« Update on Alonso's bonus | Main | Preparing for H1N1 »

August 21, 2009

Flip flops, other 'fashion' frowned upon for Howard County teachers

Today the paper ran a story I wrote about Howard County's latest effort to thwart inappropriate attire for teachers.

"Expectations for Professional Attire" is a pamphlet that the school system gave to its teachers this year for the first time. From what I've been able to find, Howard County is the only school system in the area with something of this nature.

The expectations frown upon: garments that expose underwear; sheer clothes; torn, tattered or disheveled clothes; flip-flops; hats; clothing with obscene, vulgar or profane language or illustrations; clothing with sexual overtones; and shorts for employees who do not teach physical education.

The expectations also list as inappropriate visible tattoos that are provocative or obscene; and jewelry or any other objects that are connected to the nose, tongue, lip, eyebrow or other exposed body part that may be "deemed a safety issue," according to the pamphlet.

The school system folks say that these are not requirements, but simply recommendations. Something tells me otherwise.

So far there hasn't been an major resistence from the teachers. But, I'm sure there has to be at least one who is not doing back flips of joy.

What do you think? Is this going to far? Should teachers be allowed to wear what they want? Or do you agree with many of the new teachers I interviewed yesterday who believe that dressing in a professional manner earns them more respect from their students in the classroom.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:17 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Howard County


Agreed - inappropriate clothing, tattoos ...etc are a no brainer; however, I have been in the classroomfor 16 years and gave up the expensive shirts, ties and slacks a long time ago. One thing to keep in mind is that a professional workplace should be professionally maintained. I have worked in schools where temperatures in the classroom exceeded 90 degrees in August, September, May and June - not exactly shirt and tie conditions. Can't remember ever experiencing those temps in the bank or doctor's office. I also ruined shirts and expensive slacks because of the absolutely filthy conditions. Lastly - those great teacher salaries, especially in the early tyears, don't exactly support trips to the dry cleaners. Can't tell you how many well-dressed, horrible administrators and teachers I've worked with over the years. Just a little perspective for those looking in from the outside...

Wow such hard hitting new! Perhapes we should worry a little less about what teachers are going to wear to work and a little bit more about weather teachers are being paid a proffessional salery? Maybe we could do a story about all the stimulus dollars and why it appears that no local jurisdiction is spending those dollars? What's up? Or is this to contraversial a story for the sun to tackle?

I'll be surprised if this comment get's posted in the next 48 hours or even at all.

I have fought the "professional" dress battle for years. I suppose that how one looks in their dress is more important that what is actually worn. Teachers who are young looking can even be mistaken for students in a high school setting. I think that common sense should be the rule for teachers. I am old enough that dress does not dictate how I am perceived by students. As a supervisor, I do however have to ask younger teachers to make sure that they look like an adult not a college student, especially the young women who sometimes forget that the students they are teaching are sometimes only 4 years younger than they. COMMON SENSE IS THE KEY. But then again, you can't buy a slip in most stores today.

I have never understood this dress code debate--either as a teacher or as an administrator. Looking professional--polished, clean, put-together, thoughtful in your attire--models a critical expectation for the students with whom you work. Students need role-models to help them understand what is and will be expected of them as they mature and enter the world of work.

Professionals don't wear jeans to work. They iron and press their clothing. They do not expose their toes with flip-flops or sandals. Skirts fall below the fingertips and tattoos are never visible, especially tattoos on the small of the lower back.

The problem is that while teachers want to be treated as professionals, they seem willing to neither dress not act the part. How much respect would you have for a doctor, lawyer, or business person (let alone the manager of either Target or Best Buy) if she/he came to work everyday in clothes that were more appropriate for the dance club?

I am young (under 40) but I am glad that I was raised with old-school work ethic and expectations. A sharply dressed person commands attention from the start. If you have the substance and skill to match--well then, you have most of the challenge won.

As an "older" teacher I do have concerns about the way some of the younger teachers dress. It's simply a matter of creating a boundary between them and the students. It is important to establish boundaries and a more professional look goes a long way toward providing distance between a young teacher and his/her students.

I would like to echo the sentiments of those who have pointed out that it's difficult to wear a suit or a dress to work. Heels are mostly out of the question, too. The buildings are too hot/too cold, dirty and rundown. I can't tell you how many items of clothing I've torn on exposed nails or splintered wood.

The HoCo list of "recommendations" seems reasonable. However, it has me wondering. How is my nose ring any more of a "safety issue" than my earrings?

Wow such hard hitting new! Perhapes (MISSPELLED) we should worry a little less about what teachers are going to wear to work and a little bit more about weather (RAIN, SNOW, SLEET, SUNSHINE) teachers are being paid a proffessional (MISSPELLED) salery (MISSPELLED)? Maybe we could do a story about all the stimulus dollars and why it appears that no local jurisdiction is spending those dollars? What's up? Or is this to contraversial (MISSPELLED) a story for the sun (as opposed to a planet, moon, another star, asteroid) to tackle?
I'll be surprised if this comment get's (get is?) posted in the next 48 hours or even at all.

So, Where's the Money, where did you go to school? Were the teachers appropriately dressed?

I'll bet the fashion show was fun, but what a waste of time. Why doesn't an adult working at a school know how to dress for work? The teachers have a college degree, don't they? And they didn't learn how to dress for work? The maintenance guys wear a uniform, no problem there. Scary.

But then again, I work in an industry that people would like to be taken seriously, the judicial system, and you would be amazed how people dress when they come to court. Hysterical.

I sure hope "Where's the Money?" is not a teacher, based upon the spelling and grammar in that posting. Come to think of it, I sure hope he/she isn't a student either!

I have a tattoo on my forearm reading "This above all: to thine own self be true". In my 90 degree classroom my sleeves often got rolled up and students saw it. In no way did they act any worse, respect me less, or learn less. In fact, many of them could identify where the quote came from without googling it due to some extra English work we did on the side.

Look professional, yes of course, but lets not pretend that the clothes are what establishes command over a classroom.

Sidenote, the "I can correct your post and am smarter than you therefore your opinion is meaningless" is one of 2 reasons I stopped posting on this blog months ago. Get it together, you're adults.

As a younger teacher (with quite a few tattoos actually), I must agree that if we want to be treated like professionals, we must dress and act the part. I cover my tattoos, and always dress modestly and professionally, which I can't say for most of my young colleagues.

I personally wouldn't think twice about having a doctor, lawyer or teacher with tattoos and piercings, because I KNOW that a persons appearance has nothing to do with their competence, it has to do with their taste. However we live a world that constantly judges on the basis of appearance and assumptions. It is human nature. And we must be cognizant of that.

Other teachers and students who find out that I have tattoos always ask me why I don’t show them. I explain that it’s not professional in the work place, and that I want to be treated like the professional I am when I am teaching

I recently wrote a paper on teacher dress code. Having been on both sides of the argument I believe that the dress code depends on the environment. A teacher should not be required to dress professionally if he/she does not work in a professional environment and vice versa.

I also think the brochure that HoCo created is a good idea. Common sense is not as common as we sometimes think it is.

Your blog is like an encyclopedia for those who want to know more about this. Thanks for the interesting information.

Harford Co. Public Schools has a very similar set of expectations for professional attire. Although it's not shared in pamphlet form, it is shared each August by our principal in a PowerPoint Presentation to faculty and staff. No short (except gym teacher), no jeans, no flip-flops. Shorts are not even allowed on our Field Day in May or on field trips.

Harford county can't wear flip flops. Howard county should just deal with it.

But these are just recommendations, not requirements. So what happens if the teachers wear something on the list? There are no consequences?

@Jen, yes they are recommendations, not requirements. Therefore, there are no consequences.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "d" in the field below:

2011 Valedictorians and Salutatorians
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Education news
• InsideEd's glossary of education jargon

School closings and delays's school closings database is designed to provide up-to-date, easy-to-access information in the event of inclement weather.

Find out if your school is participating and sign up for e-mail alerts.
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Spread the word about InsideEd
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Stay connected