When you have no money, no authority to promote people, and no extra vacation time to offer, how do you motivate your employees?
Okay, when you have no money, no authority to promote people, no extra vacation time to offer, and a pesky law that prohibits adult beverages in your place of work, then how can you galvanize your staff?
If you are in the education profession, then jeans are apparently the answer. Personally, I think they are the answer to a completely different question, but I am seemingly in the minority. If you want an elementary school teacher to go the extra distance, offer a chance to wear jeans for an entire work day. Want to send him or her over the moon? Give permission to wear tennis shoes, too.
I usually decline jean wearing. In my whole almost 45 years on this earth, I’ve only found 2 pairs that fit me in all the right places. Plus, the permission to wear jeans is usually accompanied by the dreaded caveat that I wear a school t-shirt with the jeans. I look horrible in t-shirts. Even worse, 95% of the time we have to wear the shirt and jeans with dress shoes. Which, quite honestly, is icky fashion in my book.
At my last school, this wasn’t much of a problem. Jean days were rare, and only about half the staff took advantage of them.
Then I came to this school. Here, they take jeans seriously.
There are about 500 days a year we can wear jeans. On payday we can wear them with a college shirt. On Fridays with a school shirt. On Wednesdays with a special pink school shirt. If we have perfect attendance for a month, we can wear jeans on a designated day. If we are having a fundraiser, we can wear the accompanying shirt. And on test days, we wear our special black testing shirts with jeans.
It didn’t take me long to realize that my passive aggressive attitude toward jeans was going to be way more noticed at this school than the last. No one at this school refuses to wear jeans if given the opportunity.
After a month of forgetting to wear my pink shirt and jeans on Wednesdays, I finally decided that I am only good at resisting peer pressure when there is very little pressure. When it comes from 20 teachers and your administrative staff, it becomes less appealing.
I got with the program. I got really good at remembering the days I could wear jeans. I just continuously wore the wrong shirt with them. Completely by accident, of course. So, now I looked less like a somewhat rebellious fashion snob and more like a deliberate insubordinate.
A couple of weeks ago, I nearly came undone at 6:00 in the morning when I realized that it was a Wednesday and a testing day. Pink shirt or black shirt?!!!!! I chose black because, quite frankly, that was my mood. I guess the rest of the staff felt the same way.
Last Wednesday, completely dressed in my Unmandatory, but Not Exactly Optional Uniform of jeans, pink t-shirt and dress shoes, I finished getting ready with 5 minutes to spare. Then I looked in the mirror. There was a huge, and I mean absolutely ginormous, ink splot on my shirt.
Forget the minor conflict between black shirt and pink shirt, this was a new conundrum with only 5 minutes to fix.
I wore a dress.
Feeling completely out of place, I confessed my fashion crisis to one of my fellow teachers. She looked me over and said, “I would have worn the shirt anyway.”
I still don’t know if that was a critique of my wardrobe choice – or an acknowledgment of how important wearing jeans is to her.
Seriously. Would it be so bad to stick a margarita machine in the Teacher’s Lounge?