An opinion article from Punch newspaper of 19 March 2021 caused some sensations on Twitter. In this article, a parent raised her concern about teachers dressing “indecently” to school. She voiced her opinion about an “improperly dressed” teacher in a school she was about to enrol her children. She said that the teacher in question had a “weird haircut dyed with a loud colour, fixed long nails painted with loud colours too.” According to her, this teacher’s appearance has discouraged her from enrolling her children in that school because she (the teacher) will not be a good “role model” to the children.
This article attracted several mixed reactions from Twitter users when Punch shared it on their handle. The essay, titled, “Why Teachers Should Have Dress Code, Says Stakeholders”, drew several commentators, most of whom did not bother reading it before commenting. The commentators focused on teachers’ poor salaries as the reason they should be allowed to dress the way they deemed fit. However, the content of the article is only asking how modestly or moderately teachers should dress.
Discussions on how teachers should dress to work are always coming up at every slightest provocation. Even in staff meetings, teachers are being reminded to “dress properly because their students will emulate them.” Teachers are made to believe that if they dress wrong, their students will dress wrong too. Ironically, teachers have been dressing in a particular way since I’ve known them but students have chosen to avoid their teachers’ mode of dressing. Hence, that fallacy that students emulate their teachers’ dressing style should be dropped because it is not true.
However, as a teacher, there is a need to put your profession into consideration while you dress for work. Unfortunately, they have to consider their clients (the students) as they choose their clothes. This is not because their students will have to learn how to dress decently (or not) from them but because of factors such as minimising students’ distractions, being comfortable, being approachable, and looking well-off.
a. Avoid Distracting Students
A teacher that doesn’t understand that certain outfits can distract students is going to face challenges in her class. This factor is actually where I blame the teacher in the Punch story. Dressing too flashily or shabbily can cause distractions. In the former, the students will spend time discussing and admiring their teacher’s latest outfit but in the latter, they will be snickering at her instead of paying attention to the lesson. This is why it is important to stay moderate.
b. Think Comfort
If a teacher is comfortable, she can do her job well. If she wears what causes her discomfort, she will be antsy and, hence, not give proper attention to her students. She also couldn’t wait to go home and remove the uncomfortable clothes and accessories. This is why it is not advisable for teachers to be in suits when the weather is hot.
c. Look Approachable
One of the reasons teachers have to dress semi-formally, per se, is to look friendly. The more relaxed a teacher’s dressing is, the more approachable she is to her students. In other words, consider clothes that make you look relaxed and friendly while dressing for school.
d. Don’t Look Cheap
It is easy to detect teachers today because of how they look. I understand that their salaries are small but it is as if there is a general agreement that teachers shouldn’t look well-dressed and expensive. Nobody is saying they should break banks to dress up but at least, let them do their best to avoid looking drab.
Now, back to the question posits by this essay, which is “Should teachers have dress code?” Well, the answer is “yes”. But then, there should be no stringent rules on the particular clothes teachers should wear. Rather, the features of their dress code should be projected so they can choose wisely. But then, teachers should bear their students in mind while choosing their outfits so they will ensure that proper teaching and learning are not disturbed by their dressing.