Behaviour Top Tips from Tom

Weekly updates from Tom Bennett with advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management

23 April: You’re NOT wearing that- uniform checks and sartorial tips

This is not a feature on what this season’s fashionable teacher should be wearing (because as we all know, the answer is often, ‘Whatever we could find in the wardrobe in the dark’). For many teachers, the question of what to wear is as trivial as the question of which order one should insert oneself into a pair of socks. Teacher’s fashion ranges from suited office warriors to the louche, decadent excesses of the bordello. You will have a range of character types in your own school no doubt. Clothes say a lot about you; they also say a lot about the students. What do your clothes say about you, and how will it affect your presence in the classroom?

Too casual

This is a misnomer; using the term ‘too’ automatically conveys a sense of deficiency. What I mean is that there must- there MUST- be a certain standard of dress to which teachers adhere. You might believe that what makes a teacher is the person themself, and you’d be right. But how you convey yourself to others will depend enormously on what you wear, like it or not. You are judged by such things, and opinions are formed on their basis. Don’t you want to have them form a useful opinion, rather than one that pulls against your role and status in the classroom? Dress smart, if not formally. Your school possibly has a dress code. Stick to it, and convey the sense of caring about your job.

Be your own critic

Just because no one says anything to you about what you wear, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look into it. I have a blue chin you could light a match off. That means if I ‘forget’ to drag a razor across my throat on a daily basis I look like Captain Haddock on the 12-step program. You can probably get away with flip flops and three layered cardigans without incurring a formal written warning, but dress to profess, not just for comfort. We often complain when we don’t get treated like professionals, but sometimes we forget what that might actually mean in practice.

Look to your charges

School uniform is a hot potato in education. Personally I like them, but there are good arguments on both sides. I think that in schools where the kids need clear boundaries and a sense of identity they can be very useful. In schools of well-behaved, mature kids who don’t throttle each other over trainer labels then you can probably safely dispense with them. Swings and roundabouts, really. But if your school HAS a uniform, then enforce it, otherwise all the problems of non-uniform schools arise. As with anything, don’t be half-assed. And using uniform checks as a way of conveying that the school operates on a set of collective rules is always a useful strategy.




Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state schoolin Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletterson behaviour. Read more from Tom on our behaviour forum or on his blog or Twitter


Related articles and resources

Recent ‘Top Tips’

Back to School- starting the term on the right foot

Be the inspiration - role models in the classroom

I am Legion: Behaviour in your department

More ‘Top Tips’

Links to all Tom’s top tips

Relevant resources on TES

Behaviour and classroom management resources

Behaviour and classroom management resource collections