When parents meet you for the first time, they want to have a sense that their children are in safe hands. Your colleagues want to know that you are someone who can be relied upon to do a good job and your students want to have a teacher they can respect. I truly wish we lived in a world where people didn’t judge others by their appearance, but the sad reality is we don’t, so it pays to be mindful of the impression you leave upon others. Yes, clothing matters.
This doesn’t mean you have to hide your own personality and style, but depending on what yours is, you may need to tone things down or dress things up a little for the work environment.
While many private schools will have a clearly defined dress code, NSW government school teachers are simply asked to dress professionally – interpretations of which vary greatly from school to school and teacher to teacher. Most NSW government schools teachers wear neat, casual attire.
Here are some general guidelines, which should keep you out of trouble. What you wear is a personal choice, so feel free to follow or ignore.
- Men – a collared shirt or polo is a good safe option.
- Australian summers are hot, and many schools are not air-conditioned, so in my opinion shorts are acceptable so long as they are neat and tailored. Avoid wearing these on the first day, however.
- Be a role model – this means wearing your hat on playground duty (most NSW schools have a no hat no play rule as part of their sun-safe policy) and avoid shoe string straps – follow the same sun-safe guidelines expected of your students.
- Thongs (the footwear, NOT the underwear) are never acceptable. For non-Australian readers, thongs are also known as flip-flops or jandals.
- Ladies – avoid necklines that will expose your bra when you are leaning over to help students with their work.
- Primary teachers – avoid hemlines that won’t allow you to sit on low classroom chairs, or sit on the floor with a group of students
- If you like wearing high heels, choose wedges for days when you will be doing playground duty on the oval.
- Wear clothing that can be washed easily – especially if you work with small children, paint or other messy substances.
- Wear shoes you can stand up in for a long time.
- Choose clothing appropriate for the work you will be doing that day. If your day includes teaching dance, or sport, wear or pack something appropriate.
- Smart jeans in a dark denim are acceptable in most NSW public schools, but ripped, torn or frayed jeans are best avoided.
Update: Since writing this post, a number of readers have commented on the dress code requirements for private schools. Find out more about what private schools like their teachers to wear in the comments section.
This was the fourth post in a series of advice for new teachers. For more, see my New Teachers page.