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Dressing Professionally In the Classroom

Different school districts assign different rules for what their teachers are permitted to wear to work. Most public schools are becoming far more casual in what they accept from teachers, but some schools still expect a high degree of formality. Should you follow the same rules as full-time teachers, or are there substitute rules you need to abide by?

This will vary depending on what your long term career goals are and what school system you currently serve. Ask yourself the following questions to help determine how you should dress for a given assignment:

1. What is acceptable for full-time teachers at this school?

2. What are my future career goals, and how would I dress for my ideal future position?

3. What style of clothing is most likely to impress school administrators?

If your goal is to one day become a full-time teacher or even lead a school in an administrative capacity, then you will likely choose more formal attire for every teaching assignment. This does not necessarily mean a suit and tie or your best heels. It may mean a nice blouse and fresh dress pants rather than worn khaki pants and a t-shirt.

If your future goal is simply to be the best substitute teacher you can be, dressing professionally is still important. You want the school administrators and teachers to view you as a respectable, trustworthy person they can rely on. You are more likely to earn that respect from clothing that is clean, well ironed, properly fit to your body, and professional in style.

If you notice full-time teachers wearing blue jeans and/or shorts to school, you can follow suit. Make sure your jeans are not faded and do not have holes, and combine them with a nice blouse or polo shirt. Shorts should be at or slightly above your knees and should have a professional cut.

What About Personality?

It is okay to reflect your personality in the way you dress as long as it does not conflict with school dress code or serve as a distraction to students. Go back to those questions listed above if you are uncertain about a certain outfit or style. Remember your responsibility to serve as a proper role model to the students, even if that means setting your personal preferences aside while you are on school grounds.

If you are going to a new school and are uncertain of the acceptable dress code, go with something classic like black dress pants and a blouse or long-sleeve shirt and tie. If you find the dress code is a bit more relaxed for full-time teachers, then you may go with a slightly more casual shirt or a short-sleeve polo next time you visit that school.

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