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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 28-Feb-07


Wednesday 28-February-06

Teaching clothes

Eleri, my wife, is a teacher who dresses for success, though not in the way that most people would think. On the surface, her dress sense seems rather loud, gaudy and maybe a bit uncoordinated. But she knows exactly what she is doing.

By being unconventional and getting away with it, she becomes accepted as an eccentric: someone who does not follow all the rules. And for a teacher, this grants some extraordinary powers.

She generally wears long skirts and bright tops. The kids can see her coming a mile off and, given that she holds a strong discipline, gives them time to get themselves into order before she arrives on the scene. And so she has less troubles to contend with.

Unconventional clothes announce her as a bit of a rebel. This endears her to many kids, again reducing problems she might face, whilst with others it signals something different, uncertain and perhaps scary. She reinforces this image with unconventional methods, including an approach to discipline that demands respect and encourages active participation.

On her feet, she wears brightly-coloured Doc Marten's. When questioned about them she always gives a happy and confident reply. 'Do you like them?' she might ask, giving the boots an admiring smile. In fact they are very comfortable, which is quite a useful attribute when you are on your feet all day.

The different garb is a part of a carefully constructed persona that says, 'I am different; I do not follow the rules'. This is somewhat scary, particularly for kids who need to know when teacher will look the other way and what teacher will do with troublemakers. Thus forewarned they are disarmed as they do not know how this teacher will react. And although she stays within the rules, she will, of occasion, reach out over the boundaries, just to keep them on their toes.

What is the effect on her career of this deliberate eccentricity? Frankly, she does not mind. Her success in the classroom is what counts for her, and this is significant. It also is why her dress is accepted by the school, as her results speak for themselves.

Thus she marches to a different drum, but delivers the goods. What few understand is that these two facts are positively correlated.

For more of Eleri's unconventional but highly effective approach to teaching, see her blog at

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