What you wear as a teacher depends a lot on where you work, who you work for, and your students.
Regardless of what the requirements are, you need to be comfortable. Since you are active and stand for long periods of time in the classroom, shoes that you can move around in are a must too.
5 ESL Dresscode Tips
If you work in a public or private school, you can dress the way your coworkers do. Different countries, schools, and even weather affect your choice of clothing. Generally clothes that are not too formal and not too casual are safe for work. This is obviously a broad range but here are some things to keep in mind. Women should not wear skirts that are shorter than knee length, need to be aware of acceptable necklines, and should make conservative choices when it comes to jewelry. For men, a dress shirt and pants may be just fine while some schools require suits. Jeans and T-shirts are not often seen as acceptable for work.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
In some cases teachers are hired not by the school districts they serve but through another company which may have certain expectations regarding their work attire. If this is the case, these rules or guidelines should be outlined for you. If anything is unclear you can always contact the company with your specific questions. If your company expects you to dress quite differently from the other teachers at your school, you may want to find a middle ground so that you can please both your school, by fitting in, and your company, by looking professional.
Teachers = Businessmen?
If you work at a conversation school, business attire is highly recommended. This gives you a very professional appearance and students, especially students of Business English, will see this as a reflection of the school. Since schools are aware of this, they may have strict rules regarding clothes, accessories, and even hair styles. Employers in many countries may ask you to cover tattoos when interacting with students so take this into consideration when applying for positions and attending interviews.
Socially Acceptable Is Best
You will probably wear different clothes depending on the age of your students and the country you work in as well. If you teach younger students and do lots of arts and crafts, you can hardly be expected to wear a suit while high schools may require teachers to wear one. In some countries, such as Japan, teachers tend to dress more formally while in others, like Cambodia, they do not. You should be aware of what clothes are socially acceptable for teachers and ask your employer what is recommended if you have any concerns.
Dresscode for Teaching Online
When using a webcam to teach online, your appearance is still important but dressing for online classes is slightly different. You do not need to worry about comfortable shoes or coworkers but you should still dress professionally. If you choose to wear a dress shirt and pajama bottoms that is fine as long as what students can see reflects well on you. When teaching online, you also need to take a look at your background. Try to find a neutral space that does not give away a lot of personal information. If students can see your bed or see through the hallway into the bathroom, you need to reconsider your workspace. Additionally you may want to think about wearing clothes that stand out against your background. This may seem like a minor point but if you wear black against a black background, students will see what appears to be a floating, talking head during their lessons and that could be distracting. While teaching online lessons is drastically different from teaching in a classroom, you should still dress and act professionally.
How you dress affects how people view you.
Regardless of location or employer, you should look professional because people base their opinions on appearance as well as behavior. Students may respect you more if you dress appropriately and this will help your classes run more smoothly. In most cases you can simply contact your employer or someone at your school for guidelines if you are unsure of what is expected of you. Keep in mind that being comfortable is important and will also boost your self confidence.
Tara Arntsen has worked with English Language Learners of all ages for many years and has taught in Japan, Cambodia, and China as well as online. When she is not teaching, she enjoys cooking, traveling around the world, and scuba diving. She is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California.
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I asked my 11th grade honors class to write an opinion essay on whether teachers, as well as students, should have a dress code . Apart from being a great exercise in writing, it was an enlightening experience since the opinions voiced were so mature. Any teacher who'd like to know what the proper way to dress for school is could ask his students to write about student - teachers dress codes.
I find that more formal always makes a good impression. If a business suit seems too formal, hang the jacket on a chair and (maybe) loosen the tie. For women, a matching skirt and top, or a skirt and and a jacket over a blouse with a high neckline will start you off well. You are teaching people who are not native English speakers, and almost certainly come from a country where classrooms are more formal than they are in the English-speaking West.
Shoes should look good and be comfortable. Sandals can work for women, but men should wear closed leather shoes.
Teachers who are invited to non-school related parties should choose their clothing carefully. Women should avoid low-cut tops and very short or very tight bottoms. Men could wear golf or athletic shirts with at least short sleeves ( not tank tops, unless you're going swimming or playing basketball.) Casual shoes should be clean. Many cultures consider appropriate footwear more important than we do in the West.
In general, it's a good idea to dress like your boss, supervisor, or mentor.
Once you get to know your students, dress codes can make a very interesting speaking lesson. Students will be very happy to fill their teachers in on local customs.
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