Continuing with my series of questions meant to stir conversations about the field, I ask the titular question: does teacher attire matter? The question comes at a time when controversies regarding student attire make news almost monthly. Less attention is paid to teacher attire, but this fall saw an exception when a teacher from Georgia found herself scrutinized on social media for what she apparently wore while teaching fourth graders.
Examining the question and attempting to answer it throws into relief the nature of the controversy. Few are concerned with what male students or teachers are wearing. The issue repeatedly involves what female students or teachers wear. Is this a problem for the females in question or for the males around them? That could become a larger discussion. Keeping the conversation grounded to education, the fourth grade teacher from Georgia posted pictures of herself on social media showing outfits some considered to be too form-fitting to be appropriate for her job. Were they? Who decides this?
When I saw the pictures, my only concern was whether or not she’d be comfortable all day wearing such high heels in an elementary classroom. If she could pull that off, good for her. Beyond that, I saw little that likely would violate typical standards of professional dress in a school. A few commenters mentioned how she might distract the nine-year-olds she taught. Perhaps. Would she distract them (or even high school students) to the point of disrupting learning? Probably not.
All that should matter is whether or not she (or anyone else) can effectively perform her duties as an instructor in what she wears. These duties include interacting with parents and other stakeholders, but primarily involve building literacy and math skills in her students. If student performance slipped in her class alone and every other variable could be ruled out as a cause, I’d still question whether or not her attire was making the difference. Parents might object to her attire, but they’d need to have solid grounds for their objection before any action would be justified.
My take: as long as teachers of any sex or gender are abiding the code of professional dress in their respective schools and aren’t dressing in a way that demonstrably disrupts learning, they should be able to dress as they please. Sure, they have some obligation to set positive examples, but I don’t know that form-fitting attire necessarily sets a negative example.
Thoughts? Should anyone care deeply enough about teacher attire to pitch a fit about it if a teacher wears something slightly snug? Discuss in the comments if you wish.