The Teacher. The Stereotype.

Sixteen years ago as I was about to enter the Teaching Service, I called my high school teacher, to whom I looked up for so many decades, even to this day. I asked her if she had any advice for me as I finally started the career I dreamt of. Her advice was simple and spontaneous. She said that everyday that I go to work, I should dress up and look good; never be dowdy and boring and don’t be afraid for the students to see who you are.


The image that teachers project is created by teachers within the service. There seems to be a horrid stereotype of what teachers should and shouldn’t look like. None of which I subscribe to, of course. For those who know me well, conformity is not my strong suit.


So many teachers decide to dress ultra conservative with a dowdy twist to it, as though trendy fashion would somehow render you incompetent. Needless to say, I took a massive bashing while teaching at an all-girls Catholic high school, because I stuck firm and hard to who I was and who I wanted the girls to know. I wore trendy clothes and anklets and nail polish and make up and designer shoes with matching handbags. This was a major problem there. The older ones especially felt that I didn’t fit the mold of what a teacher should be.


There is a particular teacher’s group on a social media site, to which I am a member, that often post pictures of teachers and ask if their outfits are appropriate. I’m always thoroughly appalled that colleagues could diminish our value as they do, thinking that their fashion commentary is somehow meaningful.


Why can’t teachers look good, trendy, fashionable….even sexy? My skirts are never too short and my 40 year old boobies always stay hidden. What else can the problem be??
I am already disgusted that we must make every effort to hide our ink, as though a student under 18 is going to get a tatt because her teacher has one. Ludicrous much?


No student has ever disrespected me because of my clothing, hairstyles, make-up, shoes or tattoos. In fact, these things are excellent launching pads for discussions with them about how choices made in youth, stay with you forever; about what self-image really is; about how attractive the profession is.


Teachers are so often our worst enemies. But I have to say that no male teacher ever jumped on this ridiculous band wagon. Go figure!



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