Professional Attire for Pre-Service Teachers
Talking about professional dress and attire can be a tricky issue. A principal I had one school year, spoke at a staff meeting and asked all of the teachers not to wear short mini skirts to work but only because one teacher routinely wore them. I think having a one-on-one conversation with the teacher who wore the mini skirts was too much for him so he addressed the whole teaching team. He was turning red in the face as he was talking about this issue in the staff meeting. We want our time together as teachers to be about collaboration and learning and not about what we are wearing.
The bottom line was a parent called him and said “I don’t think the skirt my son’s teacher is wearing is appropriate because it is too short.” As an instructor who guides new practicum and pre-service teachers, I want to advise you NOW so you don’t run into someone telling you that your attire is not appropriate.
I don’t want anyone to think that I am taking away their sense of personality, gender identity or sense of style. I simply suggest taking what you currently have going on and elevating that look to be professional, well-groomed and put together for the classroom.
One year job interview: We often tell our student teachers that this school year is essentially a one year job interview. We want you to not only represent the university in a positive light but most importantly yourself. You are your own personal “brand” and the way you present yourself will reflect upon your “brand.” Even if a veteran teacher wears casual clothing, they have a contract and you at this point may not. It is important to dress professionally even if those around you are not.
Outfit Ideas: Here are a few ideas for outfits that are professional for teachers to wear.
- button down shirts with collars
- black trousers
- (modest) length skirt or a dress
- long skirt
What about Jeans? Check with your specific school to see if it is ok to wear jeans. I know this might sound odd to most people who live in jeans, but some principals do not want teachers to wear jeans.
Check the handbook: Most of the employee handbooks for schools will detail what appropriate dress will look like and if anything is off-limits.
Well groomed: One workshop I went to in Texas urged teachers to look in the mirror before leaving the house. This may sound obvious but this last check will make sure the buttons are straight on your shirt, that food stains aren’t on your shirt and that your general look is professional. I would recommend not using scents such as perfume and cologne because some students are very sensitive to scents.
Dress for the grade: If you are volunteering in a preschool don’t show up in high heels or a tight skirt. You will need to sit on the floor, move freely on the playground and keep up with busy kids. As a guide, look at your supervising teacher and see what he or she is wearing.
Go online for inspiration: Pinterest is one platform I know of that has great outfit ideas for teachers. No need to break the bank to create a new wardrobe as thrift stores such as the goodwill will often have everything you need to pull together a few good looks. Take a friend along to help you sort through the racks.
Here is one of my wonderful student teachers Becca in a nice casual yet professional teacher outfit. Her school is ok if teachers wear jeans and she has a great polished look.
Brainstorm some outfits in your wardrobe that are professional enough for you to wear to the classroom you are volunteering in.