I have always been a teacher who has made a bit of an effort when getting ready for work in the mornings. Not much: I’m not talking full war paint and elaborate up-dos, but I do at least put on a bit of foundation and lippy and brush my hair. I’ve usually looked at least vaguely smart – our school has a ‘no jeans’ policy which helps with smartness, I feel. And I’ve always been a bit of a one for shoes. Anyone who knows me (and I realise that most of you don’t!) will know that I have always loved shoes, and have worn some rather lovely ones to work over the years.
So imagine my surprise when, on more than one occasion recently, people have said to me “my goodness, you look smart today! Who are you trying to impress?” Well, it has never been my intention to up the stakes on the formal wardrobe front. But, it appears I have. And this got me to thinking about what difference it makes. I have always been mindful of a study I saw on TV years ago, where attitudes towards secondary teachers were monitored as they changed the type of clothes they wore (try as I might, I couldn’t find any evidence of it online, but I’m sure I didn’t dream it!). It seemed that the students were far more respectful towards the teachers when they wore smart clothes, compared to when they wore tracksuit bottoms and jeans. It seems the teachers were perceived as being more authoritative when they wore smarter clothes. I suppose that has always been in the back of my mind when dressing for work, but I certainly haven’t made a conscious effort to dress up of late!
When I think about it, the clothes I wear do have an effect on me, which perhaps in turn influences my children’s behaviour. When I wear more formal clothes, I do feel more confident. Perhaps I have a different air of authority because of this confidence? I don’t know. Maybe I have suddenly moved into a different mindset: I have recently begun to think that the time could be right to move into a management role. Is this new wardrobe a subconscious attempt to portray a more sensible, managerial me? Or perhaps, horror of horrors, am I growing up? Whichever of these it may be, it does seem to be having a positive impact. I’m more organised and prepared, and just seem to be viewing school life more seriously. For goodness, sake, I’ve started blogging to share my thoughts about it all! Not that I ever didn’t take school seriously, I just feel more (here comes the awful word again!!!) grown up about it all.
Of course, my colleagues are all teasing me mercilessly, looking out for the “power shoes” which they have decided I wear when I have a meeting with someone important. I don’t wear them just for meetings, but maybe there is something to be said about power dressing: a friend of mine has a special dress she wears when she knows she has a tough day ahead. Clearly, it makes her feel good, and so raises her confidence levels, which means she can deal with difficult situations. Good for her, I say. I’m all for feeling good about yourself. You can’t deal with an awkward parent or a stroppy child with confidence if you’re feeling insecure about yourself. I haven’t reached the ‘special dress’ stage yet, but the power shoes definitely play a part in making me feel good.
There aren’t many things that Ofsted say to make me think “I wonder…,” but in 2014 they criticised the profession for not being smart enough (there’s a Telegraph article about it here) and said that teachers’ appearances were having a negative impact on children’s learning. Now, I’m not sure I’d take it that far, and I do question whether it is their place to be telling us what to wear, but it does raise some interesting issues. I know that, when I have gone into school in casual clothes, fancy dress or even in pyjamas (in the name of charity, of course!), I feel different. Less keen to work, and more laid back. I’m sure I let the children get away with more, too, because I want an easy day. This must rub off on them, surely? Their work is never as good, nor is their behaviour. Is this just because it’s a novel, one off dressing up/dressing down day? Or, if it continued day in, day out, would there be a steady decline in their (and my) standards? I don’t know, and fortunately, I’m not in a position to find out. I don’t want to find out: I like looking and feeling good. So, because I want to, not because Ofsted are telling me too, I shall continue to build up my grown up, sensible wardrobe. And my brand new power shoes will be making an appearance very soon!