I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before: ‘Never Judge a Book by its Cover’. This cliche is being overused and has lost its impact. What this phrase is really trying to say is that “first impressions last”. How a teacher dresses sets an image, a tone for others to react to this. In a classroom a teacher’s dress-code can have an impact on the learner’s opinions and can create either a negative or negative type of educational atmosphere.
So if teachers can learn to understand and practice proper dressing attire for the classroom, they can expect to have a proper relationship with the learners because the ability to serve as a role model and an authoritative figure is largely determined by his outlook.
If, for an example, a school principal can set a specific dress code for all teachers in a school, then changing your wardrobe won’t be a difficult task since most of the clothes you’ll wear to work will ‘almost’ be the same. But some school principals and school districts have a much looser policy when it comes to dress code and teachers are left to decide what is appropriate.
In most of the work places these days a dress code has become more casual. Teachers in some of the high schools and primary schools can dress in a way that doesn’t even make them different from their learners. You can’t see who is a teacher and who is a learner especially if learners are not in school uniform.
I know that clothes that are worn by teachers may not determine what or how the learners learn, but they can simply affect the level of respect that learners develop for that particular teacher.
When I first started teaching I used come to work with a formal dress-code. You know a nice suit and tie and formal shoes. Now since it was us, the teachers who actually move from class to class changing periods and not the learners, when I went home my feet would be so bruised like I walking in hot coal. I then started noticing some of the teachers wearing sneakers on a Monday and that’s when I figured out that the dress code is actually left for teachers to decide for themselves what to wear.
I started to wear comfortable clothes and I was able to move around comfortably so. The problem with this was that my performance when teaching became poor and I realized that the more relaxed my attire was, the more laid-back I became. This is the reason why t-shirts, sweatpants and other types of comfortable clothing are associated with weekends, holidays and ‘days-offs’.
You know a teacher who is wearing t-shirts and sweatpants in the classroom tends to have a more easy-going character. Well this can have a positive effect when it allows learners to feel at ease but it can also cause some damage when it encourages relaxed, less-disciplined behaviors.
A teacher wearing clothes that are either extremely casual (e.g., sweaters, ripped jeans or baggy shirts) or age-inappropriate (e.g., t-shirts with slogans or funny sayings, tight-fitting clothing, or short skirts) might “connect” with the learners on a personal level, but unfortunately much of the sense of authority and control over the classroom can be lost.
Some teachers come to school dressed in ridiculous outfits like they are promoting curtains or table cloths.
A teacher can build a connection with his learners dressed in a more “business-like” dress code. There was a teacher at my school who has a formal dress code. The way he dresses is so unique that he wears a different tie every day. His personalized ties range from quotes, science experiments, fun quizzes and so on and learners always look forward to seeing him and his ties every day.
You know this introduces an element of fun and creates a way for learners and teachers to interact on a personal level while maintaining a certain tone of formality.
Female teachers can likewise bring their unique interests and personality into their classroom attire. Skirts, dresses, blouses and nice trousers can be accessorized with jewelry and scarves that give a familiar feel.
For example, a teacher who loves science might have pins, bracelets, watches and earrings in the shape of her favorite scientific tool. She creates a bond with the learners by letting them know a little bit about herself.
One high-school English teacher amuses her learners by showing up every beginning of a school term wearing a different holiday-themed sweater. Again, this creates a connection and a sense of familiarity without sacrificing standards of formality or modesty.
Not only does this kind of dressing affect how the learners view their teacher but it also influences the teacher’s own daily appearance. When you are done taking a bath, you are dressed and checking yourself out in the mirror before leaving the house, a person builds an attitude based on his own reflection and this self-image gets carried over into the work place.
When a teacher gets into the classroom, well dressed and confident, he will convey a message that he is organised and in control to his learners.
Dressing and behaving in a way that emphasizes his position as an authority figure and a role model, he builds a professional approach to his career not only in the learners’ eyes, but in his own mind. This confidence creates a successful teacher and, consequently, a successful classroom.
Ideally, books should not be judged by their covers. Whether right or wrong though, in reality impressions are often based on appearances. Reactions and attitudes are developed according to how a person looks, and in a setting like the classroom, the type of reaction learners have to their teacher is crucial to their success. By simply considering the image they wish to project, a teacher can dress in a way that is best-suited for an effective learning environment.
Now its your turn. Do you this that the way teachers dress affects learning in the classroom? Let me know in the comments below.