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What to Wear in the TEFL Classroom

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Probably not the best way to present a TEFL class…

Business suits, smart casual, any old shirt …???

Teachers often wonder what they should wear when turning up for a new teaching job. Here are a few fashion tips we have put together based on the feedback we have received from teachers working around the world.

Dress Code for TEFL Teachers

Generally speaking, formal attire (such as suits) is not expected in private English schools. Smart casual is more common. Unless you are tutoring corporate students or are a professor at university, a suit is a bit of an overkill, sometimes even at interviews‏‎.

As a man you don’t get the choice between a skirt (or dress) and trousers so you are fine there but as a woman a neat shirt and a pair of trousers will see you a long way. Sometimes, especially if you teach young children, you may need to sit on the floor for some of the activities or mess with crayons and glue so a skirt or dress might be awkward, however.

  • Bear in mind that in some Middle Eastern countries trousers may not be the ideal attire for women who generally are expected to wear more feminine clothes.
  • In Japan some schools provide their teachers with a uniform – suit & tie for men; black trousers or skirt & white shirt for women.
  • In Germany‏‎ students expect their teachers to be professionally turned out and clothes tend to be more formal than in, say, China or South Korea.

Regardless though of where in the world you are teaching, forget short skirts, tight tops or provocative décoltés!

Overall, smart casual seems to be the dress code most teachers advise to wear, regardless of which country you are in. This is for three main reasons:

  1. It is comfortable and allows you to go about teaching without worrying about where you are sitting, what shows when you are leaning on a student’s desk, and so forth.
  2. It makes you look approachable yet you don’t stand out from your students as you would if your clothes were too casual or too formal.
  3. It helps you fit in with the school staff.

Business casual look also works for some.

But, aside from personal preferences, remember that different schools have different perspectives of how teachers should dress, so when in doubt ask your employer. And, of course, once you are at school be aware of what your colleagues wear and try and see what is the reaction of both the school staff and the students.

Female Dress Code for Islamic Countries

Care should be taken when it comes to what clothes to wear in an Islamic country. In general you need to cover yourself for fear or inciting/exciting the men. This means no bare arms or legs and certainly no cleavage or even lower neck. Of course there are many local variations (bigger cities tend to be more relaxed) but you should only start to relax your dress code once you have been living there a while and see how the locals handle it.

Although foreigners are generally given more leeway, certainly at the beginning do nothing to cause any upset. A lot of women carry a headscarf with them at all times just in case.

Footwear for TEFL Teachers

Don’t neglect to pay attention to your footwear which should be clean and comfortable – you’ll probably will have to do quite a lot of standing up and walking around the class. No flip flops (even if it is 40 degrees and muggy), no trainers and no open toed sandals (remember in some countries showing your foot‏‎ is deemed offensive). In fact, you’ll find many schools include wearing closed shoes in their regulations.

Plan for the Occasion

  • Business classes: (men) suit or shirt & tie; (women) suit or formal dress
  • Children classes: casual trousers & polo shirt or button shirt
  • Job interviews: (men) suit or shirt & tie; (women) suit or formal dress
  • Parent/Teacher meetings or special school events – (men) suit or shirt & tie; (women) suit or formal dress

To Sum Up

IN

  • smart trousers/skirt
  • neat shirt/blouse/top
  • shirt and tie (jacket optional)
  • proper shoes

OUT

  • denim or ripped jeans
  • short skirts
  • low cut tops, or see-throughs
  • sandals or trainers

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