adhere to. This is the problem with our generation 1950, 1960 and 1970. We fought like hell to put all that corporate stuffed shirt crap behind us and that is just where it should stay. Who says what is proper attire? Why is traditional African garb, Native American cloths, tattoos are also a cultural thing, etc…not considered business or school appropriate wear! Because the corporate thugs who run everything want us to be nice simple sheeple that is why. I am sick of this backwards thinking that our generation seems to have lapsed in to. Rock on educators and stand strong against becoming sheeple and producing sheeple!!!!!

  • Melanie

    Sagging pants may have originated in prison, but not to signal sexual availablity. Most prison uniforms are ill-fitting and there is not always the size needed available. I believe teachers do know how to dress appropriately and should be allowed to dress for their particular job. Violations or extreme dress should be dealt with individually. I am retired now, but the last two years I taught, we had a “modified dress-down” dress code as we were under renovation. We were allowed to wear nice jeans and tops or sweaters. On Fridays we were allowed to wear a staff polo or t-shirt. I agree with no flip-flops as they are a safety hazard for everyone. Teachers are required to do so much for so little compensation that they need to have little perks such as dressing comfortably.

  • That teachers would even have “facial piercings [and] visible tattoos”–especially the former–is repulsive.

  • Karl Urban

    Now I realize that this is going back a LONG way, and I’m not advocating returning to the same thing, but…when I went to public schools in the 50’s and 60’s, men wore suits/sport coats and ties, woman wore dresses (back then, women didn’t wear pants!) I taught school for only six years, after having spent 33 years in a different profession, and was absolutely appalled at the way some teachers dressed. If we insist on being considered professionals, we should come to work attired accordingly!

  • Don

    Hate to say it, but if you want to be treated like a professional – dress like one. I’m an Engineering/Manufacturing instructor and yup, I’ve ruined some clothes. That’s why they make shop coats. And flip flops…Really! Keep them at the beach.

  • Ashley

    What about tattoos and piercings that are cultural/religious based? Where do you draw the line?

    I have a nose stud and tattoos, have taught for 4 years, and none of those things have ever been a problem. I am getting words and imagery from all my favorite books tattooed on my body, and it actually starts conversations with students about reading. They recommend books to me, and I recommend books to them, and they all know how much I love reading even though I’m a science teacher. My tattoos are mostly covered during the school day, but it actually helps build relationships with my students and their parents (who are mostly tattooed as well).

    I wear dress pants and nice tops every day, except Fridays I wear jeans and a school shirt. I wear lab coats/aprons on lab days to protect my clothes, and I usually wear nice closed toe shoes. I wear dress sandals in the warmer months when I don’t have labs. My school’s dress code says: “Teachers will dress professionally.” That’s it, and it’s enough.

  • Paul Franklin-Bihary

    I absolutely disagree with the assumption that one needs to dress ‘professionally’ in order to reach, teach and lead students. I wear t-shirts and jeans regularly, and am one of the most successful and well-liked teachers in my high school.

    What are we teaching kids if we declare that the way you look is more important than the content of one’s character or one’s intelligence or one’s passion for learning and teaching? I move around a lot in my classes. Wearing stuffy wool slacks, dress shoes and a tie does nothing but confine me and make me sweaty. And it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the the respect my students show me as their guide and leader. In fact, I would argue that dressing like a ‘regular’ person and NOT a ‘professional’ makes my ability to form a positive rapport with my students easier, not harder.

    I practically never have problems with students disrespecting me. I know teachers in the building that wear professional garb every day that kick kids out of class every day.

    The business world today has relaxed standards for attire in many instances as well. Companies like Pixar and Facebook don’t mandate dress whatsoever; people come to work comfortable, and are productive and positive employees.

    This whole thing is so old-fashioned and just silly. We definitely do not need mandated dress codes. Of course, if someone is letting it all hang out or frightening students with Nazi tattoos, the principal or other school leadership should, and already can, intervene.

    Let’s focus on showing kids that people can express themselves with their fashion in many different ways and still be professionals. That is a much better lesson than blind conformity.

  • Claire Marie

    Each generation seems to have a different view of what’s appropriate attire for teachers…that’s what makes this a hot-button issue. I’ve taught in elementary schools for 30 years, and while I personally prefer seeing teachers dressed in more professional attire, I would rather my children have a great teacher dressed in casual clothes than a crap teacher dressed to the hilt.

  • Claire Marie

    Each generation seems to have a different view of what’s appropriate attire for teachers…that’s what makes this a hot-button issue. I’ve taught in elementary schools for 30 years, and while I personally prefer seeing teachers dressed in more professional attire, I would rather my children have a great teacher dressed in casual clothes than a slacker dressed to the hilt.

  • Spanish Teacher

    I would like to respond to the article about school districts instituting dress codes in their schools. Here in Clark County, Nevada, we have a district-wide dress code which is pretty commonsense. However, principals are given autonomy as to how they run their schools. This includes how not only their students, but also their teachers and support staff should dress. For example, at some schools, teachers can’t even wear articles of clothing, like t-shirts or sweatshirts, even if they have the school logo on them. At others, teachers aren’t permitted to wear jeans or sweats AT ALL–even if they happen to teach classes such as Auto Shop, Woodworking or art classes, where you need to feel comfortable and have the freedom of movement that dress pants, dress shirts and suits simply don’t permit. Although I am totally for preventing teachers coming to work ill-clad, which would create a major distraction to the learning environment, schools and school districts should simply use common sense when considering what dress codes to adopt. The important thing is to promote respect for the authority in the classroom while still making students feel safe and comfortable and excited about learning.
    Additionally, regarding dress codes for parents, as a parent myself, I’m all for that! I can’t tell you how many horror stories I hear about mothers coming to parent-teacher conference dressed in super-short skirts, crop-tops and little else left to the imagination. Or fathers who come to speak to the teacher looking like thugs with sagging pants, ripped jeans or t-shirts with offensive logos on them. Or just as bad–mothers and fathers coming in pajamas or house dresses and wearing house slippers with bandanas tied around their heads. Just as teachers and students should come appropriately for the school environment, parents should be held to that standard as well. Although schools should be welcoming to the parents as well as the students, parents should also set the example for their children as to how they should dress when coming to school for whatever purpose. Dress should not be distracting to the school environment no matter who it is.
    If one is worried about how to enforce a dress code for parents, it’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t take the school police to enforce compliance. I recall a school principal who, after meeting a bikini-clad mother for a conference, firmly but kindly asked her to go back home and put on more appropriate clothing. I’m not saying that parents should come dressed to the nines, but even if it’s nothing more than a pair of right-fitting jeans and a t-shirt or top (with no offensive logos or slogans on it), or even a simple dress that isn’t very revealing, this would be appropriate.
    All in all, dress codes for everyone should simply be sensible and conducive to the school environment without placing undue burdens on students, parents and teachers and support staff.

  • Chuck Isner

    Yes. We complain about not being treated professionally, but don’t feel a need to dress as a professional. When I attended school, like some above noted, men wore suits and ties; women wore dresses or a skirt and blouse. I don’t think we have to be that strict, and I realize that there need to be exceptions for coaches and certain others, but I do see many who make this into far more of an issue than it needs to be. No lawyer or doctor would dream of coming to work in jeans, but many teachers deem that to be entirely proper. When possible, I would hope administrators would establish a committee to draw up the code. I also agree w/ someone who mentioned putting the emphasis on what is NOT acceptable.

  • Judi

    Although I strongly object to school board legislating what teachers wear, I do have to say that many teachers that I have seen do need to be advised how to dress professionally.

    When I was a classroom teacher the shirt top of one of my colleagues was so low that the rest of us didn’t know where to look to avoid seeing her cleavage. She taught 5th grade. The issue was addressed by the principal, but I feel that it shouldn’t have come to that.

    As a supervisor of student teachers for our state university, I have the opportunity to go into a number of classrooms to observe the student teachers. There are times when I’m surprised at the low cut tops that some of the teachers wear.

    We tell our student teachers to stand in front of a mirror and bend over after they have dressed for the day. If anything is showing inappropriately then they need to change.

    Perhaps people have to be reminded of what dressing professionally means. Teachers should be very aware of what clothing is appropriate in front of students.

  • Jenny

    I think “professional dress” or “business casual” is completely appropriate. Obviously there is an exception to every rule (i.e. PE teachers wearing sports appropriate clothing, art teachers wearing clothing that won’t be ruined by being covered in paint, etc.), but for most part the dress code should stand.
    My last school completely undermined their teachers a year ago. The superintendent said “jeans are not conducive for teaching and learning, so no more jeans on Fridays or even on spirit days (we were told to wear our spirit gear with our dress slacks). Teachers were very upset, but for the most part complied with the rules. Then the district started using jeans as a incentive/bribe to get things. They would randomly say the home opener for such-in-such team is Friday, wear jeans. They would tell us we could wear jeans if we donated money to a specific cause and got a sticker that morning to prove it. Needless to say, all they did was make the teachers feel as though the no jeans rule was arbitrary. That clearly they weren’t too worried about jeans effecting student achievement on those days.
    If the dress code is so important that they feel the need to change it district wide, then it should be enforced, not used against the teachers.

  • Kandi

    I also believe there should be a reasonable dress code that is put together in collaboration with the local union and administration that will be mutually agreed upon. When you can’t distinguish staff from students or parents their is something wrong. I consider teaching a proud profession and we should dress as professionals. I agree with one of the above comments that there are days build into the school year to have fun and dress differently such as celebrating Dr. Seuss/Read Across America and spirit weeks or days. I believe reasonable professionals can come up with reasonable expectations. There are enough discount stores advertising reasonably price attire where teacher’s can buy clothes at a reasonable price.

  • Liz

    Teachers are there own worst enemies. Always looking to slam or judge other teachers. This one wears this, look at that one, always trying to police one another. This is where a majority of the issues lie in this profession.

    We work until the end of June in NJ, we have no air conditioning, our furniture is falling apart and catches on our clothing often, and you want to tell me what to wear?

    How many times in these responses did someone type “if you want to be treated like professionals dress like one.” How about when you provide me the luxuries that other professions have like…heat, air conditioning, furniture that is less then 20 years old we could dress nicer. What other professionals work in these conditions?

    If there is a problem with the way someone is dressing then the supervisor should be talking to them, not treating the rest of us like children.

  • Kurt dustin

    What profession does not have a dress code? For the most part people do know how to dress appropriately, but when someone comes from one environment such as a university campus leave your clothes there. Nobody became a teacher for the clothes they get to wear. An educator should not want to be confused as a student. If a person wants to wear whatever they want then get a job in the trades. A big reason for dress codes is for the actions of a few that had not a clue on what was appropriate and I think without a code people would regress.

  • Diane Joss

    Cole Porter wrote “Anything Goes” over 80 years ago – here’s one of the lines, “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, now heaven knows, Anything Goes” And here we are today with male teachers in cutoffs and beards, hair on their necks, tats on their arms and hands, and sandals on their bare feet———female teachers in short-shorts and low-cut tee shirts showing cleavage, Cleopatra eyeliner and false eyelashes, crewcuts and Botox lips. The kids are too mesmerized by the clown show to learn how to read. Do we need a dress code or just a 101 class in respect for the kids we’re teaching – and knowing the difference between what to wear in the classroom and what to wear on a date.

  • Gazork

    Teachers should appear professional. But, that costs more money. The better you pay me for being a professional, the better I will look.

  • Matthew

    The whole idea of instituting a dress code for faculty is not entirely surprising, since personal attire in the work place for schools and colleges has closely duplicated personal attire in the nation as a whole. And personal attire in the last 50 years or so, has moved decidedly toward comfort and practicality, and away from formality and any indication of signs of respect that clothing has had for centuries. For example, who now wears black or somber clothing to funerals? Clothing simply has entirely lost its symbolic value and no longer expresses professionalism or one’s respect for their employment as it had in bygone times. There are vestiges of the use of clothing for symbols of achievement and professionalism. Judges and graduates still wear caps and gowns, bankers wear neckties, and uniforms are worn by the police, firemen, and members of the armed services.

  • Lolly

    I am a retired educator and STILL think jeans are JEANS, period. “Back in the day” I even wore gloves to school to match my ensemble. Yep, I wore an ensemble. I can still remember when female teachers were finally allowed to wear pant SUITS!! These were NOT slacks and a top, but slacks with matching jacket. I have friends who are still teaching and I am appalled by their appearance much of the time. I don’t know if they are getting ready to clean out the stables or just coming from work. Regardless of what others may say about being one of the most popular teachers in the schools wearing casual clothing, I always told my students that I wasn’t there to become their BFF, but to make them the best they could be. In the end I STILL have former students who are friends. Some I have known for 50 years!!! They always said they knew immediately who was the teacher and that they were the students. I was strict, but fair and dressed professionally EVERY SINGLE DAY for 34 years in the classroom and always felt good about it. The last couple of years I had to go to wearing flat- heeled shoes because my hips, legs and feet were protesting from so many years of three-inch heels. 🙂 It isn’t just in teaching though. I think our society as a whole has become too casual. Just saying.

  • Tina

    When I say something to a student and that student takes my statement to the extremes, I view that as a very immature response. Sadly, we have teachers on this site doing exactly that. A dress code does not necessarily mean that you have to purchase $100 pants or 3-piece suits. I wear trouser pants with a sweater or blouse Monday – Thursday and have no problem moving about the room, kneeling on the floor or squatting down to help students, etc. On Fridays, I wear jeans with a school logo shirt as every Friday is Spirit Day at our school. Khaki pants and a polo are not expensive or uncomfortable and would most likely pass any dress code that would be put in place. If you already dress professionally, then having a dress code shouldn’t affect you. Having a dress code will allow administrators to deal with those who do not dress professionally. With no policy, it is difficult for anything to be done. If we want to be treated as professionals, then we should act and dress the part. My husband works for a large private company and he has a dress code. He has had dress codes at most of the companies he has worked for. My sister worked for a very large corporation and she was not allowed to have bare legs or wear shoes without socks or pantyhose. Get over it, people. You sound like the teenagers you teach.

  • Domenick

    Oh, please. This is such a wool-over-the-eyes concern. It’s subjective, this idea of “appropriate” attire. (And, yes, I dress pretty “professionally” when I teach.) This smells of a control problem—administrators, many of whom have never taught and come right out of some program to make them “leaders,” want more rigidity so that the whole group can be on board. It seems this is a K-12 concern, though, so thankfully I have no dog in this fight, teaching at the college level as I do. Cheers.

  • Carls

    Are all of you who are against flip-flops, jeans, tattoos and casual attire also the ones running after students, changing their diapers, getting clothes torn by these students, and hit/spit on/kicked/things thrown at you? That is my job. You wouldn’t catch me in a skirt, dress, fancy blouse, what have you when this is what I go through daily. The parents I work with prefer this kind of dress because they are in the trenches with us daily and like to feel as though we are on the same level as they are. The students in my building don’t care what their teachers are wearing, they are just happy to have someone to hug them even though they have chronic lice, have worn the same clothes for the past 4 days, or are those some consider “unlovable.” Please. Oh, and there are doctors and lawyers who go to work in jeans. Many of them. Let’s get over the dress code issue and work together to help our children succeed in life!

  • Kay

    Teachers do not need a dress code. As professionals, we can decide what is appropriate for the culture of our schools and the nature of our work environment. Teachers in my school wear flip flops all the time, but with nice dresses or dark jeans. Nobody bats an eye. The students are super respectful, holding doors addressing us with proper titles, and so on. I was always taught to dress for the job. I am on my feet all day, so nobody is going to tell me what footwear is appropriate. I wear flip flops or flats so by 3pm my back doesn’t hurt. (For those of you who say flipflops are beachwear, beachwear is barefoot and the faux snakeskin flipflops with the cute buckle on the side that I wear would never be permitted to touch sand). I wear washable clothes so I’m not getting chalk all over dry clean only suits. There are 2 rules when it comes to dressing professionally — it must be clean and it must fit. Other than that, everyone should keep their opinions to themselves about how other people dress. Americans are way too judgey and not accepting of anyone who has a different perspective on fashion, health choices, religion, or anything for that matter. Let’s teach our children how to be respectable and respectful individuals who can change the world, not just minions who know their place in the status quo.

  • Jennifer

    I teach student with moderate to severe disabilities. Truly “professional” dress would be impractical. (To be clear, despite everything I am about to say, I absolutely adore my students.) I have had clothing pulled (hard) by a student having a meltdown; for that reason, I don’t wear anything with buttons, anything of flimsy material (e.g. silk), or skirts of any kind. I have had food thrown at me. I have had various bodily fluids on me. I have had to run after a student (sneakers every day; nice sneakers, but still). I have had students bite and/or scratch me (nice, thick denim every day; mostly black denim to look better, but still).

    I try, within the practicalities of my job, to pull off “business casual” as much as I can, but I imagine my overall wardrobe is closest to what a preschool teacher would wear. I do believe in presenting a good appearance, but there are different types of teaching jobs that require different attire. Top-down dress codes would very likely overlook that fact.

  • Hallie

    While I certainly think that administrators should address inappropriate attire, I think it’s the teacher’s demeanor and authority that should distinguish him or her from the students. We have dress-down Fridays, and even though I’m wearing jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt on those days, there is ZERO question that I’m in charge. My students respect me and obey me regardless of what I’m wearing.

  • He

    Dress parameters and ink/piercings are two different animals. I can command respect dressed in jeans, sneakers, and a nice shirt, but the proliferation of tattoos and piercings…all in the name of individuality…makes many folks visually laughable. How can I take anyone seriously (teacher, waiter, CPA, whatever) if they have a star tattooed behind their ear, a sleeve of various “individualities” that morph into a giant mass of multi-colored gibberish, snakebite piercings, or whatever other body modifications that people are making in the name of ‘individuality’. Want to look professional and be respected? Hide the ink.

  • Ken

    Business casual should be the norm for teachers, however, for some assignments, that attire would be not be appropriate. Vocational, Family Science, Art, and Physical Education teachers should be allowed to have different attire based on what is appropriate for their particular assignment. There should be an understanding that there are times when business casual is not worn, for example, a spirit day or if the temperature is -10 (as was many times this past winter). If the dress was this widespread, rampant problem that distracted student learning, the standard that students’ dress is held to, the district should have had these conversations with the association and their UniServ Director(s).

  • Ana

    I think it a great idea that the new York city teachers should have a dress code…I seen teacher coming to class with rip pants, low cut shirts,wrinkle t-shirts and pants….I mean no respect for themselves or their profession…no makeup, hair looks like a bird nest…the worst…they honestly don’t inspire any respect from the student…so sad..

  • Samuel

    I object to dress codes in general. The only regulations in attire that should exist in the school environment should be for safety reasons. I find it sexist and belittling to enforce a dress code because people want to restric people from looking different, dressing how they feel comfortable, and expressing themselves. The idea that hair length, piercings, or tattoos affecting the school environment is full of crap. When dress codes for teachers, students, or even parents are being enforced, there is a certain connection with sexuality attached that bothers me. If a woman is wearing clothes that are considered “skimpy” then she is in violation of the dress code. Cultural clothing is often restricted as well. Where will it stop? There is a place and time to where certain clothes, but people also need to respect that people should be able to judge that for themselves and not wear clothes that are dangerous or literally revealing it all. Don’t let it all hang out, but don’t tell professionals what to wear. Discussions can be had about what is appropriate on an individual basis, but I find it heavily offensive to be told what I can or cannot wear when it is interference with my religion, cultural expression, personal expression, or gender identity or sexual orientation.

  • Zook

    I’m a little surprised to see how many of you are in favor of Dress Codes… I myself think it should be left up teachers; most businesses you go to do not require this, so why should we? After reading about your peers dressing like “hoochies” and students, I am glad I have not encountered this at my school(s). I lived and taught in AZ and never encountered someone who dressed down too much. We did have a staff member who dressed in Jackie O. attire and looked incredibly out of place, but there are bigger fish to fry.

    I will say in my current IL school, everyone pretty much looks nice all the time. I will also say that while it would be nice to have us follow the student dress code, I will say that half my school is air conditioned and half is not. Since I am all over every day, I get the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, that means teaching sometimes in 90+ (at one point, over 100) degrees at the beginning and end of the year. Sorry I’m not sorry for wearing dress pants and a tank that is 1.5″ instead of 2″. I’d rather not pass out in front of the students.

    In my opinion, you are grown adults. If you can’t figure out how to wear nice clothes to work there are bigger issues at hand.

  • mike

    At our school, we are expected to dress professional, even though my classroom temp reaches 90 degrees most days (including winter), I am not allowed to dress comfortably but a female teacher can come in and wearing flip flops, shorts and unprofessional tops, but I would get written up for wearing shorts.

    As for overall, teachers need to smarten up if they don’t want their ability to have freedom in their class to go the wayside. Students respect adults if they are worth respecting.

  • Jennifer

    Attire is NOT what determines whether or not students respect their teachers. It’s how teachers TREAT their students that determines whether or not the kids respect their teacher. I have been teaching high school for 12 years. 99% of the time I wear a nice pair of jeans and dress it up with a nice top and shoes. Not once have I ever had a student say s/he didn’t respect me because of how I dress. In fact, my students have commented that how I dress makes me more approachable because I seem more like a normal person. My students respect me because I treat them with respect, plain and simple. Respect has nothing to do with how I dress.

  • Burt Reynolds

    I’m sad I can only give
    Paul Franklin-Bihary says: June 12, 2014 at 4:31 pm
    only one thumbs up… a thumbs up that the site won’t recognize.

    I agree, dress code is a problem. The problem is crappy “teachers” dressing professionally to hide the fact that they don’t belong serving lunch in the cafeteria let alone running a classroom.

    What happened to “you got to school to learn not for a fashion show?” So, now that we have (what I assume is the older generation of teachers) squawking about wearing jeans and t-shirts making you some kind of degenerate, does that now mean we are going to set this precedent in stone and let the better dressed students make fun of the poor kids that don’t dress right?

    Or how about we all come dressed in Armani so we can make ourselves even more unrelateable to our students?

    All of you fools pushing for a dress code have no idea what you’re proposing. Not only that, you’re not smart enough to understand that you’ve just broadcasted for all to read that you prefer image over substance. Brilliant, smarties!

    I hope you’ve memorized your subject matter better than your ability to think.

    No wonder nobody takes teachers seriously when this is what passes for thought among us.

    And for the record, I care not what my Lawyer or Doctor looks like as long as he/she knows what he/she is doing. Is anyone trying to convince me that you would decline the cure for cancer because the doctor that discovered it was wearing a T-shirt with a giant middle finger on it and cut off shorts and a pink wig? I wouldn’t.

  • Tammi

    I think that we need a guideline not a dress code. I work with severely handicap students with intensive behaviors. I need to be able to move around and not worry about my clothes. I do wear close-toed shoes (mostly tennis shoes), which I think is a must for all educators. I do wear jeans as they are durable and washable, as I never know if I am going to be spit on or even thrown-up on. I do wear nice but not dressy shirts, sometimes they are t-shirts because I am not going to spend a lot of money on a shirt that might get torn or ripped by a student. I don’t wear any jewelry as they might be grabbed or might scratch a student. I wear my hair up as it also is something that can be grabbed by a student. When I have an IEP meeting, I will usually dress a little nicer.
    These are my guidelines based on the population of students that I work with. I think schools should have a guideline that addresses the basics of what is appropriate wear for their population.

  • Samuel

    So, I think that there are a few issues with dresscodes for teachers, students, and parents all the same. One issue is that they can be incredibly sexist. There are many specifications in the average dress code that are specified for a gender like the rules don’t apply for the other gender identities. For example, girls/women are asked not to where tank tops or spaghetti straps because that is “too revealing.” Too revealing of what? Their shoulders? Since when were shoulders considered sexual? Also, some people have very subjective views on what is too much clevage or leg to show. Many times women in particular are targeted on what is too much to show.

    I also have an issue with complaints about tattoos or piercings. It is the twenty-first century and we need to realize that having tattoos or a piercing will not hinder a teacher’s performance in the classroom. If a teacher can teach in the classroom and maintain a decent amount of order, then there shouldn’t be an issue.

    I think too many teachers are ploicing other people and tattling. I am well aware that there are generational and cultural differences in what a teacher is able to wear, but I think that we should be here to support each other. I hear and see a lot of teachers say that “if we want to be treated like professionals we need to dress like professionals.” However, one aspect of being a professional is that we, as professionals have a say in what it is that makes us professionals and that we get to decide what those standards are. So who is to say that something outside of the sweater/button up shirt, slacks, etc. doesn’t work? Maybe someone wants to wear culturally approriate clothing. I think that by policing each other, being too controlling of other individuals in the field, and suppressing other teacher’s cultural and religious expression (such as nose rings) we are indeed making ourselves less professional. It isn’t 1950 anymore. People are beginning to recognize that being professional isn’t necessarily tied to whether someone wears a ankle length skirt, a pantsuit, or has a facial piercing. If we can do this in the fields of law, medicine, and the corporate world at places like Pixar, Google, etc, why can we not do it in our field and based on our local districts in coordination with the teachers?

  • Michael

    My own code/standards for teaching: collared shirt, no t-shirts (they are underwear, folks), slacks, khakis, or jeans, frequently a tie, sometimes a blazer or sportcoat, and shoes or boots-plus my ID and lanyard. When my room is 90 degrees I wear neat khaki shorts similar to those worn on a golf course.

    Teachers don’t need a damn dress code-just guidance from administrators on what they belief is consistant with good taste and community expectations. If they don’t know what that means they have no business supervising teachers. I taught in a charter school for 7 years that had uniforms for it’s students and expected that male teachers would wear slacks/khakis and never blue jeans. I took the lead from my boss’s wardrobe and dressed similarly.

    Female teachers were the problem- Mother Hubbards, sweat pants, “political message” T-shirts, and some wore way-too-snug sweaters that kept many a middle school boys’ attention far way from his math/history/English lessons.

    Teacher unions-NEA and AFT should reinforce the expectations of professionalism among members rather than always creating a greviance issue. Administrators and school boards should not take the lead on this. Our own unions, local and regional, should not be above having a professional conversation with a teacher member when he/she is confronted with a concern that their attire needs adjusting.

    This “professionalism” concern rings similar to contract provision which define “contract working hours.” Don’t tell me what time to be at work or when to leave. I’m an exempt employee, am paid a salary, and am responsible for my own time on task until my work is accomplished. I don’t need an administrator or a union negotiator to tell me what time to arrive at work and when to leave. Just like this stupid dress code business, leave it up to me!

  • Michael

    My own code/standards for teaching: collared shirt, no t-shirts (they are underwear, folks), slacks, khakis, or jeans, frequently a tie, sometimes a blazer or sportcoat, and shoes or boots-plus my ID and lanyard. When my room is 90 degrees I wear neat khaki shorts similar to those worn on a golf course.

    Teachers don’t need a damn dress code-just guidance from administrators on what they belief is consistant with good taste and community expectations. If they don’t know what that means they have no business supervising teachers. I taught in a charter school for 7 years that had uniforms for it’s students and expected that male teachers would wear slacks/khakis and never blue jeans. I took the lead from my boss’s wardrobe and dressed similarly.

    Female teachers were the problem- Mother Hubbards, sweat pants, “political message” T-shirts, and some wore way-too-snug sweaters that kept many a middle school boys’ attention far way from his math/history/English lessons.

    Teacher unions-NEA and AFT should reinforce the expectations of professionalism among members rather than always creating a greviance issue. Administrators and school boards should not take the lead on this. Our own unions, local and regional, should not be above having a professional conversation with a teacher member when he/she is confronted with a concern that their attire needs adjusting.

    This “professionalism” concern rings similar to contract provisions which define “contract working hours.” Don’t tell me what time to be at work or when to leave. I’m an exempt employee, am paid a salary, and am responsible for my own time on task until my work is accomplished. I don’t need an administrator or a union negotiator to tell me what time to arrive at work and when to leave. Just like this stupid dress code business, leave it up to me!

  • Linda

    I agree that teachers should adhere to a professional dress code. Women teachers wearing sweatpants, short shorts, and shirts with low necklines that reveal too much cleavage have become increasingly common. If we are to be perceived as professionals, we need to dress as professionals.

  • Elle

    This should be a discussion on how to be able to best teach. I cannot think of a single reality in which more cleavage equals more/better learning. I, on the other hand, can (and do) see my classroom equipped with an exterior exit door. I also see a kid who is prone to run when life does not go their way, which is often. If I have to go after that kiddo, but cannot touch or restrain, just follow, you had better believe that I am going to NOT be flip flops or ANY kind of heel or cute shoe (as sad as that is because I do love all things cute) nor will I be in a dress or skirt or constricting pants. Rather, I am going to be in something that I can give chase in. I will be wearing pants that I can move in, but read, not necessarily jeans. People are comparing what they wore 34 years ago to what people are wearing now. The classrooms have changed and diversified a lot since then. It is unrealistic and in some cases can prove to be unprofessional to wear what was expected in the 50s- 80s.

    It comes down to two words: COMMON SENSE. Common sense for you, your classroom and your set(s) of students. If a person were to be unlucky enough to be born without common sense, then the administrator better jump in and do their job promptly in a professional manner.

  • Joseph Blalock

    Our school has always been a more traditional school as far as dress code. Most male teachers wear slacks and a tie while most of the women wear business casual type attire. I have always enjoyed Friday casual dress days when we mostly wear school colors and jeans. I liked it so much that I began to wear it on Wednesdays also. Does this make me unprofessional? I don’t think so. I think professionalism is in behavior as well. Acting like an overgrown adolescent at work is not made more professional by hanging a strip of colorful silk around one’s neck. When I get home I immediately take off my work clothes and put on jeans and a tee shirt. Sometimes my students laugh when they see me with a baseball cap and tee shirt in town after work. Dressing the part should be viewed as one more tool in our academic tool box, but should not be enforced by rule ideally. In such cases we loose too much autonomy.

  • Eric

    A dress code should not affect those who dress professionally already. They won’t even know the difference. The argument that this controlling intrusion will lead to more abusive rules represents a logical fallacy – slippery slope. You cannot reasonably argue that a decent rule begets an abusive rule. Just because they are both rules. Well-written rules allow admin to confront the embarrassing minority who dress unprofessionally. Don’t the students have a dress code?! #doublestandard #bunchacrybabies

  • suzy

    well there are two sides to this. First some districts hire people who are already bums and they dress like bums. LAUSD hires bums for their middle and high school. I was an elementary teacher and was appauled at these people when I attended an inservice with them. The females where the tightest tops with very low cut in front. Excuse me, but you have young boys in your classroom and they are looking at the breaat coming out in front. They guys show off their tats, ok I get it freedom of the way we dress,NOT so when you are a teacher. These people make it necessary for districts to say, well we need to have a dress code. If people would dress appropriately then there would be no attention to the way they dress, but not in this current society. No, I am not a prude but common sense folks!! Hire buns you get buns.

  • Scott

    I teach a tech. theatre class which requires using saws, drills, paint, and other types of hardware and materials. 5 min. after that class I teach Speech, then an acting class which is all movement, followed by classes in English and Advanced Theatre. Three of the five classes call for clothes that can get dirty/sweaty and there is no time built into the schedule for me to change. I’ve ruined a number of “dress” items by wearing them to class. I don’t advocate wearing football jerseys, beat-up old blue jeans, or ratty looking attire, but I do think districts/parents need to understand that instructors have a variety of classes and responsibilities during the day and dress clothes do not always fit into those duties.

  • Elizabeth

    I think it’s a fine idea. MANY other professions have dress codes. Yes, most educators know how to dress appropriately but for the few that don’t this is essential. Administration may not take care of the issue- you would think they would but I have worked with many administrators in my career who are not strong enough to enforce standards in schools. I have worked with a few colleagues at the high school level who look as they are going out clubbing with the students and it’s an embarrassment to the whole staff!

  • K

    As a teacher, I have found that my dress has become more casual over the years, depending on where I have worked. I have become increasingly disheartened by teachers wearing flip-flops/thongs to work. I’ve heard some teachers whine like crazy about being told to not wear them, but continue to, anyway, since there was no recourse. If nothing else, wearing flimsy shoes can a safety issue. Readily visible tattoos and many ear piercings, and any type of facial piercings are simply unprofessional. For the last few years, I’ve worked somewhere where some women had huge, long colored/patterned fingernails. Yuck! I normally have problems with teachers wearing jeans — it even feels strange for me on “Spirit Days.” My boss last year had major issues with tailored colored denim jeans, but had no qualms with wrinkled cargo pants. Trust me, thin, wrinkled cargos definitely look worse! I believe there is no problem putting a dress code in place for teachers. To presume everyone shows tact when getting ready for work is ignorant. Some people really need to understand that there are expectations for more professional attire. People should be able to tell the teachers from the parents and the students!

  • V

    As an older, second-career teacher, I have noticed that younger staff have very different standards of dress than older staff. This applied in my corporate career as well, and their lack of conformance to those standards hurt their careers if it wasn’t corrected. Teachers need to model the appropriate standards expected in the world that students will be entering. That means no visible tattoos or piercings, conservative clothes, etc. For those with specific function needs — tech, phys ed, theater — those standards can be met with uniforms or uniform-like work clothes, as long as they are neat and clean.

    Perhaps a dress code SHOULDN’T be necessary, but my own observations of fellow staff indicate that it IS.

  • Sherri

    I don’t know who claims to represent me in NEA, but as a 17-year teacher I’m suspicious of thoae who claim my rights are at stake just because superintendents expect me to dress professionally before children. Let’s remind ourselves: TEACHING IS A MORAL PROFESSION. We’re representing to children-many of whom have NO community or home models anymore-WHAT PROFESSIONALISM IS. SELF-RESPECT. If I want to show my cleavage I need to do it at the club-NOT AT SCHOOL. Men who want to show their tattoos should wait for theod biker bars
    We have a self-centered generation of adults that want to flaunt their “individualism” but complain about how disrespectful children are to them. And yes, I know the West coast is more “open-minded” -we east of y’all are reaping the blighted harvest of adapting your free-wheeling casual ways! Keep in mind before you get negative on my observations that KIPP and similar charter schools require teachers wear conservative professional attire…the very charter schools NEA’s finds a threat to us public school teachers. Their students’ uniforms must be TRULLY UNIFORM AND MEAT ALSO. And their enrollment grows annually. People are opting for private schools for the same reasons-and I bet you the same parents who let everything hang out at a public school miraculously find modest apparel

  • Sherri

    I don’t know who claims to represent me in NEA, but as a 17-year teacher I’m suspicious of THESEthoae who claim my rights are at stake just because superintendents expect me to dress professionally before children. Let’s remind ourselves: TEACHING IS A MORAL PROFESSION. We’re representing to children-many of whom have NO community or home models anymore-WHAT PROFESSIONALISM IS. SELF-RESPECT. If I want to show my cleavage I need to do it at the club-NOT AT SCHOOL. Men who want to show their tattoos should wait for theod biker bars
    We have a self-centered generation of adults that want to flaunt their “individualism” but complain about how disrespectful children are to them. And yes, I know the West coast is more “open-minded” -we east of y’all are reaping the blighted harvest of adapting your free-wheeling casual ways! Keep in mind before you get negative on my observations that KIPP and similar charter schools require teachers wear conservative professional attire…the very charter schools NEA’s finds a threat to us public school teachers. Their students’ uniforms must be TRULLY UNIFORM AND MEAT ALSO. And their enrollment grows annually. People are opting for private schools for the same reasons-and I bet you the same parents who let everything hang out at a public school miraculously find modest apparel to wear at a private or charter campus!

  • Florence L. Diorio

    As a veteran educator of nearly thirty years; a PhD working in an excellent school setting, I definately see the need for a sensible dress code. Professional dress does seem to coincide with quality effort in (not all, by any means) but too many cases to ignore the issue.

  • John Rehmer

    There should be a way to tell the teachers from kids. Khakis and a polo or button down aren’t such an imposition. Shoes should be comfortable since a lot of teachers are on their feet all day. Just remember you’re at work, not at the beach. Showing too much skin can be distracting, so is unkempt hair on the head, face, or other parts of the body. Tattoos that depict gangs, drugs, violence, or are sexually provocative should be covered. Teachers shouldn’t be dressing in a way that their appearance distracts from the learning environment. That includes not wearing super short skirts, showing cleavage, wearing really tight clothing, or “saggin” for the guys.
    Since I retired, I’ve worked a lot as a sub in a pre-school class, and I feel that jeans are probably a must when you’re down on the floor with the little ones, but you don’t need to look like a bum either!

  • Sherri

    Using myself as an example of my above comments, I first apologize to NEA and my teaching colleagues for THIS 17-year teacher NOT PROOFREADING HER COMMENT before pressing “Submit.” <;-[) But second, I do stand by my earlier "sermon" that we need to remember: TEACHING IS A MORAL PROFESSION. We, in the 21st century, are for most children WHAT PROFESSIONALISM IS. I have colleagues at my present school who don't even bother to speak King's English anymore-then wonder why their students have bad grammar and language arts skills! And to my West Coast colleagues, I also apologize: I said what I did because my aunt, who lives in WA, shared how she taught at a Seattle school where students could call her by her first name. (Of course, they remained respectful since they were at an alternative school and on their last leg before expulsion!) I also hear students and teachers relate to each other this way in California. However your district runs, remember that we do, as I said earlier, reap what we sow. And I worked at a KIPP school: we had to wear conservative professional attire; and the same parents who let everything hang out at a public school miraculously found modest apparel to wear on the KIPP campus. OK-I proofread THIS comment-so I think I can "Submit" now! <:-[)

  • Keith Rotach

    I work in a Career Technnical High School and as you would assume teachers wear work appropriate attire. If the teacher is instructing an engine overhaul or repairing a masonary wall the expectation should be different than a teacher discussing mathematical equations or american history. I still do beleive that students form opinions about how serious you take your job and how you approach them with how you look and act. I’ve seen many teacher aides and yes a few teachers start their day with clothing not only suited for the days physical task but in some cases looking like the task had already been performed in the clothes their wearing. If you as a teacher can’t be relied upon to look and act professional how can you expect your students to respect you or what you have to say. Many people in our society have never worked in the real world and have gone from college to the classroom. Some may need help/guidelines to know how to dress for success what is appropriate personal cleanliness. Your attire effects your attitude, shows pride, professional demeanor and examplifies what employers expect from their employees. I don’t like uniforms but I think basic guidlines for being clean and neat and appropriate for the subject your teaching is not unfair or out of line and should be a condition of employment. Ever work with a person who has “body odor” or is a smoker and their breath could stop a horse at 20 paces. Bring on the guidlines.

  • Jane Smith

    Here’s my stance: dress professionally. Period.
    I used to say, “Wear what you would wear to church”, but the dress code for even church seems to have become more of a position of, “Wear what you want-as long as you come…” which is fine and dandy, but if I were dressing for an Interview for a position, would I wear jeans? Tank tops? Flip flops?
    That being said, I agree with a lot of the comments above-if we want to be respected and treated respectfully, we should dress respectfully.
    Our local school system tried to enforce a dress code last summer. Here were some of their “no-no”‘s:
    *Jeans- never, ever, ever- not even on Teacher Workdays, Workshops, Field Trips to the Zoo/Farm, etc.
    *Capris, Crops, Bermuda short/shorts at ALL.
    ***Where I live, the average temp. on any given day is above 70 degrees, and A/C systems don’t always work, so there are some days when we can “get away” with wearing shorter than normal pants, but never ever ever shorts*****

    *Flip-flops, open-backed sandals, CROCS, Tennis shoes/Athletic Shoes:
    ****Now, some teachers have orthopedic issues with their feet and can only wear certain types of shoes for their comfort/health- I get that, I’m talking about a teacher that just didn’t “feel like” getting dressed up that day so wear whatever was clean- that’s who I’m talking about. Also, in regards to a Dollar Tree flip-flop vs. a dressy sandal- two totally different things!!!!****

    *Tank tops, halter tops, backless tops- any dress that had such type tops were to be covered at all times while on school grounds

    *tattoos had to be covered (obviously, that’s always been their rule, but never enforced)

    *facial piercings of any kind- NO, even a subtle nose stud, NO

    *”Gauges”- those ear piercings that are as big as hubcaps or satellite dishes, or hula-hoops- NO NO NO NO

    *skirts/dresses were to be to the knee or longer

    *men were basically left alone with these simple guidelines- dress pants, buttoned down shirt/polo shirt

    My daughter’s elementary school’s P.T.A. a few years back created a variety of T-shirts in various colors/animal prints. Every one of them had the school’s name on it- that’s all the shirt had on it. Just about every teacher had one of each and basically wore the T-shirt with khaki or dress pants or skirt. Dress code came out last year- nope, couldn’t wear those anymore- even on Fridays/”spirit shirt day”

    Now, looking over this list, I don’t really have an argument against most of this list because I don’t care what people say about dress code in general: “What does it matter what color my child’s socks are- he’s going to school for education”…or the classic argument about making students conform to some arcane/old “fuddy-duddy” way of dressing- please. Spare me. This is reality- we all have rules and standards to comply with, whether we like it or not- sometimes you have to go along to get along…

    Now, back to the professional dress code issue- again, if I walked into my child’s classroom and saw any teacher- doesn’t matter what teacher- wearing sweatpants, or flip-flops, or a T-shirt with anything offensive on- you better believe anything that teacher has to say to me with be disregarded. Do not expect me to take you seriously, if you can not even dress seriously for your job. That’s the message school boards are sending.

    I am dumbfounded that they even have to tell people in the teaching profession how to dress appropriately in the first place.

    Now that a year has passed since the school board tried to put out a dress code for us teachers- let’s just say it came down to a Principal problem- if the Principal had an issue with something you had on, he would handle it, other than that, he left us alone at my school. However, there were a certain group of female teachers that seemed to think it was OK to wear long shirts with leggings or “jeggings” and cowboy boots to teach in, but then got mad when the male students would speak disrespectfully to them or try to touch them, etc.

    I’m in the South, but raised up north and went to high school in Florida, so looking back over all those years of school in two very different regions, and today I can tell you that 95% of teachers dress profeeionally. It’s those 5% that just don’t get it.

    I’ll close with this. Years ago a list of “rules” was accredited to Bill Gates at a graduation ceremony. It’s actually a quote from Charles J. Sykes’ book, Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add:

    “Rule No. 2: The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it’s not fair.”

    Sykes’ 2007 book, 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education expands a little more on this topic.

  • Scott Binkley

    I have to disagree with much of what is written here regarding professional dress. I am a 14 year veteran English teacher covering AP language and Journalism. I certainly don’t need to be told how to dress. I regularly wear jeans and a polo or button down shirt. I also have visible tattoos on both arms, wear a heavy beard and on occasion earrings. Never once has it created a negative affect on my classroom, or a negative review from administration, on the contrary my students see me as a person that represents the world we live in, that is highly educated and professional and doesn’t have to look like he is going to church or some other more formal setting.
    Our classroom environments are set by our attitudes toward students, our ability to connect with them and our ability to manifest a love of learning along with our joy in our profession. Wear a suit if you like gentlemen if that suits your environments but here in Santa Fe, NM you would not be taken seriously and would be dismissed outright by the very students you are trying to reach. You may please other teachers of similar course but is that your charge?

  • Crystal Recinos

    When teachers are expected to teach PE, art, and the regular subjects it is important to be comfortable. Not to mention all the drills and lock downs we go through. Our fields are so unstable and women’s dress shoes are unpractical. I wear flats and yes on Fridays tennis shoes. I feel more on my game when I can move comfortably. What I wear has nothing to do with how I teach and my students know my expectations are the same no matter what pants or shoes I am wearing.

  • Wayne

    So – in our district, our contract states that any dress code policies at a school site must be discussed and approved by at least 2/3 of the teachers at that site. Needless to say, at a majority of the schools there is no official dress code for teachers.
    That’s because, as the article says, we’re adults and we know how to dress ourselves for work, both for the position and the situation.
    I’ll admit, after working a dozen or more years in the private sector, I am not interested in wearing the slacks/dress shirt/tie combo in my classroom. I wear mostly camp/Hawaiian shirts with shorts, or the same with jeans.
    “SHORTS? HOW UNPROFESSIONAL!” You may cry. Well, it get’s hot down here in the summer, and our classrooms are not air conditioned. A temp of 95 or so outside means temps of 100 – 105 (or sometimes more) inside. As far as we’re concerned, sweating our way through the day does not a productive teacher make.

  • Nathan M

    It’s all based on situational awareness. If you’re in a classroom with small children, dress slacks are not practical. You have to sit on carpets and rugs and at times you deal with art supplies that don’t mix well with dress attire. Also, with small children, tattoos don’t mix well. They get distracted too easily. However, for older students like high school and middle school there should be a semi casual atmosphere, but I don’t see how tattoos and piercings would hinder learning.

  • Threatened out West

    Wow. I am appalled at the anti-teacher comments being made at a supposedly teacher-friendly site. Calling people lazy, slobs, stupid, etc. is SO inappropriate. As long as the “reformers” can keep us sniping at each other with things like these dress codes, they can continue to attack us, because we are not unified.

    Think about what you’re saying before you say it. I would HOPE you wouldn’t call students these names.

  • Susan

    I strongly agree with the need to implement Basic guidelines with regard to work attire.
    Originally I was employed at a middle school, currently now at an elementary school. I was appalled by the disparity in dress. One would hope that as an employee and as a professional, that there would be some degree of judgement with regard to what is professional attire and what isn’t. However, if those concepts seem to be non-existent, then administration needs to exert their authority and take pride in not just the quality of their staff, but also the professional demeanor that they convey to the public and the community.
    Although my school is located in south Florida, regardless of the warm climate, clothing can be “climate friendly” and comfortable with regard to one’s responsibilities without being provocative.
    It’s a contradiction to hold the students accountable to a standard of dress while teachers are not held to similar standards. In certain schools, the style of dress disseminates from the people who are in charge. They set the tone for what is appropriate.
    Unfortunately, in my situation I find too many staff in open-toe stiletto shoes or by contrast flip-flops, skirts or dresses several inches above the knees, and tops that are often too tight revealing cleavage that does not belong in a school (especially) an elementary environment.
    Teaching is (and should) be a well respected profession. It’s a misconception that dressing more casual can make you “more relatable” to the students you teach. Professionalism should come from within and display itself not only in the manner we carry ourselves but in how we appear to those we impart life lessons to.

  • Cheryl

    I’ve worked at more than one school site, and teacher dress varied greatly from one to the other. Unfortunately, many people do NOT know how to dress appropriately for work. I think a nice-looking pair of jeans paired with other appropriate attire is a perfect business-casual look for the many things the average teacher must do in today’s classroom, from teaching math to art and PE. However, I’ve worked on campuses where a majority of the staff felt it appropriate to wear jean shorts, flip flops, and t-shirts, often wrinkled, to work. In my anecdotal experience, attire made a difference in attitude of staff and overall student behavior on campus. Should teachers need to be told how to dress? No. Do we need to be told? Yes, many of us do.

  • Barbara Kebre

    After 40 years in public education, I can honestly say “yes”. While the majority of teachers I know–especially those at the adult education level–dress professionally, there were numerous times I was embarrassed by the attire of fellow teachers in the K-12 unit. They are a minority,yes; but rules are made for those who don’t have the good sense to do the right thing on their own. Those of us who dress professionally anyway should be rewarded with better evaluations; but those who do not should be encouraged to change their behavior. We do with with our students; why are we above it all?

    As one of my students said to me “You dress nice. It shows you respect me as a student and I appreciate it.”

    Enough said.

  • Marjorie Smith

    Yes, fellow professionals, common sense. If you’re going to be doing something other than traditional classroom teaching, dress for it. If you maintain the respect of students, colleagues and parents while you wear jeans and a tee shirt revealing a tattoo, as one of our very best teachers did, so be it. If, however, your clothing is a distraction in any way, or a cause for eroded respect, I would hope that your colleagues, in particular your building rep, would help you rework your wardrobe. It is part of the principal’s job to address these issues. If he or she is not up to it, they shouldn’t be in that position. Imposition of arbitrary rules is not the answer.

  • Diane Geirman

    All this nonsense about dress code is ridiculous….the majority of teachers I have worked with throughout my 28 years of teaching always dressed in clean, neat, California comfortable, yet professional way. It just irks me to even address this issue, when people speak of “professional”, because our profession has not be deemed “professional” enough to be put on salary schedules that are commensurate with our education and skill. Enough of this ridiculous banter. We are debating over nothing, nothing that speaks of professionalism. Ask me how I feel when I need get off my classroom floor, after retrieving a pencil to find my black pants, full of dust and hair….now there is something to speak about….the professional way our schools treat the classrooms where “professionals” are to educate our countries children.

  • Richard Stange

    I think it is important to uphold professional standards. We are the United States of America. Other nations look at us as a world leader. We should set the example. Piercings and visible tattoos are not professional work attire. Furthermore, if one decides to tattoo themselves from head to foot, they do run the risk of loosing employment opportunities, because they can not represent a company or institution if they are not presentable with the up most professional integrity.

    For right or for wrong, it is in our culture to judge one’s integrity or even professional competence by their appearance. That is why we have standards. That is an idea passed down to us by our Shakespearean ancestors.

  • Peter York

    Why not? The public school faculty is completely under the mind control of the left, already. Making them all look alike in fashion might reveal the truth of the automaton-ation, tho.

    Public schools are the sewers. Liberalism is the cancer. If charlatanism was a crime you’d all be charged, then you could all wear orange.

  • Tom Covington

    15 year vet High School English teacher, Yearbook, AP Lit, and 10th Grade (CAHSEE) classes. Professional standard are needed, and in my experience, it is rarely the male teachers that need to tone down the “sexy” dress. For males, it is the too casual “hanging out with buddies” dress that provides that slippery slope. But to blanket all teachers with a “code” would be disrespectful. How is a PE or Ceramics teacher supposed to conform? There have to be exceptions. And with those exceptions come others who will inevitably say “but why can they and I can’t.” At that point it is an administrative problem, and we all know those get handled quickly and appropriately [eyes roll]. At the core of the argument is perception and respect. Much of that comes from how a teacher projects themselves to parents and the rapport with students.
    I have two full sleeve tattoos, nothing obscene or vulgar, just beautiful art on my arms. Saying that, I have two modes of dress: Everyday teaching clothes and Back to School, Open house and Graduation Dress. I wear long sleeves and ties on the Dress days, like a class A uniform. On most days, I wear a button down or polo shirt (short sleeve) with pants, jeans, or shorts, depending on the weather. (It is rarely below 70, and with no air conditioning, that makes it 80 in my east facing classroom) The students are goofy when I’m in the Class A uniform, but they like it. Does this make me a bad teacher? Do my visible tattoos lower my students performance? Not according to the Dept of Ed website, or the way my students consistently beat the state average on standardized tests. It upsets me that well educated people who have a high responsibility in shaping the next generation can be so closed minded about tattoos and piercings.
    Bottom line, demand respect, act accordingly, and evolve with the times. Project confidence and take control, and nothing can stop you. I cannot control how parents will judge me, and if that is all I am thinking of, I’m not doing their students any justice.
    If veteran teachers like “the way it was” maybe we could go back to one room schools and spinsters for teachers.

  • Jae

    What is the problem of setting expectations for everyone? For those who say they already dress professionally, then they will already be in compliance. A principal should not have to waste his or her time dealing with individual teachers regarding their manner of dress. Just establish clear rules. To think one can dress in blue jeans as a “professional” is a reflection of our current culture. When I taught, I “dressed-up.” It truly set the tone for my position. I had few discipline problems in my career and I had a wonderful relationship with my students. Dressing the part was one of my secrets to success.

    And by the way, students should adhere to a higher standard of dress as well and admin should enforce the policy! It would make a real difference in attitude and foster respect.

  • Mary Ann Mc

    I am a retired,39 year veteran educator of primary grades K-3- 34 years in 3rd grade. I taught in NE Ohio, where the temps during the school year RARELY hit above 70.Over that time, I taught in 4 different schools- both new and old, all K-6. Our district now has 4 new, a/c schools. I am now on our local BOE, and have heard expressed from a member that he wants a ‘dress code’ for the teachers. I do agree with many of the previous posts: use common sense, and dress for whom/what you teach. However- think of those other ‘professionals’ with whom we should be compared: physicians, attorneys,etc. Think back- how many have you seen with tats, piercings, and cleavage? Sorts and flip-flops?? Very few. If you met one of those professionals for the first time, and saw inappropriate dress on one of those, would you go back?? Sad to say- and your mother told you- you never get a second chance to make a first impression. And the other one- you can’t judge a book by its cover- also applies but think to yourself- what would you think? Would you spend your dollars with that individual?? Perhaps not the best comparison, but if we want to be considered true ‘professionals,’ and a parent can’t pick you out as the ‘one in charge’, that’s not a good thing!
    If you want respect from students, parents, and administrators, at least dress the part. Our staff have a ‘dress down’ Friday, with parameters in place, to raise money for the local Relay for Life team. MOST staff comply, not only on Friday, but M-Th. That being said, there are a few who everyday push the envelope- both male and female-and some feel that they are beyond reproach. Very unprofessional- and yet they are astonished when a parent makes a comment? So, sad to say, that, like some of the students for whom 95% do not need the rules, perhaps dress codes are needed so the 5% ‘get it’, because they don’t/won’t change any other way. They do make it difficult for those who do know how to walk the walk and be taken seriously. Can’t imagine it being negotiated and/or ratified into a negotiated contract, though, unless a district has a HUGE problem with the majority of staff appearance.

  • Dena

    At our school we enforce a ‘no sagging’ rule with regards to trousers. Certain students are always in violation of this policy. We don’t really have problems with inappropriate teacher’s clothing, but I sometimes wonder if we had a more publicly known dress code for teachers the kids might understand that we aren’t holding them to a standard we don’t meet ourselves. We dress properly for the situation, they ought to as well.

  • Marie

    On the subject of tattoos…I’m a 28 year old female art teacher in the secondary setting. I have 7 and counting. All are discreet, and in brown ink so they are not easily visible. This wasn’t a choice I made in regards to career as several are pre-teaching, but for my personal preference. The only one that I actively cover is on my finger because it is in black ink and because students need to be able to see my hands often. I just use a large ring. But my foot, wrist, and forearm tattoos are sometimes visible. In three years (counting student teaching) I’ve had exactly 9 students notice any of them. And it is either a “that’s a personal comment” situation or a “this is a decision ADULTS make because you are too young to know what you want from life” moment. I’ve only taught in settings where it isn’t uncommon to see a 15 year old with at least 1 tattoo. I feel like I can at least point out the controversy before they make that decision.

    In any case, tattoos and piercings are incredibly common among my age group and will become more common as my students move into careers. Unless it’s a 1950s sailor style tat with a pinup girl can we get past this please? I have my tragus pierced but actually always wanted double love piercings and decided to do it after seeing that almost every (and I am in no way exaggerating) female teacher, parent, and student had at least that done.

    I look young so I avoid dressing casually enough that I can be mistaken for a child. But I’m an art teacher…dressing like a banker is not practical. We are all adult enough to decide what is appropriate in our own school climate and content area. Address individual problems INDIVIDUALLY.

  • Jane Dodson

    I think there does need to be a dress code. There are many teachers who come to work and look so unprofessional: sweats, blouses that show way too much, dresses/skirts that barely cover their bum, blouses that ride up when they lean over so all the kids can see the tats on their lower back (we aren’t at a bar people)…we had one teacher who started wearing jeans to parent/teacher conferences, that’s just not right. Some teachers don’t seem to care. We are professionals, we need to dress the part. Many people today just don’t know how to dress.

  • Tim Allen

    I recently attended a graduate course at one of our state universities. I was studying bio-engineering; we were making blood vessels by growing cells and attaching them to a decellularized substrate My professor, who has a doctorate and was teaching several undergraduate courses at the same time, often came to teach in shorts. No shirt and tie, shorts and a polo. Why do people think I have to wear a shirt and tie with dress slacks and dress shoes in order for me to be perceived as a professional? The way that I teach is much more important than how I look while I teach. I see nothing wrong with clean jeans, a polo or button-down shirt, and comfortable shoes, like my running shoes. If I have an important meeting, I wear dress slacks and a shirt and tie; but for teaching in the classroom, if it is good enough for a college professor, it is good enough for me!

  • Darwin

    A few thoughts to share: First, common sense isn’t. Look around and you will discover that what most people would consider common sense is missing from a large number of people.
    Second: Does your clothing distract from students’ learning? Does it divert their attention from the subject at hand? If so, dress in some other manner. If you don’t think you should have to do that, you are the reason schools need teacher dress codes.
    Third, clothing policies will always be sexist because fashion is very different for men and women. Men tend to be visually stimulated so women’s fashions cater to that. I sympathize with females, teachers or students, trying to find modest clothing within the parameters of current fashion.
    Fourth, if people desire comfort and/or mobility I have no idea why they wants to wear jeans. My least comfortable pants are my jeans. Denim is heavy, somewhat stiff, and it takes forever to dry if it gets wet.
    Fifth, for some of us safety is an issue. I teach chemistry so I never wear a tie. Besides, I’ve noticed that most (male) administrators wear ties and it seems to cut off the oxygen to their brains.
    Sixth, if you’re worried about cost, there are solutions. I can’t afford to replace expensive clothes if I damage them with chemicals. So I shop at the Salvation Army thrift shop. I could probably replace my entire wardrobe for less than $40. And you’d be surprised how nice my clothes look.

  • Lorinda

    I believe the reason some districts are moving towards a dress code is a small group of teacher don’t dress professionally. Is our education system is not education how to dress professionally we need to take it upon ourselves.

  • Marie

    FYI y’all Darwin’s tip about the thrift store is a great one. If you look a around enough you can find one that stocks pretty new looking items. I’m female and never wear anything short, shrink wrapped, or low cut but I do like to follow trends. Since art involves a lot of clothes-ruining materials most of what I wear to school comes from nicer thrift stores, Walmart (they have a lot of cute teacher appropriate tops), or if I’m feeling fancy Target or TJMaxx. The only time I wear my suits or J Crew dresses are the first week of school, when meeting parents, and for important events.

    Also as someone who owns way more sandals (no, not flip flops, sandals) than anything else the Walmart rip off inserts for high heels are perfect for sandals and don’t show.

    My students have uniforms and complain that teachers don’t. I explain we do, we just get more choices within our guidelines (we have no official policy however)…weirdly the one thing that seems frowned upon is US wearing athletic shoes. And that’s my response to the kids…at the end of the day your feet still feel useable!

  • KdeBerzunza

    First of all, most people commenting here are teachers, so it would be great if they would use better spelling. In my mind, proper spelling from a teacher is way more important in demonstrating professionalism than “proper” dress.

    Here in Southern California, sleeveless tops, T-shirts, jeans, sandals, and even flip flops are common teacher attire. Our classrooms are warm and mostly non-air-conditioned, and our general vibe here is casual and “beachy.” I think it would be difficult to develop a common dress code just because regional social norms vary so widely. But also, it is very difficult to standardize something you can’t clearly define. There are ratty jeans, there are old torn jeans, and then there are “dress” jeans and jeans sold with distressed tears in already in them. There are $1 flip flops you buy at Rite-Aid, and there are $100+ flip flips with heels and gems. Similarly, it is perfectly possible to look sloppy while following a dress code: what if your khakis are old, wrinkled, or stained, or your hair hasn’t been trimmed in a year, but you are clean-shaven and have no tattoos? What if you have a tattoo and wear a power suit?

    I really believe our priorities need to be on quality instruction and professionalism in terms of attendance, grading and returning work in a timely manner, and respect for students, parents, and staff– not on what we are wearing.

    • Carolyn Heia Brown

      Just today I went to an orientation for a master’s program at a major California State University led by a professor who has been there more than 40 years. His attire? Wrinkled button up shirt with mustard stain, jeans & Uggs, crazy white hair topped by a visor. Top of his field. Just sayin’. (I teach in an area with extremely hot weather and have seen some teachers in outfits that belonged at the beach. I’ve also seen a few in very dressy suits that were waaaay too short and inappropriate. Judgment, people!)

  • Dave Menshew

    In my experience, how teachers dress has declined in professionalism since both my time as a student in the 1950s-70s and as a professional in the 1990s to the present. To me it is embarrassing to see my colleagues often dressed worse that the students (who often have elevated their level of dress).

    I have always been one of those “wear a tie every day” guys and will continue it till the end of my time teaching. I simply believe that we need to project the most professional image we can when dealing with the variety of contacts we have. I can’t tell you how many times I have been glad that I had dressed professionally when an angry parent, or a visiting dignitary has stopped by my class. I have felt more at ease when I was called to a meeting or had to cover another teacher’s class knowing I looked professional.

    It really can be summed up in an experience I had more than 20 years ago: I was coming back from my portion of a split lunch when another teacher was leading his class passed by. One of his kids stopped, looked at me, then looked at his own teacher and said, “There’s Mr. Menshew, he came to TEACH.”

    Out of the mouths of babes.

    Many teachers have lost sight of the fact that how we dress gives a bit more power, authority, and stature in our classes. It can make us feel better about what we do and does make a difference to our students.

    It elevates our profession as well.

    • Bruce Mellesmoen

      I agree Dave. I am the vice principal in a rural school in Canada, and I have received a lot of compliments on how I dress (shirt & tie, except on casual Friday, which is then slacks and a polo). I do make a point of wearing “fun” socks however, and the kids are particularly fond of my fried egg socks and checker board socks.

    • Iris Hollingsworth

      I strongly agree, Dave. I was in the class room for approximately 40 years and I was always commanded for my attire. I think that a teacher should dress professionally so he/she would be an example for others to emulate and this also encourage the students to learn and foster good class rapport

  • Mary Prehm

    YES, teachers need a dress code!!!!!!!! Before I retired after 40+ years, I was starting to see flip flops, blue jeans, leggings, etc. Students are NOT going to respect teachers if they do not dress like they are proud to be teachers!!! It most DEFINITELY makes a difference in attitude and behavior in the classroom. I saw it too many times.

  • Absolutely teachers need a dress code. I work in a school district that has a dress code, but the administrators within some schools turn a blind eye. I look at myself, an art teacher, who could argue the point that I use media that is potentially very messy. But I enjoy looking good and dressing very well and using aprons that compliment my outfits. WHY? Because I am a role model, I want my students, both boys and girls, to understand you have a choice in how you wish to portray yourself in a position of authority.

    I have seen so many teachers look as if they worked in the garden at home and simply didn’t bother to bathe or change their clothes. I consider every child’s home environment and it’s so sad when a child comes to school, dirty, hair uncombed with a sense of this is how it is even at school.

  • I worked in a school district that has a dress code. I looked at myself, a former art teacher, who could have argued the point that I used media that is potentially very messy. But I enjoyed looking good and dressing very well and used aprons that complimented my outfits. WHY? Because I was a role model, I wanted my students, both boys and girls, to understand you have a choice in how you wish to portray yourself in a position of authority. AND, you do not have to spend a lot of money to look like a professional who had to pay a lot of money for your education. Besides, your students are often proud of how well their teacher dresses and how nice she or he smells.

    I have seen so many teachers look as if they worked in the garden at home and simply didn’t bother to bathe or change their clothes. I consider every child’s home environment and it’s so sad when a child comes to school dirty, hair uncombed with a sense of this is how it is even at school and then they see their teacher, who looks no different than what they saw at home.

    That becomes their norm and it doesn’t have to be like that. Students outside of school are subjected in seeing people with all types of tattoos and body piercing as if this is the norm and there are no other choices. Not everyone elects or wants to look at someone who has used their body as a permanent canvas.

    Schools should be free zones, where teachers dress according to the professions they represent, without facial piercings or tattoos. Students will have every opportunity to make those decisions without the influence of tacky dressed teachers who are responsible to mold our future leaders, scientists, engineers and thriving citizens who will create values within our society for their happiness and wealth building.

  • Lynn

    I think a dress code is necessary today for teachers as all too many report for work dressed inappropriately. What passes for acceptable on the street is not acceptable in the classroom. A teacher who dresses professionally immediately conveys a message to students that this is a work environment.

  • Rose

    Over the years I have been involved in many situations of dealing with dress codes for teachers. I see a need for it. Although the majority of teachers use proper dress, without the need to be policed. Unfortunally a few do not. As a union rep. I was called upon to address this types of issues. Our students need to have professionals lead the way in all areas including dress. They see enough of the other dress daily. Students pay attention to teachers dress. I remember the first time I wore a slack suite to class. The students spoke up in unison YOu have on pants?! We never saw you in pants before. I did not know they were obsearving my dress that close. I was not aware, that I had not dress with pants? OK, They know the difference. We owe it to them to set the tone of learning in all areas of education. Example of professional dress. Listen to the children.

  • Linda

    Unfortunately teachers are judged every day. We need to dress professionally. Most do, but deal with the ones who do not. As far as parents are concerned, many need to be told to come to school in “day” clothes, not their pajamas! And, we wonder why we have dress codes for the students!

  • Mark Holub

    No, it’s NOT true that “most” educators dress properly. I think, though, it would depend on the school, area, etc. Most of them have no idea of what “appropriate” dress is! It’s disgusting the way many of them dress. We need to set the example. Too bad if some educators are “offended.” Those who are, are the ones that need to hear the message the most. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem!

  • Sarah

    We can argue all day long as to what professional attire includes. The best service we can do to teachers is to allow individual school districts to determine and define professional attire to suit the culture and needs of that teaching environment. When I consider K-12 educators, rural, suburban, urban environments, and the different regions and the cultural context of these regions, I simply believe that power should rest with local districts and how they negotiate with state/local NEA chapters. Trust the individual school. Trust the leaders of that district. And mostly, trust the teachers to know their professional roles. If they do not, they will certainly face conversations with their administration. I teach in a public high school–we have casual Fridays (jeans). I dress nicely during the week and enjoy doing so. However, I have colleagues across the district in another high school where jeans are the norm–and kids still learn. I have colleagues in another part of the district, in a detention center, who wear jeans and nice shirts–no ties allowed–and no heels for women–both for safety and comfort. The point: culture = context and that should be determined by administrative leaders in conjunction with classroom educators–and ALWAYS with the best interest of the students’ learning in mind.

  • E.G.

    Every workplace should have an agreed upon and codified standard of dress…that is all.

  • I agree that there should be some guidelines for how teachers should dress. However, with that said, I also believe many factors should be taken into consideration. For example, I teach in Hawaii where the weather is very warm and classrooms are oftentimes without proper air conditioning. Therefore, I do wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts to work. This is not just for comfort, but for my health as well. Even with air conditioning, I am often outside on yard duty during the day and before and after school running around campus on errands. With all of this said, I don’t wear cut off jeans or inappropriate shirts. As educators we do know how to dress for our school climate. I agree that dress code violations should be handled on a case by case basis and the guidelines should be agreed upon not only by administration but by educators as well. Mahalo!

  • Pat Hagadorn

    When we sweat the small stuff, like dress codes, we look foolish. Most working people must dress a certain way-even, and in some cases, especially professionals. Let it go.

  • Rosalie Bryk

    If we want to be treated like professionals, then we must project a professional image!

  • Ken Mussen

    What we wear doesn’t make us professionals. What we do on a daily basis makes us professionals.

  • Jill DeGrove

    Honestly…one more ridiculous “concern”?!? I agree…administrators are highly capable of handling any inappropriate attire. We have MUCH bigger fish to fry in our districts. A teacher’s attire should be one of the last things a district is worrying about. We go to work for students and each teacher’s role may be a bit different in his or her school. I think most of us can figure out on our own what is and is not appropriate attire for our daily responsibilities. The focus needs to shift back to students and their needs.

  • Jennifer Wilmetti

    The more restrictive the dress code, the more likely people are to look for and find loopholes. Our new dress code was implemented two years ago and failed to mention shorts. Now many of the teachers the dress code was trying to rein in simply wear shorts. And dressing “professionally” sounds great until my room is up to 90 degrees in the fall and spring and down to the 50s or 60s in the winter. “Professional” offices don’t do that.

    I believe in dressing APPROPRIATELY. Teachers must deal with so many situations that aren’t dealt with in a business suit.

  • Eryn Sutliff

    The expectation of a more professional attire should be supported by higher salaries. I work in Virginia, but my teacher friends in West Virginia barely make a livable wage. They should not be required to dress beyond their means. People argue that the cost of living is much lower in West Virginia, but from my personal experience it costs more for gas, food, insurances, and some services. I am in favor of both student and staff uniforms, it would save me money and solve dress code issues in the classroom.

  • Dale

    As soon as my school district provides me a clothing allowance, I’ll wear a tie, a tuxedo, or a clown suit. In the meantime, they get what they pay for.

    • Rhonda Phillips

      That’s a cop out my friend. My husband and I have raised 3 kids, built and paid for our home, and sent our kids to college on my teacher salary and husband’s income as a builder. I think it is safe to say we haven’t got rich. However, I have always dressed professionally every day. Black heels, brown heels, 3 skirts and 3 pairs of slacks, 4 blouses, 2 white shirts and a couple of sweaters. Standard wardrobe. Quit your whining about your pitiful salary, button up your shirt, put on a tie, and go to work. Bring some respect back to your profession. You are probably the only example of proper dress your students are going to see.

  • Marcia Y Burton

    When i came up in school teachers had a certain respect for themselves and the students. The teachers dressed very professional. You could tell the difference between the teachers and students. Now days you don’t know who is who. What is wrong with that picture? I have seen some strang things that teachers have been wearing these days. We have to remember that we are role models. If we protray a negative picture the students will pick up on that. Teachers should remember that they are there to help shape and nurture the students and not to out dress them.

    Marcia Y Burton

  • Tim Mitchell

    Common sense should prevail. Facial tattoos and piercings are not acceptable in the classroom for professionals. Go to any business and apply for a position inappropriately dressed and see if you get the position you seek. Children learn by example and this is a terrible one to accept or promote.

    • Carolyn Heia Brown

      The article didn’t say facial tattoos and piercings. It said, “facial piercings and visible tattoos.” I personally don’t have any tattoos and never will, but a large number of my colleagues at my school and in my district have tattoos. How do I know? They are visible. Our district policy used to be different but has changed with the times. I can think of at least one principal with a visible tattoo. Not my cup of tea but the times are changing.

  • Priscilla Nielsen

    Assuming that pressure from administration will maintain reasonable attire when someone is really out of line does not work if the district is so afraid of a lawsuit that they don’t really ‘administer’ any longer.

  • Tammy

    It is disconcerting that this discussion is even needed.
    With that said, I have witnessed teachers with attire that is beyond poor judgement or taste. As role models we must be expected to present ourselves professionally. That doesn’t mean pantyhose and ties. But should exclude what you would wear to the beach or movies.
    Children are given dress codes such as “no flip flops” for their safety. We too must adhere to appropriate dress codes. Teachers should be allowed input on what that should look like.

  • John

    Before becoming a teacher I was a computer programmer. We worked with other programmers, analysts, support and sales people. We dressed in jeans, shorts, sneakers, tee-shirts pretty much whatever. BUT, when we were going to a client site or had clients in to visit, we wore shirts and ties. I never heard of anyone getting taken aside to talk about their attire.

    Being a professional isn’t WHAT you do (or even how you dress) it is HOW YOU DO your job. A sanitation worker can be a professional and a doctor can be amazingly unprofessional.

    As for tattoos, if I’ve yet to have anyone say anything that wasn’t respectful about the U.S. Army tattoo on my forearm.

  • Inez goodman

    I am a guest teacher and I see the positive way students and staff at all the schools react to me when I come in dressed professionally. You don’t have to wear a business suit but sweats, sweatshirts, tees,old faded or stained jeans and flip flops do not present an authoritative image. Piercings, tattoos, unusual hair color or styles are a distraction. Maybe clothes don’t determine how you perform but it does affect how you are seen by students.

  • Alice. Kelly

    Yes we need a dress code.
    Since older teachers are being pushed out of the classroom, this is another area that has suffered. Modeling appropriate dress for younger teachers is needed. I have seen young females wearing the tights fashion around young males in H. S. To often. I’ve seen young male teachers who look like they just rolled out of bed and came to work. I’ve heard them say” why dress for THOSE kids. ” Teachers model dress for the work world, effort to look your best should never be an issue. The school can have dress down days, but even then there is a limit. You should not think it is alright to wear anything. We can’t expect students to dress in a respectable manner if we do not. I do not want my students focused on my attire for the wrong reasons.

  • Leslie Davis

    I don’t see a dress code for teachers as a sign of disrespect for the profession – many professions have dress codes because they recognize that how their employees dress does communicate something. I have been at schools where I cringe to see what some teachers wear to school (flip flops, sweatpants, revealing tops, etc.). Most teachers know how to dress professionally without a formal dress code, but for the few who don’t or won’t, a dress code can be helpful IF it is enforced by the administration. And I agree with other comments about how the dress code should be suited to the job responsibilities, climate and season – when I teach summer school in a non-air-conditioned building, I wear sandals and shorts because otherwise I’ll get heat exhaustion.

  • To dress “professionally” does not require a ton of money, nor does it mean so casual that one can go from school directly to weed the garden without a change in attire. It is not expensive, either, to project a “classy” image; pairing a blazer (Kohl’s, Target) with nice jeans achieves that effect.
    For school districts to rule regarding piercings and tattoos is far beyond their purview, however. Flip flops are a safety issue, and to ban them for faculty, staff, AND students would be wise, but probably will not happen.

  • Judy Evans

    In order to be effective teachers, the first thing we need to do is to make a good first impression on our students. This first impression is one that includes the way we speak, act, and dress. If we cannot engage the student with interest, respect, and trust our efforts will be fruitless. A person’s appearance sends out a signal of that person’s character as well as personality. Individual differences in students will also affect how they react to what they see and hear. If teachers want the personal best from their students, they should present their personal best to their students. I have been in a position monitoring teachers as they work with students. I have seen students not engaged and not respectful because their hormones were busy reacting to a teacher’s appearance. A Professional Educator Dress Code may produce more effective teachers. We all need to start with self-respect.

  • Roger Donohoe

    I just came from the RA…We need a dress code.

  • Micah

    Teachers are here to teach the students, not to look good. In some cases, the teachers try to dress like the other students so they can be the “cool” teacher. The teachers should have the same dress code as the students. At our school, students have to wear a shirt that is long enough to cover everything if they are wearing leggings. Also cleavage is not permitted and skirts have to be fingertip length. As for piercings, they should only be limited to the ears, and tattoos should not be visible.

  • Ann Cogan

    I teach 5,6 and 7 year olds. I teach PE twice a week. I have blue paint on my black shoes and white paint on my new jeans and green paint on my white shirt. I spend a good chunk of my instructional day on the floor. I AM dressed to teach.

    • Lynnette

      Try turning those spills into a design. I meant to have that on my jeans, instead of paint got spilled oops. Changes a professional look that got ruined back into a professional look that is cute as well. Just a thought.

  • ktyxes

    Now necessarily a dress code but a “how to wear, what not to wear” code.

  • chaya

    Of course it is important to have community standards of dress in either public or private schools. I have taught for many years in both arenas and find the current lack of knowledge regarding professional attire mind boggling. If you are dressed like a rag picker or are dirty or have an odor, that is not acceptable. If your clothing is so tight or full of holes where students can see your underpinnings, that is not acceptable. If your attire looks more like lingerie, it is not acceptable. Females, like myself, are more often taken to task because there are more of us in education. This has nothing to do with body shaming and everything to do with knowing that our profession should be the front line for displaying acceptable community standards.

    I was a student of the 1970s. I start teaching a bit later, in the 1990s. Maybe that makes me “old school” but I still believe that my students (who have ranged from pre-school to middle school due to various certifications) watch and learn behavior from what they see each day, especially at school. Do I think female teachers should wear heels and skirts every day? I don”t think that should be mandatory, but I do think that flip flops, sweatpants (unless your teach PE), and clothes that show off your panty lines should not be worn to school. It saddens me how many of my younger colleagues have to be told how to dress to teach elementary school.

    The decline of respect for teachers comes from the way we dress, the way we conduct ourselves with our students and how we treat our students and each other. I see news stories weekly about teachers who have inappropriate relationships with students and I chalk a lot of that up to the fact that we set no boundaries anymore. Dressing for our jobs, no matter what the children wear is one way to set up even a minor boundary.

  • SigmetSue

    Dress codes for students and teachers have a way of becoming ridiculous as people skirt (sorry about the pun) the line of compliance/non-compliance. I think administrators should have the right to take teachers aside and comment on dress that is unusually unprofessional, such as sweats for non-PE teachers, lip and nose piercings, too-short shorts and skirts, and blouses that show more than a hint of cleavage. The teacher may get all offended and may complain to the union or the administrator’s superiors, leading hopefully to some sort of mediation, but the administrator should still have that right.

  • Lynnette

    The schools where I have worked have guidelines for how a teacher should dress. Is that a dress code? It could be. Administrators need at least guidelines so that when teachers come in inappropriately dressed, as some of them will, the administrator can say to them “Your current attire does not meet our dress code/guidelines.” “Please do not where it again.” or “Please go home and change.” Depending on the level of inappropriateness of the attire. We leave ourselves open to law suits if we do not have a standard. Isn’t that what a dress code is, a standard to be maintained? It lets teachers know what is expected. For instance, no filp flops! Ok I admit it I am also a 70’s girl and I guess that makes me old school these days. But, in my considered opinion, flip flops belong at the beach or pool. Certainly, not at my place of business.

  • Germaine Morel

    Students like to see their teachers well dressed. I think we are professionals and we know how to dress up properly. we cannot wear a too mini dress or skirt which show off our underwear or wear tops or dresses with a big cleavage. Students look to us as models. We are dealing with young adults and what do we think goes on in a young adult’s mind when he/she sees his/her teacher dressed in a provocative way? Respect is earned.

  • Tonja Cantu

    Teachers are not taken seriously as a profession partly due to the fact many dress inappropriately for their positions. I understand jeans and leggings are more comfortable attire. These are great, for the appropriate time. Teachers, and paraprofessionals, need to dress to show the students and the parents they are professionals.

    I have been a teacher, a principal and a professor. I have always dressed as a professional, whether in a suit, dress pants, or a skirt. There are occasions jeans are acceptable (school spirit days). However, leggings are not professional attire. As I have gone to conferences with my children, I have seen many different styles in clothing. I loose respect for the teacher prior to our conversation if s/he is wearing jeans of leggings. How often do you see a lawyer, doctor, pharmacist, bank personnel, manager, etc. in jeans? They dress for the resect of the position they hold. In my opinion, teachers hold the highest position, educating the youth of this country. I wonder if more would be accomplished and standards would be higher for students if the teachers were held to higher standards themselves? Teachers and paraprofessionals are not to be friends with the students, but support. Relationships are easily built with students when wearing professional clothing. I have prior students who are in their mid 30s who are now my friends, but in school they were my students.

    Respect for the position, the fellow teachers, and the profession IS demonstrated in how you present yourself.

    Teachers are not only professionals, but role models as well. I want my children, and others to grow up to make educated decisions and be productive citizens. I do not want them to see the teachers and decide that is something they should wear/do if it is not appropriate.