Monday, January 14, 2013

School Uniforms

I'm teaching at a new school this year, and I have encountered an element of teen life I have absolutely no experience with: school uniforms. 

I always thought that school uniforms were only worn by rich kids at snooty private schools. But here I am, teaching at a public school in a perfectly normal neighborhood, and uniforms are the norm. So, I thought I would give a breakdown for those of you who are clueless to uniforms and what they're all about.

Now, this is all based on what I know about uniforms based on my particular school. I'd love to hear how things are / have been different for you / your kids / people you know in the comments. 

The school logo polo shirt comes in maroon, navy, white, and forest green.
You can also wear a school club t-shirt, and those will often come in different colors. (My favorite is the Reading Club shirt that has a Mockingjay on it.)

Navy pants (NOT jeans or anything that look like jeans), navy shorts (no shorter than 6 inches above the crease in the back of the knee), or navy skirts (same shortness rule applies).

Must be closed on the front and the back. Should be able to be worn for PE. (Although I haven't seen this rule enforced much.)

If you wear something over your uniform top, it must be for WARMTH. It needs to be fleece or lined or obviously there to keep you warm. So no thin overshirts, no long-sleeved t-shirts, it has to be an actual jacket or sweater. 
(Keep in mind, I live in southern California, so, aside from this unusually cold week, it rarely dips below 50 degrees.)
There is a school logo pullover hoodie that is highly encouraged. 

Shirts have to be tucked in at all times. (This is the one they hate the most.)
If your bottoms are too big, you need to wear a belt. And it has to be a real belt, not a shoelace. 
No hoods on your head at any time. (They also really hate this rule.)
No hats inside. Hats can only be worn outside if it is a sunny day and if the hat is completely plain (no logos) or from the high school across the street.
Only one bracelet per arm. 
No unnatural hair colors. 

I've seen girls really have fun with the skirts, which is awesome. They have been wearing those three-tier ruffle skirts and even those "mullet" skirts that are shorter in the front and longer in the back. 
I've seen a lot of girls having fun with their shoes - lots of boots and colorful flats and sneakers.
Girls also love their hair bows and other colorful hair adornments. 

What they do to express themselves:
They draw on themselves / each other. (They usually get in trouble for this, but they don't really care.)
Now that it's cold, the girls are wearing colorful scarves. 
Obviously, there were no costumes for Halloween. They had "crazy sock day" instead.
Bags / backpacks are a way to have fun and show a personality without breaking the dress code. Lots of logo backpacks and character bags. (I've seen some really cute Hello Kitty and Adventure Time bags.)

I've read some books / seen some TV shows where the students play fast and loose with the uniform rules, and, let me tell you, that would never happen at my school. In a book I read recently, one girl regularly wears her uniform inside out. While that is a way to show off some personality, at my school she would be sent up to the office to change so fast that no one would even have a chance to look at her. Any uniform violation is immediately sent to the office to change and punished with a "campus beautification" aka an assignment to pick up trash at lunch. 

As a teacher, there are some things I like about having such a strict dress code and some things I don't. Honestly, I miss getting a sense of personality of the students through what they wear. I'm a little sick of staring at these uniforms all day, every day, if you want to know the truth. And I know the students are tired of wearing them. Overall, though, I think uniforms are the right choice for this campus. 

Do you have experience with school uniforms, either as a student, a teacher, or a parent? Is your experience with uniforms similar to mine or different? What do you think about school uniforms?


Mrs. Silverstein said...

As a student (Catholic elementary school) I liked my uniform most of the time. It was simple, and we didn't have a lot of money so most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older cousin who wore the boldest, trendiest clothes (and we're talking mid-80s to mid-90s...lots of neon, floral prints, ruffles...), all of which were five years out-of-date by the time I got them.

But at my old school--a public middle/high school? Our kids hated the uniform with a fuery passion. It was like what your kids have to wear--they had options, but they hated all of them. We tried a lot of things to enforce them, but not much worked. My favorite, though, was keeping a few giant polo shirts and some elastic waist khakis in the office that kids had to wear if they came out of uniform. Nobody wanted to wear the big baggy office clothes!

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