It’s back-to-school time which means, as a teacher, I’m forced to look at my students’ t-shirts. Call me old-fashioned, but certain shirts should not be manufactured. But they are. And worse still is that someone buys them for my students, my students wear them to school, and I have to look at them.
I’m talking about shirts that are just “bad attitude shirts.” I’m sure you’ve seen them, but in case you haven’t, here’s a small sample:
“Homework kills trees”
“Homework - just say no”
“See no homework, Hear no homework, Do no homework”
“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me”
“Here comes trouble”
Certainly, any t-shirt that is overtly offensive is not allowed at school. However, I think that a school’s dress code should take the matter one step further. I don’t think teachers should have to look at their students wearing shirts that belittle our profession and our efforts.
We (my co-workers, principal, and I) did discuss these t-shirts at a recent faculty meeting, in hopes of coming to a school-wide consensus. Some teachers felt very strongly that asking students not to wear these t-shirts was an infringement of the students’ first amendment right to free speech. I was even more unsettled that many of the teachers who felt this way were parents who claimed to have purchased these types of shirts for their own school-age children. If we want to discuss first amendment rights, a portion of mine are left at the front-door as I enter school each day. I am not supposed to discuss my preference for different politicians, for example. Why should my students be exempt? I don’t see it as a free-speech issue, I see it as a respect and decency issue. Some teachers seemed not to care one way or the other. These are teachers that come to school wearing shirts that act as advertisements - for colleges, for old movies (The Goonies), for clothing lines (Pink).
And while homework may not be my students’ favorite thing about school; after-school meetings are certainly not my favorite part of school either. And I would never wear a shirt that claims, “I don’t do meetings.”