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Do We Dress for Success Anymore?

When was the last time you heard the term "dress for success?" When I graduated from college and was attending my first professional organization conference at the Missouri Association for Career & Technical Education (then MVA) meeting in Springfield, MO, I was consumed with becoming a professional educator. Being a brand-new teacher, I made sure to attend a workshop in the family and consumer sciences (then home economics) division on "dressing for success." No doubt the workshop presenters gave me great information as to why dressing professionally was important, but all I really had to do was to look around and see the many well dressed professionals surrounding me. One look at such professionals as Cathy Woolfolk, Peggy Emerson, or Judy Whitener let me know that if I wanted to be taken seriously in this professional organization, I needed to start by looking the part. That was back in the late 1980's. I wonder if new professionals today have those same thoughts?

In FCCLA and other student organizations, we often stress to students the importance of being appropriately dressed for events - whether this be a job interview, a leadership conference, or a STAR Events competition - knowing that the appropriate dress may be just the competitive edge these students need. We also realize that in many professions, the way an employee dresses can impact the amount of trust a customer has in a company, the sale of a product, or even advancement within a company. A unit on dress and personal appearance is standard in many family and consumer sciences classrooms.

Education and professional dress was brought to my attention as a new community for educators has developed - The Missouri Educators Ning. David Tibbles, one of the members of the Ning community, recently posted an article entitled "Dress for Success: Come looking like a slob...what?" I invite you to read the full article, but here is an introduction -

I believe teachers are professionals. All of us are educated; many of us have the official declaration of being the “Master” of our fields hanging on our walls. We strongly care about the fruits of our labor. We arrive to work on a daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays, and we all know we sacrifice our personal time away from our families and homes, often without pay, for the sake of accomplishing our goals with the kids.

I don’t doubt we care about our work.

Why, then, do so many people not do everything in their power to act as a professional? This discussion can lead several different directions. However, I would like to focus on one simple behavior we all have direct control over. This behavior has a large positive impact on students, parents, other faculty, and administrators. This behavior is so simple to enact, one would hardly have to change a daily routine to enact. Frankly, this behavior I feel slightly irritated and ashamed is an issue to address: teachers dressing like professionals.

Mr. Tibbles, a high school teacher as well as a speech and debate coach, holds himself to the same standards he has for his students when it comes to professional dress at speech and debate tournaments. I'm sure many of you will have a similar perspective on professional dress for students who compete in FCCLA STAR Events.

Mr. Tibbles states that research shows students view teachers who dress professionally as more competent, caring, and trustworthy. Do you agree? What is the dress code for teachers at your school? What differences do you notice (if there are any) in classrooms where teachers dress more professionally on a regular basis? Do you notice any differences in your own classroom when you present a different image based on how you are dressed for the day?

I invite you to take a look at the Ning site and if interested, join. It's a great opportunity to network with other teachers from across the state. Join in the conversation on this topic, and others. I also invite you to post comments here, especially as they relate to the family and consumer sciences classroom and FCCLA leadership events.

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