I can’t stress enough the importance of a first impression. It’s important when interviewing for a new job. It’s important when meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time, and it’s especially important when meeting your students on that very first day of school.
The reality of it all is that you will be judged on your first impression, so why not make it a good one? I understand that judging others by their appearance is not fair or morally right, but your students will see your outward appearance and they will use it to measure you up.
If you feel that you are not getting the respect you deserve from your students, then perhaps it may be time to take a step back and look at yourself through the eyes of your students.
- Do you roll into work right as the take-in bell is ringing?
- Do you pay very little attention to your appearance by coming to school with no make-up, a t-shirt, sandals, and a messy mom bun?
- Are your clothes wrinkled, mismatched, torn, stained, too tight or too loose?
- Is your wardrobe out of fashion or no longer age-appropriate?
- Are your shoes worn or scuffed?
If you answered yes to any one of those, then it could be one reason why your students disrespect you.
When dressing yourself in the morning, take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself these questions and reflect on your answers:
- Would someone hire you for a job at their company or school dressed the way you are right now?
- Would someone mistake you for a student dressed the way you are right now?
- How would you feel or react to your own child’s teacher dressed the way you are dressed right now?
- If you were to ask someone to guess your age based on your attire, what age do you think they would guess?
An effective teacher dresses professionally and pays attention to his or her appearance just like one would for a job interview. I never understood why someone would only dress professionally for a job interview, and once they get the job, never dress like that again.
Professionalism exudes confidence, and if your students see your confidence through your professionalism on a consistent basis, you will gain credibility and their respect.
As unfortunate as it is, the way you dress and present yourself to your students will impact how they see you and how they treat you. It is as if your appearance is a walking, talking billboard promoting yourself as an educator. Also, why should they care about you if your outward appearance gives the impression that you don’t care about yourself?
Think about this for a second. Would you buy a car from a guy with an overgrown beard, smoking a cigarette, wearing a white tank top and torn jeans sporting a skull and crossbones tattoo? Unlikely. You would probably high-tail it to the next nearest car dealership or ask for another sales associate to help you—one who looks more professional and looks like he knows what he’s doing. Even if you have no idea what you are doing on that first day of school, if you look and play the part well, your students may look straight past your inexperience.
I’m not naïve, nor am I trying to be superficial. I’m being real. I know that we all come from different backgrounds and we are all different sizes, shapes, and colors. I know not everyone has the funds to just go out and buy a new, fashionable wardrobe, but dressing for success does not have to be time-consuming, expensive or labor intensive.
Need some help selecting some tried and true wardrobe staples that can easily be mixed and match? Check out my top teacher fashion picks below to get you inspired.
As educators, we want our students to be successful. We want to lead them in the right direction, and we can do our part by modeling success through our professionalism.
So, what does this mean?
- This means that you will not bash your administrators and colleagues in front of others.
- This means that you will come to school prepared with a lesson plan and a smile.
- This means that you will not make excuses and you will share the knowledge and experience you’ve gained through the years with others to pay it forward.
These three things collectively are how effective teachers show their professionalism beyond their outward appearance.
Every time you act out or yell at your students, you lose a bit of credibility. When you walk into class with a frown and a negative attitude, you are setting the same expectations for your students. If you expect your students to have manners and use correct grammar when speaking, then you must exhibit the same appropriate behavior. Most likely the teachers that leave school frustrated and over-stressed because their students are unmanageable are those teachers who lack professionalism and therefore lack credibility. Want to find out how to boost your credibility with your students? Click here.
Small changes can make a big difference. I can guarantee that your students will begin to take notice of your changes almost immediately. Middle school and high school students love fashion and pop culture. If you are incorporating some on-trend pieces and colors in your outfit, they will recognize your efforts.
As an educator, you are not only teaching your students your content, but you are also teaching them appropriate behavior and what’s acceptable in society. Your own dress and behavior will influence their young minds and they will take it to be appropriate. You only have one to two weeks to solidify your impression and credibility with your students that will last the entire school year.
What Not to Wear:
- Sweat pants and sweat shirts
- T-shirts and tank tops
- See-through blouses
- Torn, stain or worn-out clothing
- Distracting jewelry
- Clothes that are too tight or too loose
- Sneakers or tennis shoes, unless you are a P.E. teacher
- Prints or colors that are distracting
- Clothes that are dirty or wrinkled
- Shoes that are scuffed, dirty or worn-out
- Flip-flops or beach sandals
What You Should Wear Instead:
- Clean, ironed clothes tailored or flattering for your body shape and size
- Dress, skirt or dress pants for ladies
- Dress slacks and collared shirt for gentlemen (also, a tie wouldn’t hurt)
- Soft or neutral colors are best for high school teachers
- Bright, primary colors are best for elementary teachers
- Comfortable shoes that are not scuffed or worn-out
- Minimal jewelry
Take control of your life and your classroom from the very start of the school year. Take care of yourself and implement some very simple, but effective professional practices today and watch the changes in your students and your colleagues. Their reactions may surprise you, and you will feel less stressed and frustrated when that dismissal bell rings.