Teaching Teacher Dress Narratives

Teacher Dress Narratives

The English influences that shaped the history of American teacher dress narratives are easy to identify in early America.  The teacher contracts of 1872 and 1915 convey a strictly defined framework for the expectations of gender roles that tie into what it means to dress as an American teacher. Currently, society frequently discourages teachers from expressing aspects of their personal lives, such as religious affiliation, through dress.  Regardless of society’s expectations, teachers do oftenhave the opportunity to share their self-identity through their dress narratives in other ways.  This happens despite dress code policies that are a throwback to prescribed gender and religious norms.

A new problem develops today as stereotypes of teacher dress narratives arise globally through the media. Overall, dress is a form of aesthetic expression of teacher-identity, which teachers determine for themselves. Restrictions on that identity, when not closely examined, may harm the pedagogical environment because teachers may feel that their authentic selves are not valued as part of the teaching and learning process.

In this article, we reevaluate the epistemological assumptions of religious influences on teachers in early America with gender expectations in mind.  We point to the history of religion as a part of teacher dress expectations, which may influence the self-identity of teachers as expressed through dress narratives today.  Drawing on the observations of the media, we unmask the stereotypes of teachers globally to show how this impacts on American teachers.  In short, our philosophical project sheds light on how dress narratives serve as an aesthetic expression of a teacher’s self-identity.

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