A few years back when we first decided to send our daughter to private school, any and every friend would express their 'jealousy' that uniforms made mornings so easy. Um...try it and then let me know...
I had to start out with that given the recent news about East Haven and school uniforms. It's a hot topic - understandably - in the news and in the Letters to the Editor in the local paper. I'm so tempted to reply to some of them!
Which brings me to why I'm writing this post...how many local 'experts' have they consulted before making this decision? I've read about national studies and teaching organizations they're consulting (yes, the proverbial "they" given that I mean schools/teachers, and parents who are writing letters). What about the schools in the area right around you? What about the parents and children who've gone through the experience?
One of the recent Letters to the Editor posed the question about whether it's fact-based to say that uniforms promote less distraction and better learning. While our school requires uniforms, I've never read about such a study. In most cases with private school, it's a tradition and theoretically one that promotes less distraction based on decisions made decades ago.
So what is it like? This parent is glad to share that uniforms aren't all easy; on several days, there aren't less arguments each day about getting dressed. My daughters (especially my first grader) still questions why she has to wear the same thing every day.
In fact, when she first started the same school as her big sister, she was very logical and thoughtful in turning to us to ask why teachers don't have to follow the rules to wear uniforms. Here we were saying "It's the rule, that's why." And, our little negotiator immediately said, "But the teachers aren't wearing the uniforms, why don't they have to?" Good point! The teachers are modern and wearing what's modern.
When she was in their PreK and had to wear the gym sweatpants every day she made another funny and good statement, "They want us to be sloppy every day?" Yes, and she often asks that for other "school rules" like nail polish [for the record, I think that one is a silly rule, too!].
I've noticed many of the quotes and letters from parents asking about how uniforms affect their expression of themselves and their budding styles. In a school like ours, there are often fundraiser-based dress down days [e.g. $1 to dress down in support of the sports program]. Our daughters totally love these days and you're right, they love talking about what everyone else was wearing - from head to toe, clothes, shoes, accessories and all.
On the uniform days my daughters, who I think are typical of their ages, want to add style to the one place they can control - their hair - they love head bands, braids, fancy hair bows; you name it, they want to try it in their hair.
Our school has tried to slowly allow more dress down days without losing the tradition they're following. At the holidays this past year parents could buy (fundraiser again!) a stocking-stuffer coupon book for dress down days. Yes! We bought one, for sure.
What's this parent's wish? I like the surprise days that get my girls excited but I would also like a predictable dress down such as every last Friday of the month. I've suggested, without any luck, that kids be allowed to dress down on their birthdays; for summer babies, they get a day in late September, for example. It hasn't been adopted (but I haven't entirely abandoned posing the idea either!).
Besides the "easy" mornings example in the articles and comments from parents, I thought the other interesting topic was cost. Is it cheaper to wear uniforms?
Here's what I have to contribute: I buy uniform tops, bottoms, specific types of socks, and certain color (plain, no character) shoes; I also have to do laundry very regularly if I want to keep up with having just a few sets of these uniform supplies.
And for a mom like me where my beauty queens are very petite, the uniform supplies are limited and often frustrating. I'm a big fan of the consignment sales our school holds 2-3 times a year. And, I'm quite grateful to our friends that share their clothes once the kids have grown. I'm not happy if I have to trek down to Orange to the supplier that has limited hours (I've bought online the last two times I couldn't avoid shopping with them).
Do I think wearing a uniform is helping them learn more and be distracted less? I'm not sure. I went to public school for my whole education and I don't remember being particularly distracted because of the clothes. Sure, I remember being envious or excited about certain clothes I had and the other kids had, but that's natural and inevitable. I honestly think it's more about what's the "normal" the children are used to and that probably has the most effect on their level of focus or distraction.
So, if any of these local schools turn to uniforms, allow a period of adjustment and then maybe the new "normal" will be okay. Is it worth a trial? If I were in that district, maybe I'd speak up at a meeting and wonder if they could try to implement a dress code for a month or two - I don't mean formal uniforms from a supplier they'd cringe at having to buy for a test period - I mean something like only brown or khaki pants, only dark tops, etc. Can they start with dress recommendations? [if they truly think clothes are affecting the quality of their educational experience]
My two cents (25-cents I guess, since I've gone on a bit in this post!).