Uniforms and Slippers


I had an interesting visit to a school that has a novel approach to uniforms. I love the idea of identifying a particular class with its own color. For example, when the 9th grader enters, they are given a red or some other colored jacket with open sleeves. This jacket( at least the color) stays with the student as they enter, and then this sort of letterman’s jacket leaves with you 4 years later. There is a sense of camaraderie with others from your same class. You can identify those from a particular graduating class by their color. Students still keep their identities with their clothing, but also build an identity with their individual class.

At this school the students also remove their shoes and put on slippers or indoor sandals. A student told me that the slippers are an effort to keep the school clean. I believe this very specific practice of putting on your academic clothing and putting on your shoes, has a psychological effect. The jacket and slippers together send an internal and an external message that the individual is ready to learn. Simple and novel.But, what if the student fails and is ,,not part of the graduating class? This seems like a recipe for ostracizing the student.

This school as with every other school I have visited, the teachers care about their students and their learning, but the classes are heavily tracked.

The expectations of the student’s ability to do math at some if these highly selective schools, is mapped to the student’s test scores and the student’s perceived interest in learning math. More than one teacher has said, ”these students only care about humanities”. The interpretation is that the test scores may not be inevitable-lower because the student is not motivated in the math way.

I think a little self fulfilling prophecy is going on here. If the teacher perceives a lack of interest, then the teacher behaviors might be different than if the student is perceived as interested. The teacher expectations for rigor might be different. Maybe the potential for that student may be stifled because of the teacher perception and teacher expectation is lower.

Slippers and jackets go a long way to build capacity at a school that has very high achieving competition and test scores already? What might these slippers and jackets mean for a high school student who was not selected for a top school?



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