Friday, July 29, 2005

Dress [with no] sense

One of the things they will keep hammering into you at Nie is the dress code. All over campus, you will see a sign like this:

[Click on photo to see full size image]

The first time I saw the sign I almost laughed. My general line of thinking is that surely at our age, we would already have an idea of how to dress at school, as a student, and at school, as a teacher.

[This is excepting the diehard rebels who know the rules and who delight in flouting it. But then again, in order to flout the rules, you have to know what they are in the first place. So even for the rebels, you can't claim that you have to keep reminding them, because they already know of the rules.]

So why all the incessant brainwashing about "you must dress correctly, you must dress correctly"? It's become almost like a mantra in Nie around the entire campus. Everyone pushes the line that:

"Since you are paid employees of Moe, you are expected to dress appropriately and exhibit the proper image of a teacher"

I have a few doubts about this stance. For one, does that mean that ALL law students should therefore go around NUS in full lawyer gear and wigs? Or wear starched-collar shirts with black bottoms and carry briefcases and large piles of paper? Since that's the image that everyone has of a lawyer, and being in the Law faculty, they are naturally embodiments of the legal system in Singapore, even if they aren't being paid?

Or should it mean that ALL nurses should go around in nurses' uniforms, whether in school, or at home? And that if you have a scholarship from one of the major hospitals, you have to set an example by doing so?

I'm pretty sure that most law students and nurses would disagree with me on the above points. For one, it's blardy crazy to walk around campus in full lawyer's gown and starched wig. If the laughter from the other students don't kill you already, the heat generated by walking around in billowy gowns surely will. And let's not start on the nurses' uniforms.

So why do we have to dress in 'teacher-appropriate' attire even when we're in school?

This is a point that will be driven home to all trainee teachers, and even those already teaching. Unfortunately, we are in a vocation where we are expected to set examples to the children. Whether we like it or not, children will definitely look up to us, and follow our lead. We're almost like surrogate parents to them, and thus, people expect us to set examples for their children to follow. If you're a parent, and you wouldn't want your kid to smoke, you wouldn't be smoking in front of them, would you? And you wouldn't want them to see their teacher smoking right?

However, my opinion is that rather than apply a standard wardrobe to all teachers ['teachers must always dress like that in school'] wouldn't it be more useful to stress appropriateness? As in 'Teachers must dress appropriate to the occassion'.

THEN it makes a lot more sense. You are allowed to dress like a student, [spaghetti and all] so long as you are in NIE/NTU. However, during working hours in school, you should dress as a teacher should. Which means ditch the tubes and the spaghettis for after-hours.

[Note the similiarities between this and the Speak English campaign. Remember how they tried to wipe out the usage of Singlish, and then later changed their stance to using a language appropriate to the occassion? NIE might take some hints from that...]

However, I did note a few interesting points about this dress code in school:

1) The word 'appropriately' apparently has several meanings in school.

Just last Friday, there was a formal welcoming ceremony for all the trainee teachers, and one of the segments included a 'fashion parade', which AGAIN stressed the dress code [as if we hadn't heard it a thousand times already] and had a few 'models' parading on stage, to show what was considered appropriate attire in school.

When the first female model came on stage, the entire assembly burst out in raucous laughter. The model was wearing a 'smart white-collared shirt with long sleeves, a long black skirt, set off by diamante high heels and a stunning diamond belt'.

For blardy sake! No sensible female teacher is EVER going to wear something like that in school! Considering that most schools in Singapore still rely on the 2 ceiling fans in each classroom, the heat from the shirt will kill you and cause massive sweat stains all over your smart, crisp shirt. The high heels will give you arthritis in less than 3 months, after walking all over school in them, and up and down the stairs to your classrooms, and the students will be too mesmerized by your diamond belt to listen to your lesson!

Can you almost see how comical it all is?

2) Appropriate attire doesn't always include good taste.

During the ceremony, I noticed one woman sitting in the audience, somewhere near the Director, which meant that she was probably Nie staff. So she has to dress 'appropriately' to show an example to us, right?

Well, let me describe her outfit. She was wearing a long sleeved lime green shirt, which had crumples all over the front [deliberately designed, I think] a knee-length hippie skirt, and calf-high boots. And I'm being as objective as possible here, cos frankly, I think her outfit looked awful, but that's just my opinion.

Then I thought of some of the [stereotypical] old Chinese teachers in schools all over. The same image of permed hair, thick spectacles, and the same 'aunty' clothing.

My conclusion: You can dress with as much bad taste as you want, as long as it's 'appropriate'.

In other words, if I decide to wear a bright red dress with white polka dots, that has large puffy sleeves, and reaches to my ankles, and tie my hair up with a huge pink ribbon, does that mean that Moe can't object to my dressing, since:

1. It is not a sleeveless top
2. It is not exposing an indecent amount of cleavage or leg
3. It has no offensive logos, or slogans, or vulgarities

Maybe such repetitive reminders just don't work on people like me. They just make us want to rebel, even when we don't. :p


Anonymous said...

My mixed secondary two class had one female trainee teacher once for three months and she was classified as "hot" even for the other guys in other classes.

One memorable outfit of hers was a slightly translucent black turtleneck which showed off her "assets" ( a la Ann Kok) and the guys loved her for that.

The girls in the class didnt really like her though. When it came to nominating the best teacher award(an informal thing by the class com), the girls refused to let her be nominated, saying that she was only a relief teacher. The guys suspected otherwise, that she made them feel "inadequate".

Guess they didnt enforce such a dress code back then. lolx

Tym said...

Just pray that you don't get an old-school principal that will prohibit women from wearing pants, even though MOE's dress code accepts tailored pants are acceptable classroom attire.

khelath said...

anonymous: Wahahaha... I would love to see what the NIE people would make out of her outfit... :p but from what I heard, they aren't so strict in some schools, unless you very blatantly flout the rules... not sure whether a translucent turtleneck comes under 'blatant'... hmmmm......

khelath said...

Tym: The school I got sent to for my Enhanced School Experience didn't... thank goodness... So I happily wore my pants to school every morning... :p