The Jacket

Dear Teresa,

You looked really sharp in that leather jacket, I must say. It really worked well with your tight, curly black hair, and you wore it with a confidence that was surprising. In short, it looked great.

Sadly, it was also a dress code violation.

I know, I know — I get tired of the dress code myself. I get tired of enforcing it. I get tired of policing it. I get tired of dealing with it. But truth be told, we all have a dress code. I can’t wear anything I want to school, and while your dress code as a student is much more restrictive than mine as a teacher, I can sympathize to a degree. Still, it’s my job to police it (I choose that verb carefully and deliberately), and every time I have to approach a student for the first time about a violation, I’m a little apprehensive. I know some students can’t handle that criticism well, and it risks turning into a confrontation that I really don’t want to have.

“No one else has said anything to me about it!” is a common refrain. Perhaps no one else noticed — after all, we teachers have a million and one things on our minds. Dress code sometimes takes a backseat.

“I wore it yesterday, and no one said anything about it!” is another common response. See above.

“I’ve worn it all year, and no one has said a word about it!” is one I hear every now and then. See above.

So when I see a dress code violation, I get a little nervous. I just don’t like situations that could escalate into a bigger issue. I always do my best not to escalate the situation, and I think I do a good job of keeping things calm. But there are some students who are determined — absolutely determined — to make an issue of it.

And then there are students like you: I mentioned the lovely jacket was a dress code violation, and you simply put it in your locker. I could tell from your body language that you were not happy at all about it, but still, you put it away without a word. I was more impressed when we talked about it: you said something like the responses above, with a few new twists, but you waited until the appropriate time to discuss it. That showed a maturity that is impressive.

Thank you for handling an unpleasant situation like a true young adult. It makes me feel even more fortunate to be your teacher.

Still smiling,
Your Teacher

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