Uniform Policy

I’ve only ever taught for San Jose Unified School District, which means that my entire teaching career has had embedded in it “the uniform policy.” This, my friends, is part of the reason why I want to throttle anyone who intones that they are “picking their battles.” Quite frankly, “ef” you and your apathy. Let me step up on my soapbox and give you the gospel according to Mz. Wynnell.

First, this whole uniform thing happened before I showed up. Therefore, I assume that SOMEONE wanted it. If people are to be believed, parents initiated this policy for a variety of social reasons: safety from harm (not wearing gang colors), respect (no one has better clothes than anyone else), and pride (private schools do it). I’ve never bought any of this.

Quite frankly, kids find ways to make gang affiliation known despite the uniform — their shoes or shoe color, a bandana, the addition of a chain, or a colored undershirt. This, of course, means that if I’m responsible for their safety, it becomes my job to police the additional non-uniform accessories. That is, I swear, it’s own full time job. Yet, I do it because it’s my job to do my job. Since I’ve been charged with upholding this policy, I am expected to check out the kids attire. Which I do, daily, and it’s a quick once-over because I know what I’m looking at. Yet…

When they’re not in uniform it becomes a REALLY BIG DEAL. Why? Because the kids speak the truth. “Why are you bugging me, making me change my shirt because NOBODY CARES!” I explain that it’s my job to care about this, their safety, and the school community. Therefore, I am sending them to the office to get (whatever piece of clothing is missing or to remove the offending piece of clothing).

Are you a good predictor?

Yes! The kid returns with a note about how we don’t have uniforms to loan, we’re not calling home “just for that”, and that the kid is “fine.” Mind you, this is never an administrator’s note, but the intent is clear. Don’t bother us just for that. We have more important things to worry about. I believe it’s this attitude that fuels the “pick your battles” cry. No one cares, so why do you?

Good point. I care because I am a good soldier. If I’m given marching orders, I will carry them out. I will question crazy, but I will do as instructed if it’s relatively non-harmful and expected of me. I was TOLD (and have been told each year) that we need to make sure the kids are in uniform. Hell, I’ve even been yelled at about their jackets (even though I made sure all the kids were in SCHOOL uniform daily). No good deed goes unpunished is the phrase.

Because I will question crazy, I’ve actually tried to address the uniform policy by stating we could just get rid of it. You’d think I killed Santa in a room full of kindergartners (again). THE HORROR! THE HORROR! Eyes wide, mouth agape, people outraged (note: the very people who don’t support or enforce the policy are the most outraged) and I’ve been told we MUST have one. After all the parents (allegedly) voted for it. Mind you, it was before my time so no one has currently voted for it. I’m told that the kids don’t know how to dress. “You should have seen how they dressed before the uniform policy. The girls were little hootchie-mamas!” I’m even told that it’s always been this way, so who are we to change it.

Well, as I see it (remember, Wynnell’s Warped World View) if you don’t enforce it, believe in it, or support it, why keep it? Institutionalizing clothing, stressing out your loyal soldiers while giving a pass to people who don’t give a FRACK, and forcing kids to conform when there’s no need seems more than capricious.

My solution? Dress code policy and teaching kids to work within confines. However, given that educational change is glacial, I suspect I’ll be complaining about this for years to come. Yet, at no point will I stop enforcing it because to do so smacks as a complete lack of integrity. I’ll leave that to my colleagues.

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