Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dress Codes

Some people take dress codes more seriously than others, I notice. I've had people walk into my classroom and tell girls wearing spaghetti strap tank tops that they're inappropriate. I can't remember what they did about it, but I do remember that I didn't care at all and would never have said anything.

I've never sent anyone out of my class for wardrobe. I remember asking a kid once to wear his jacket for the rest of the day to cover some obscenity or other, and while looking for that story, I found this one. I'm pretty surprised I didn't do the same for that kid, because I'd certainly be inclined to do something like that today.

I've never sent a girl out to change her clothes. It's my understanding that we have a bunch of t-shirts in the dean's office to cover things that need covering but I've never done it. Not even for the girls with halter tops and cut offs split to their belt loops. I probably just ignore them, or even try not to look at them. Let the professional fashion police deal with that, say I.

A lot of teachers take exception to this. Maybe I'm sexist. I make the boys take off their hats and do rags in my classroom. I've come to see that as disrespectful. The girls' shorts? I don't know. I haven't got jeans to give them and I'm not sending them home. If the boys want to wear shorts it's fine with me. I haven't seen any of them with halter tops yet but if I did, I wouldn't be the one to make a stink about it. I only give students a hard time if they don't try to do the classwork, or homework, or bring a banjo or accordion to class. You have to set standards.

But that's an interesting message above, and it never crossed my mind until I read it. I've also never heard of a distraction free learning environment, and I'm not sure I'd like to be part of one. We are human. How can we not get distracted? Sure there is a line somewhere, but I can get as distracted as any teenager if you give me half a chance. OK, I'm not checking my smartphone during class, and I'm not ogling the girls. But if someone says something funny, I can lose it. This is a problem for me because I often see humor where no one else does. It can be a real problem for me, at meetings, when I start laughing out loud and no one else seems to understand why.

A kid might say, "This room smells like math," or, "Without my glasses, I can't even find my glasses." I will surely lose it. Sometimes the kids join me and sometimes they don't. I don't know. But I can't make a distraction free classroom. Boys will look at girls if they're wearing 5 sweaters, four scarves, mittens, a hat, a hood, and a North Face parka. Certainly the Ugly T-shirt from the dean's office isn't going to make them forget who they want to look at. I looked at girls when I was a student, particularly in math and science classes, and back then I think maxi-skirts were in style. It didn't bother me that much, and no one was gonna stop me, certainly no one talking about right angles.

I don't remember any pretty girls in summer school. Maybe that was the lesson I needed to learn at that time, sitting in a hot room somewhere hearing again about geometry while all my friends (and all the girls) were at the beach. I'm agnostic on dress codes. If we don't have them for ourselves, who are we to force them on kids?

Now I'm not advocating dress codes for teachers. If you can come in wearing a toga and teach well, more power to you. I'm just not sure we really need one for the kids. But if I'm wrong, feel free to let me know in the comments.
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