I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I ever did as a teacher—when I started wearing the same thing to school every day.
I’m trying to remember how it started exactly. I know I was teaching at a middle school in Wisconsin at the time, and the group of teachers I worked with truly embraced the whole “team concept” where five core teachers had the same students. I really liked this approach. It helped us work toward teaching the child as a whole, and we would meet regularly, four days a week.
These meetings were focused mostly on curriculum or students, but we’d sometimes expand to other topics.
“I wonder why teachers don’t have uniforms,” I pondered out loud during one meeting. I was sporting my regular outfit of slacks, shirt, and a tie. I remember thinking how nice it would be to just wake up and not have to think about what to wear.
Everyone agreed it was a great idea, and by the end of our meeting, we were all on board. We were going to buy purple polo shirts next year to represent our group and create a bit of a uniform, at least to wear every once in a while.
Now this is where I should pause and tell you that I tend to be a bit more hardcore than some. (At least this is how some of my friends have described me.) For instance, I’m an outdoors guy at heart, and when I learned about the genius option of sleeping in a tent hammock vs. pitching an entire tent, I was sold. Yet, I’m also pretty cheap (or I prefer the term price conscious), and instead of spending a few hundred bucks on a fancy, name-brand design, I ordered some tarp, material, and sewed my own for about $40.
I tell this hammock story because I think it’s a good representation of the kind of person I am. And like the plan I had with the hammock, I also had something in mind for a school uniform. So the next year when the big idea of buying shirts fizzled away for most of the team, I definitely hadn’t forgotten. The order form came through the office, and I decided to put my master plan into action.
“You want three purple shirts all in large?” the school secretary asked. “Are you sure?”
I nodded happily, and she gave a reluctant, “Okay.”
The shirts arrived in December, just before winter break, and when we came back for the new year, I started wearing a purple shirt almost every day, I just rotated from one to the next. (Of course, Fridays were still reserved for flannel because—well, that’s what you do on Fridays.)
The kids caught on pretty quickly and started giving me a hard time. A few teachers did, too. But each morning when I woke up, I knew exactly what I would be wearing. The days of trying to match a belt to shoes to a tie to a shirt with just the right pants were over. It was awesome, and eventually all my colleagues and students embraced it.
It might seem goofy at first, but as teachers, we have to make a ton of decisions every day. Personally, I’d rather save that energy for school and the kids vs. my outfit.
This year, I moved to Nebraska, so I’ve had a whole new set of students and fellow teachers to acclimate. I had help, though. When I left Wisconsin, my parting gift was five new polo shirts with the new school name and colors.
As I transitioned to my new position, I began the practice right away. So far, a few students have brought it up and one teachers makes a point to say, “Nice shirt!” when she sees me. I’m happy to say this small change has been huge for me. By simplifying my wardrobe, it’s opened up my mind and challenged me to find other ways to simplify my life as well.