I took three students to visit a vice-chancellor of nearby university today. They were three sixth-grade students I am mentoring for their final project. They are researching equity and diversity. We wrote an email to this vice-chancellor who is responsible for ensuring the university experience for students is equitable, she agreed to meet with them, then we met with her today to ask questions about her life experience and her perspective on diversity. It was something to see them sitting in this great big board room listening to a career academic tell them how she moved up from a child of agricultural laborers in Texas to a university administrator making $250,000 a year. They sat enthralled.
What made the experience though, were the ties. Last week, I told them we had to dress nice out of respect. Turned out, none of them had collared shirts or ties. I bought them some nice shirts, loaned them some ties, and all of a sudden, I was looking at students with a different confidence. They were so proud. The ties didn't match, their shirts were comically oversized, and one student had his tucked into sweats. Yet, they were proud. They wore their shirts and ties for the rest of day. Their teachers told me later they had never seen them smile like that.
Clothes say something. What we wear communicates to others and ourselves. Clothes can set the expectations for a moment. Many, sadly, treat someone according to what they are wearing. Thats one reason I dress professionally--not just for job security, but to communicate to students that I respect what we are doing in the classroom and that I value them. What I saw today makes me want to make sure every boy has a suit they can feel proud in. Sitting there though, watching them ask the vice-chancellor questions, made me realize how they, poor Latino boys, need suits more than many others if they are going to make it.
This whole experience also swayed my disposition towards school uniforms. I get the logic.