Phila. Teachers on Capitol Steps, Wash., D.C.,...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

I have written about teacher appearance previously in my blogs and since it is the start of the school year, I want to remind myself and other teachers that our students, parents and the public often judge teachers based on their appearance.  Is this right or fair and does how a teacher dress make them a bad or a good teacher – probably not, but it is reality students and parents do judge teachers on how they look.

If we as teachers don’t dress as professionals and we show up to school in shorts, jeans, tshirts and sandals, hair all askew, etc., what kind of message are we sending to those who do see us in the classroom or school? Are you showing that you respect your students or your school, by taking the time and effort to look like a professional teacher for them?

Those teachers who dress informally or casually may say they don’t really care about how they look, and that it is more important that they teach well.  That may be true and yes I would much rather have a good teacher who looks unprofessional, than a bad teacher who looks good, but does it really take all that much time or effort to look like the professionals that we say we are?

So why not take the extra few minutes it takes look the part of a professional and be a good teacher at the same time?

I strongly believe this and I think that many others do as well.

With all negativity about public school teachers in the press, by politicians and others, why give them the one more reason to not think of teachers as professionals based upon our appearance.

If we dress like we are going to the beach or the mall instead of being appropriately attired when going to work at our schools, we really need to stop and think about what image we are projecting to others.  Are we giving the impression we are professionals who are well trained to teach our students or are we simply cogs in a factory system that “anyone” can be hired and trained to do what we do?

I think you can tell from this post what I believe.

I do think that we need to put the teaching profession in the best possible light, especially over when it something that we have complete control over – how we look when we are at work.

Will this help change opinions of teaching?

I don’t know, but I do know when I go someplace and the workers are slovenly dressed or their appearance is not what I expect for the situation, I begin to wonder if I am in the right place and look a lot more critically at what is going on there.  I think in some instances that is happening to teachers.

Last Wednesday I received an award that was televised locally and I wore cargo pants and a button up shirt, everyone else was dressed much more formally than I was (at least slacks and a tie, most were in suits).

When I saw the TV footage, I saw that I had dressed too casually for the occasion.  The bottom line was that I did not present my profession very well with my appearance and I felt as though I embarrassed my school and myself needlessly.  I should have been more aware of how seriously others were taking this ceremony and taken more time to choose what to wear for a planned event of this sort.

It was a great lesson for me, because it reminded me to take a look at how I appear to others and not wear what is comfortable for me, but to wear what is appropriate for the situation.

I will not make that mistake again.

It means that I do have to go out and purchase a couple of “sport jackets” and have one at school (just in case) for those surprise occasions when I should wear at least a tie and a sport coat to be properly attired.  They do happen during the year and often teachers are unprepared for those times and look slovenly to others.

To be honest I hate wearing a tie with a passion and would prefer to be one of the shorts, sweatpants and tshirt crowd, but I strongly believe that it is important that we need to show our students and others that we care enough to look like professionals when we are at work in our classrooms.

Does that mean that I believe that all teachers should wear a suit and tie or even a tie everyday – no.  Wearing a tie everyday is my choice, but in my opinion we should at least be wearing business casual in our classrooms and be ready to quickly adjust to a more “formal” setting when it is necessary.

The reality is that too many teachers come to schools dressed inappropriately or appear slovenly for their position as a trained professional in a very public occupation.

What do you think, does personal appearance make a difference in the classroom?

“There is no try, only do.” – Yoda


  1. At a professional development session it was suggested that we dress to match our community expectations and that too much difference between teachers and parents/students creates barriers that we don't need. Local doctors were held up as a model. After a brief round of discussion we discovered that more than half of our doctors dressed more for the beach than the office. So where do we take our dress code cues from?


  2. I guess I am a bit old school and would disagree with what was presented at your professional development session. I work in a very poor rural district and I believe that we are role models and that our appearance does affect how they relate to us. I am not trying to intimidate parents or students by dressing up a bit. I believe I am showing them a higher level of respect, because I do not have to dress up and could wear much more casual attire, but I take the time to ensure that I wear more than jeans, shorts or a tshirt when I am teaching.Business casual (a pair of slacks & a polo shirt/button down shirt) is generally considered appropriate for daily wear in most organizations inside or outside of teaching at the professional level. A tie is often optional – I personally hate them, but have found that in my classrooms there is a difference in behavior levels when I wear one and when I don't, so I wear the tie – any little bit helps. There are/maybe different dress expectations for different areas of the Country and schools, but I am more conservative when it comes to appearance than many are. But when I meet fellow professionals, I want them to treat me as a fellow professional and how we dress does affect that relationship. These are simply my thoughts on this subject, I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I do want teachers to think about how they look in a professional situation and I believe teaching is a professional situation.But I am not the fashion police :-). It comes down to the image that a teacher wants to portray to the students, parents and community. It is my belief that we are in the public's eye and are held to a higher standard when it comes to our appearance, than someone working at a factory, local store or on a farm. Just call me old fashioned 🙂


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