Aimee Downer, Bill McConnell
Point/counterpoint: Should there be a dress code for teachers?
Aimee Downer is an English teacher at Raymond Cree Middle School and a member of the Palm Springs Teachers Association. She is an advocate of dress codes for teachers.
I taught in a suburban area of Atlanta, Georgia, and there was a strict dress code for teachers at my high school. I actually got sent home to change on two occasions. Once, I was wearing a blouse that didn’t have a collar. On the second occasion, I was wearing a school shirt, but it wasn’t a collared golf shirt. I lived 40 miles away, so it was a long drive.
I guess you could say it was an extreme dress code. Women had to wear pantyhose, and men had to wear a tie and were not allowed to have facial hair or wear an earring. It was very conservative compared to what we have in Southern California.
A collared shirt might be a bit ridiculous, but there needs to be some standards. For example, we should demonstrate modesty by avoiding clothing that is too tight, too short or too low-cut.
Having an enforced dress code made our environment more professional. In my view, teachers were treated professionally and respected more because we looked professional. I have a master’s degree and I want to be taken seriously. If I don’t dress like the professional that I am and dress casually, my tone, in turn, becomes more casual, and this can affect the classroom. However, if there are "casual days," it's important to participate, but within reason.
I find the discipline in California schools is not as tight as where I came from. I have to wonder if the more casual approach to dress code for teachers — and students — might account for this somewhat.
You shouldn’t arrive at school dressed like you are going to the grocery store on the weekend or out on a hot date. Common sense should rule the day, but sometimes it doesn’t. In our district there was a teacher who habitually showed her thong and another who regularly wore flip-flops and shorts to work.
I think teachers are models for young men and women, and we have to set a good example.
Bill McConnell is an English teacher at Ontario High School and a member of Associated Chaffey Teachers. He does not believe in dress codes for teachers.
We are professionals, and we don’t need somebody telling us what we need to wear to work. We understand that we shouldn’t show up for work in sweat pants. We are adults and can make our own decisions. It works, for the most part.
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.
In many of the facilities where we teach, our rooms remain dirty despite the best efforts of our janitors. Why should I wear a shirt and tie to go into a room covered with dust and cobwebs? Most of us have white boards. The dust from the dry erase markers can stain our clothes, because once the dust settles into the tray it can get on everything.
Teachers stand on their feet about six hours a day. Dress shoes don’t have the support provided by athletic shoes. From a comfort perspective, I’d rather wear a pair of tennis shoes. I’m less likely to sit behind my desk and more likely to move around the classroom if I have comfortable shoes on.
We live in an era where teachers are under attack about how much money we make. If we are expected to spend a portion of our income on fancy clothes that might otherwise go to rent or food or basic needs, it would be ridiculous. Most teachers spend $400 to $600 out of their own pocket for classroom supplies that the school doesn’t pay for.
I think administrators might pick on certain people if a dress code was in place, because it’s easy to pick on someone based on how they look. It hasn’t happened at my school, but I could see it happening.
Students know who the teacher is, and I’m always dressed appropriately. I hope my actions and words to students are what make me a role model, rather than whether I happen to be wearing a polo shirt instead of a shirt and a tie.