Monday, September 21, 2009

Students and THEIR Labels

One of the things that continually have the bees in my bonnet buzzing is the issue of clothing and students.

No, this is NOT the post where I opine about the serious lack of clothing in American classrooms nor is it the post where I profess to be astounded concerning the large amount of cleavage I see at the local high school. I’m not even going to write about how most school hallways resemble a plumber’s convention due to the amount of rear ends that wink at me.

My point this time is the emphasis children place on particular brands of clothing – Abercrombie, Pacific Sun, American Eagle, Hollister….

Now, I’m not just picking on students. I’m guilty of liking certain brands of clothing as well – Ralph Lauren, Talbots, Liz Claiborne , and Jones New York to name a few.

However, the difference is while I like certain brands of clothing I don’t alienate folks if they don’t wear the same thing as I do….I don’t call them names…..I don’t belittle them publically. Wear what you personally want to wear…..I do.

Unfortunately, students can and do alienate each other, call each other names, and belittle them publically.

This type of activity can undermine our number one purpose….learning.

Every few days I invite a student to join me for lunch…I don’t do this alphabetically because it would be too predictable, but I do make sure that every student is invited each nine weeks. I ask the student to get his or her tray and join me back in the classroom. We talk about all sorts of things. I ask the student about his or her life at home, likes, dislikes. We often discuss television shows including cartoons.

This provides an opportunity for me to build relationships with students…..students that are my problem kids… that are the stand-out stars….and kids that I might not ever even know they were in the room unless I invited them to lunch.

Occasionally during these lunch dates a student will let me know if he or she is having issues with other students. This is usually when I find out I’m having a major clothing issue….a clothing bias can cause enough of a disruption to hinder the learning process.

This is when our normal studies come to a screeching halt, and we take a side road through fashion in history. We might research the fashions of the time period we are studying or, I might choose a short story I can read aloud to student and then ask them to illustrate what they think the characters in the story might be wearing depending on the clues given in the story. Students have to analyze the possible time period and the character’s actions to come up with a plausible costume. These activities also get students to discussing clothing choices and how they make and DON’T make a man.

From time to time one of the activites I use involves the Presidents of the United States. Some of their clothing choices were interesting, and speaking of labels……one label that is often repeated is the Brooks Brothers label. Follow this link to my newest posting at American Presidents titled All the President's Clothes... where I discuss how the Brooks Brothers label has been involved with the executive office since the early 19th century.


Unknown said...

The fact that certain clothing is considered more "cool" than other clothes isn't anything new. I remember hearing of students killing another student for their Air Jordan tennis shoes. It's silly, but values are something that has to be instilled in students by their parents. It's good that you're at least making the effort, but I'm not sure how a story that encourages empathy will affect life outside of the classroom.

Unknown said...

By the way, I love your blog!

EHT said...

Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment, MiaZagora. Yes, sometimes attempting to instill values and help students along in the getting along department is an uphill battle, but I keep slogging along. :)

Unknown said...

I think that students do worry to much about labels and teaching them that labels don't matter is very important. Teaching them about clothes in different time periods is a good way to incorporate this without shoving it in students face. This teaches them also the clothes come and go but its a person's character that stays the same and really matters.

Dan Edwards said...

I am happy that my school district (elem-jhs), has a school uniform requirement.

However, children being children, if there is not some clothing label to taunt someone about, those who are inclined to bully others about such things will find something else to taunt, bully, harass, etc., their classmates and others. Somewhere, these young people MUST be taught to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent...hey, didn't I learn that in Boy Scouts about 37 years ago ???? SO much is lacking that seems to have made our nation what it was......

The Tour Marm said...

On tour I have numerous clothing issues with student groups. The shorts, cropped tops, T's with offensive messages or images, and flip flops, which are deemed appropriate attire to visit the Supreme Court or the Washington National Cathedral, are the least of my worries. The skull patterned biker and pirate shirts and caps worn by students during their visit to the National Holocaust Memorial are especially inappropriate.

However, it is the attitude of the groups, from different areas of the country, toward one another that offends me the most.

As a tour guide, I've listened to their conversations. The Californians and Southerners think that they are the sole arbitors of fashion and mock the midwest, Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Middle Atlantic students.

However, students seek out other students who are wearing the same designer clothes; obviously a member of the 'club'.

Clothes also reflect socio-economic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. While most students are proud to wear their clothing because it is what most members of their community wear, and many buy new outfits just for the tour, they are singled-out and belittled by mean-spirited students traveling from other areas of the country.

Rather than using this as an opportunity to learn more about the students from different parts of the country and what they have in common, it becomes a war zone.
Fights have actually occurred at the Smithsonian and food courts - mostly between urban students defending themselves against other students who have 'dissed' them.

I've even heard teachers and parents reinforce this bad behavior with a 'them' attitude.

Foreign groups, who are actually two years ahead of the US in fashion, are also hassled. The irony is that the US students will eventually be wearing those outfits when it is out of style in Europe and Asia.

The most successful groups in the field, are those that have to wear a uniform colored T-shirt that generically identifies them with their school, as well as khaki shorts or trousers. No one bothers them, Additionally, for some reason with these groups, designer duds are not a topics of conversation. I suppose they are secretly upset with their own!

I have also written about Brooks Brothers in the past:

EHT said...

Thanks Bernice. and the Tour Marm bring some great points. I wore a school uniform during high school and students still found things to pick on.

Tour Marm.....nothing surprises me anymore with regards to what folks wear, do, or say.

Classroommng1 said...

The article on students and clothing is really interesting and entertaining! I know of a great website which speaks about classroom management. Once you register you get a free e-course and ebook on classroom management and free newsletter on behaviour needs. A wide range of free practical classroom resources are available for instant download.

Custom Essays said...

Its not a new thing for me, some clothing styles considered cool over others, its all about perception.

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