Monday, April 9, 2012

James Westfall & Doctor Kenneth Noisewater

I met Emil for the first time when he was the administrator of the alternative school in our district.  He came around to meet with all the middle school teams.  He walked in wearing a yellow tank top and a pair of athletic shorts.  I thought perhaps he was the head of the teacher's intermural volleyball club, but of course, that club doesn't exist (if it did, a yellow tank top would be a nice choice).  When he opened with, "I'm gonna forget your names anyway, so I'll skip introductions" I was fairly certain he was an asshole.  He was.  His thing that day was that if any teacher used his program as a threat to students, they'd have to answer to him (was that a threat?).  Of course, we didn't really know who 'he' was because he didn't introduce himself.  Anyway.

A year or two later, Emil got demoted into a teaching position in our building.  Like many who receive demotions, he took the approach of acting like a perpetual two year old.  He did the absolute minimum required to keep his job and was disruptive as possible in doing so.  No area was Emil more recalcitrant than his professional appearance.

I've run into this issue in several places I've been.  The teacher's contract did not contain specific language regarding professional dress.  It read merely that teachers were expected to maintain a professional appearance.  This essentially left the definition of 'professional' up to each individual teacher.  Often times, teachers would make very liberal interpretations of this wording.  

My stance has always been that teachers should be formally dressed every day, and that jeans have no business in the work place.  Sorry, but "Casual Fridays" must be the dumbest idea ever generated.  The very idea admits a reduction of standards.  The thought that our profession would lower itself 20% of the time is bothersome.  This awesome clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm highlights one of the many problems with Casual Fridays.

With Emil, a pair of jeans would have been a major upgrade.

Emil routinely dressed like when I first met him: shorts, T-shirts, sandals, perhaps no sleeves, poor facial grooming, etc.  The school we taught at has a small circular theater where faculty meetings were held.  During a half in-service, Emil showed up in the theater wearing a tank top and a pair of short mesh athletic shorts.  He picked his seat and threw his feet up on the seat in front of him.  For the next two hours, the majority of the staff got an unobstructed look at Emil's balls.  No one said anything to him. Oh, he's a commando guy if you were wondering.

Of course, everyone bitched to the principal.  There wasn't much he could as Emil boldly declared when it was brought to his attention that he believed he was dressed professionally.  The principal asked myself and several other teachers if they would write anonymous letters to the superintendent complaining, which I did.  I do believe was called in, but as a veteran teacher of 20+ years and a former administrator, he knew they had no where to go with this.  In fact, it thrilled him to be causing such a ruckus.

My staff generally honors my request to not where jeans to school (including my awesome support staff who by contract are allowed to wear jeans).  When one decides to to break the unwritten rule, I let it go because I always stop and remember that it could be a lot worse!

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