A few weeks ago, when the sun’s heat rapped on my classroom window like it was trying to get away from itself, I noticed a glorious coming out party for some of my female students’ legs. As a male teacher, I’m often put in different predicaments where I’m asked to tread thin lines all the time, and my adolescent girls’ behavior is one of them. On the one end, I’m encouraged to point out things I don’t deem appropriate or fitting for the school culture, and on the other, I’m asked not to say too much to the student directly or be too observant as I might be labeled, irrationally, as some sort of sexual deviant. I’ve run the gamut from girls telling me about their pregnancy to girls telling me they have a crush on me, and in all manners, I’ve learned how to navigate all that.
But this? This issue was too widespread for me to deal with on my own.
As usual, I stand in front of my classroom door when I see four of my girls walk in. One of them had capris on. No big deal, but still out of uniform. The next girl comes with those trendy sweatpants with some word sweeping across the area between her lower back and her butt. The next girl’s wearing tight jean shorts just above her knees. And the last one decided it was appropriate to wear a skirt about 6 inches above her knees, and equidistant from her pelvic area.
And every time I asked each of them if they thought their dresses of choice were appropriate, they all said successively and succinctly, “No.” Little did they know that I’d already made my judgment. There’s a reason for our school having dress codes and uniform. So when, for example, one of my boys decides to “accidentally” drop a quarter right near girl #4’s dress, I’m not inclined to wack the boy over the head. In all fairness, Girl #4’s not that type of girl and she was wearing (not visible until she lifted up her skirt a few more inches) black shorts. But I didn’t want to take a chance.
Of course, I told the dean, who agreed with my perspective. Girl #4, who didn’t have the cojones to do 1/2 of what she’s up to this year, says, “Mr. Vilson, did you tell The Big Dean about my uniform?” I said, “No, I merely mentioned that he should check for uniforms, and it’s getting a little insane.” She wouldn’t let it go, not even until the next day, and she asked the dean. The dean mentioned exactly what I told him, and she said, “You see, you did blow up my spot!”
That made me fume. If anything, I’ve proven that they could trust me. I’d already spoken to my class about dressing appropriately, but it seems my message didn’t get through to them. I call the dean back and said, “Let me ask you a question: if a girl dressed in that skirt that she wore yesterday …” and before I even finished, he said, “I’m telling you, I’d put her in her place right there. She’d have to take that off. She wouldn’t even dare. I have a daughter now, and God forbid if she ever dressed like that. I’m an animal, I don’t care. When it comes to my daughter, I’ma protect her. And that’s why we keep telling you kids, you need to dress right, and come to school right. You wanna look like some trash in the street or that you’re some sort of prostitute? You’re not. You’re in school.”
I smirk and stare directly at Girl #4, who turned on her signature innocent smile.
“And you know what else? Girls and boys that wear their pants or skirts up to here,” motioning his hands right around where his butt starts, “that usually means they’re selling themselves. Yeah, believe it. It means they’re someone’s play thing. And none of you are that.”
You think I got any other questions after that?
Jose, who’s become a bit conservative when I’ve started teaching …