Two years ago, everyone dressed out in my class. When I say dressed out, they wore an assigned uniform where all kids looked the same. I had very few kids not dressing out for class. One a day maybe was probably my average.
You were either wearing the Moore Traditional School uniform or you were considered unprepared for class. When I wrote this post, What is the importance of Dressing Out, less than a year ago, I was toying with the idea of eliminating my dress requirements all together. After reading that post again recently, I felt very ashamed of what I was doing to kids last year. I was making them wait on a wall for 5-7 minutes prior to the start of class and withholding them from “free time” which I use as a classroom currency.
At the start of the six weeks, when I introduce to students to what my class will be like for the term, I make it clear that two things are most important to me. Number one, is that they feel safe and comfortable in my class, and two is that they are active the whole time during their class time.
The irony was that I was making kids sit out and usually the kids that are not dressed out are the ones who are the least comfortable in my class. So that segment of my class was really receiving unjust treatment. That segment supposedly was the audience I was gearing my instruction to.
What motivated my post a year ago about the importance of dressing out was a bullying incident that I felt could have been avoided if the kid simply did not want to change for class. To date, that has been the most viewed post on this site. Dressing for class will always be a hot topic in the area of physical education.
For me, I believe I have found a procedure that creates comfort in students and makes my class more enjoyable for students. I also believe my activity level in kids has risen as a result. Now, kids are allowed to wear whatever they want with no restrictions. I leave open the option to tell a student that if I am uncomfortable with what the have on, I will ask that they do not dress and just not bring those clothes again. So far, that has not happened. If a student has opted not to change clothes there is no consequence other than a simple loss of 2 points out of ten. After a couple times, I council with the student and usually determine that they are just uncomfortable changing in front of peers. When that occurs, it’s likely that I will adjust their grade when the time comes to reflect their activity level. If I did not have the grade requirement in place then I feel there would be more kids come in and feel detached from the class and choose to sit out. So I think as a whole it helps somewhat.
Using anecdotal observations from class, the atmosphere seems much more positive (though the environment has always been positive for the most part.) About 3 kids a class are usually not dressed out for class. And I do not have that awful procedure where kids are waiting out prior to class! To be successful in middle school you have to be able to view life through their eyes. Every single situation is magnified to them. As adults we take for granted all the little nuances that affect them daily.