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Professionalism and appearance do matter

By Staff | Jan 18, 2013

I admit that there are many weeks where I struggle with the topic for this editorial page. This week was no exception; however, when I dropped my daughters off at Harpers Ferry Middle School this morning, the topic hit me when what I thought was a student turned out to be a teacher.

With that said, note my frustration that our statewide school system has no professional dress code for teachers. Heaven forbid someone’s “rights” be infringed upon by telling them they cannot wear skin tight jeans (as in the person I saw this morning) or shirts cut down so low they should be out at a social engagement (and I use that term loosely). I have gone on several occasions to our local Board of Education and Superintendent about dress codes or the lack thereof. The response is always the same. Each principal can institute a code but the county can’t do anything and the state has none. They are afraid of lawsuits.

What a shame this is where the county, the state, the country has come where professional dress and manner can be thrown out the window with the threat of a lawsuit. Teachers, in my humble opinion, especially in the formative years of teenagers, should present a model of behavior and dress that show respect for their chosen career. Teachers are not there to be “friends” with these students. They are there to be authority figures and demand respect. When the accepted norm is to show no respect for the position as the teacher, how can students then be expected to respect?

The same can be said in any number of professions. I find it appalling to go into a grocery store where it is the norm for cashiers to be adorned with multi-colored hair and multiple facial piercings. Before someone jumps on me about that, I know, I know it’s “freedom of expression.” But there are places for that so-called freedom and a professional workplace, especially where there is continual public contat, is not necessarily the best place to flaunt that freedom.

I have been in courtrooms where attorneys come in dressed in faded jeans rather than a suit or at least a sports coat with slacks. Again, to me, that shows lack of respect for the position as well as those who come into contact with the so-called “professional.”

These first impressions, visual impressions often, make a huge impact. Add to that the spoken word and mannerisms and an impression can be dismal. Store clerks who find it necessary to speak more to their friends than to the customer they are serving are prime examples. In a business or professional setting, you are there to do a job and put the best face and foot forward as possible for the business. That includes being aware of and possibly giving up some of that “freedom” at least during working hours. We need to return in this county, this state, this country– to a time where we care about what we do and show it through our actions and dress.