General Question

Carly's avatar

For Jellies who teach, or have taught in public schools: Are you expected to dress a certain way, or have a dress code?

Asked by Carly (4555points) March 27th, 2012

I’m 24, and I’m seriously considering teaching when I’m finished with my B.A. My current wardrobe consists of t-shirts and jeans, and a few dressy things, but I’m concerned I might have to invest in a lot more clothing that’s considered “professional.”

When I went to school, most of my teachers were older, on the verge of retiring, so they tended to be more old fashioned and wore nicer things to school. Should I expect to dress nice like that while teaching, or could I get by with my current clothing without problems?

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11 Answers

KateTheGreat's avatar

I substitute for music classes a lot and I’m required to dress in nice slacks or a skirt and a blouse. They do have casual Fridays though.

gorillapaws's avatar

Another point to consider is how your students perceive you. Dressing professionally helps establish that you are in control of the classroom, and you might have a hard time keeping your student’s respect if you dress as casually as they do.

Ponderer983's avatar

I don’t teach, but my brother does. Within the past few years, the public school he teaches at instituted a dress code of slacks, dress shirt and tie with Friday being a casual day where you can wear a polo and no tie.

Word to wise, though. When most people get out of college, they need to go buy a “professional wardrobe.” I hope you’re not thinking of NOT teaching because of the attire?!?!?

Carly's avatar

@Ponderer983 no, i’d still want to teach, even if that means I have to dress nice. :P
I’m just wondering if I need to start building that nice wardrobe now, or if I can use the money to go towards other things I know I’ll need after college.

JLeslie's avatar

I would not worry about building a wardrobe while you are still in college. I would save money for after college, so you can buy what you need, get your apartment, etc. You can start work with 3 pairs of slacks two skirts and 5 shirts that coordinate, half of which you might have in your closet already. After graduation you will probably buy at least one outfit for interviews. I don’t know what year you are, but you could easily gain or lose a size by the time you graduate.

Having clothes sitting in youy closet for the future never makes much sense, unless they are dual purpose and are being used currently also.

JustPlainBarb's avatar

As a professional, you would want to project that image to your students. You don’t want to look or act like their peer.

Business casual… nice slacks and blouse, sweater… skirt/dress… just something that reflects your being in charge and expecting respect as a “leader”.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money and can buy things you can mix and match making different “outfits”.

quiddidyquestions's avatar

It varies from school to school and district to district.

I teach in a public elementary school with a very lax dress code. Jeans and sandals are just fine, but I think it would be a mistake to show up messy looking. When I wear my jeans I always make sure they’re clean, dark wash, and nicely fitted and I pair them with a nicer top and “grown up shoes”, and I never wear my frayed or holey weekend jeans.
A school on the other side of town has a no jeans and no open toed shoes policy.

Teachers are professionals, and if we want to be treated as such we have to project a professional image.

Especially since you’re so young, I would recommend dressing up a bit when you go into a school, even to do observations, to give your look some gravitas. Parents can be skeptical of new teachers as well, so you’ll want to look like you mean business.

The Limited has an educator discount, and some of my favorite “teacher clothes” come from Target.

Sunny2's avatar

I wore shirts and skirts or slacks. Everything I got was machine washable so I didn’t have to worry about getting down on the floor should it be something I wanted to do.I looked for cheery colors to please myself, and, I hoped, the kids with whom I worked. Did they like it? I have no idea, but it was how I wanted to look. Blue jeans were not an option then. I think that’s an individual school option.

quiddidyquestions's avatar

Oh… I touched on it in my original post, but I’ll elaborate. Your license program will likely require you to be in classrooms observing, helping, teaching mini lessons, etc. You’ll want to look at least, as if not more professional than the teachers. If you look like you’re taking it very seriously you stand a better chance of being noticed by other teachers and administrators. Who you know and who likes you makes a very big difference when it comes time to look for a job. I’d recommend having a few professional outfits so you have something nice to wear every time you enter a school.

As a personal antidote, before I started student teaching a dropped some serious money on a professional wardrobe. Sometimes I felt silly in my slacks and cardigans and shift dresses in a sea of laid back teachers, but less than a year later I landed a job at the school, which has no shortage of teachers trying to get in, in a market that does not favor new teachers. Of course, what I did in the classroom made the biggest impact, but I don’t doubt for a second that sending an image that I take teaching very seriously helped quite a bit.

rojo's avatar

As a general contractor we have an “unofficial dress code” a plaid shirt and khaki pants. Don’t know who came up with it or why but that is what they wear around here. Occassionally jeans (new, indigo blue, not faded) are substituted, but not often.

linguaphile's avatar

When I worked in Arizona, we could wear shorts, modest sleeveless tops and slip on shoes to work—it was 80 degrees in the classroom on a good day. A coworker of mine wore shapeless sleeveless knee-length dresses every day.

In Minnesota, things are different, obviously. We have to dress in business casual—just two weeks ago, my boss sent out an email scolding us for not dressing appropriately. It seems like some of our recent college graduates were wearing hoodie sweatshirts to work, yoga pants, ripped-cuff pants, holey jeans and other types of college-wear. Our boss is pretty flexible about dress codes but many vet teachers were taken aback at the lackadaisical attitudes of the recent college graduates in regards to professional wear. We are also expected to model proper weather-wear. I’ve been told to get on a coat because… if I don’t wear a coat, kids will think they don’t need coats.

That being said, I refuse to dress like a suburban soccer-mom in pastel cardigans and tan mom-pants and refuse to dress in all blacks, grays and beiges. I’m considered a ‘weird’ teacher here—I dress like a young version or Mrs. Darbus from High School Musical. Creative, but still professional.

When you visit the school, wear something very neutral—like beiges, grays and blacks, then observe how the teachers dress, overall. That’ll give you a sense of the school dress code for teachers- spoken and unspoken.

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