TESOL Course Articles
Dress for Success

It would be nice if we lived in a world where appearance didn`t matter. However, that`s not the case. Appearance matters a great deal in pretty much everything we do in life.

I have seen many new teachers, many who participate in the TESOL Course, asking the question, "Why do I have to dress well for class?" They frequently qualify this by saying that they don`t feel comfortable in certain clothes and therefore they can`t teach as well as they would be able to without following a dress code.

Young teachers often have the greatest problems with people taking them seriously and treating them with respect. Yet they are frequently the ones that resist a dress code the most.

What these teachers fail to grasp is that teaching is a profession and more than that, it`s a profession in which you are directly in front of customers. By dressing as a professional everyone will be more inclined to treat you as a professional.

I worked for a time for IBM and regardless of what kind of office job you had, men were expected to dress in a shirt and tie and women in similar level of professional dress.

Some could argue that computer programmers, who never see a customer, should be able to wear whatever they like. Some computer companies follow this rule and often have a separate floor or building for the "geeks" to work in so that customers never see them.

IBM`s policy was that each and every staff person is a professional and the clothes that they wear to work play an important role in shaping their mindset. That is, I`m dressed professionally and I should act professionally.

We`ve been working in China since 1994 and have had teachers going through our TESOL Course since 1997. In every single case, the teachers who received the highest student evaluations were also the ones that dressed the most professionally.

Sure there were teachers that students liked because they were fun in class and were good teachers but they still did not receive the highest evaluation scores. Students feel that a professional looking teacher deserves more respect and this translates into higher evaluation scores. This is true for adults as well of children of all ages.

Of course there is an aspect of "chicken or the egg" in looking at student evaluations. Teachers that dress professionally tend to be more professional in other ways too, such as preparing better for class, continuing to learn new things to help with their job, volunteering to work on projects that improve the school, etc.

Is it possible for a teacher to be professional in all the other ways and still not dress professionally? Of course it is. But why not be perceived as professional as well as being professional? First impressions count and always will so take advantage of this bias that people have. Looking the part of a professional teacher will go a long way towards getting other people to treat you with respect. This applies to your students, their parents, your coworkers, and your managers.

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