Dr. Gereboff's Head Notes
Bring on the Google Docs: Thoughtful Leaders in Action
“Dress Code is a NO” was the heading of the message that I received on Wednesday. It was just one of the shared Google documents that I received from our students this week. Often children wander into my office to share their ideas, but lately more and more of our communication has been taking place this way. I thoroughly enjoy this additional mode of communication – it gives me a window into our students’ ability to think, to use technology and to communicate.
Earlier in the week, the principals and I had a conversation about the school’s Dress Code. We were most concerned about consistency in enforcement, and in making sure that the staff were held to the same standard. It was a pretty typical conversation among adults – are yoga pants too revealing, bra straps slipping out of tank tops, etc. We spent a good few minutes on the question of yoga pants. One of our staff – a male – brought up the fact that we seemed to be only focused on the girls – are we unfairly legislating clothing choices for girls and not for boys?
The Middle School staff opened up the conversation with their students this week. The “Dress Code is a NO” shared document was fascinating in that our students were developing their argument in a written and collaborative way. Most importantly, they were applying the critical thinking skills that we so strongly emphasize. Several middle school students voiced their thinking about the dress code. Using sophisticated language, they provided cogent arguments that were well supported. They were most concerned that this focus could end up objectifying and sexualizing girls.
I shared an article with them that supported their contentions, and I pushed them to think about this issue in a different way. My “sharing” included the idea that maybe the dress code should be about the different understandings of appropriate clothing for particular settings. For example, one doesn’t wear beachwear to work or to a Bar Mitzvah party, nor work clothing to a beach. Should school be considered a “work setting”? I am awaiting their response.
We are still in the midst of the conversation, and the students and we still have much to explore about the multi-dimensional aspects of this topic. The 8th grade English teacher is making use of this issue to teach the students how to negotiate. I’ve been forewarned that I’ll be receiving more nuanced letters from the students who have been communicating with me about this. We plan to convene a small committee that includes staff and students to rewrite the dress code policy. The level of thought and collaboration represented in their conversation is commendable. I appreciate that a couple of girls recognized the gender bias inherent in so many of the conversations about dress code. Most of all, this particular picture from my week is a wonderful window into how our school develops thoughtful leaders who are willing to advocate for a cause in which they passionately believe.
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