In response to posts on student dress codes, a reader writes:

“Here is the problem with your post:

Even the best schools have awesome teachers who will not abide by the dress code. Setting a high adult standard only works as much as your staff wishes to uphold that standard. During the second week of school look and see how the standard drops across the board. There is no adult standard anymore. And if a principal tries to enforce a dress standard even if it is district policy, there are few if any repercussions that ever happen to employees to choose not to obey it.

Leaders’ toughest tasks seem to be on the simplest of things like dress code and cell phones. As times go on, I expect there will eventually be no professional dress anymore except for central office staff. The world is weaving its ugly head and standards into our schools and board members are embracing them”

SC Response
I’m going to deconstruct your comment and address it point by point.

“Setting a high adult standard only works as much as your staff wishes to uphold that standard.”

I disagree, setting a high adult standard works when leadership is willing to model and enforce the standard.

“There is no adult standard.”

There is no adult standard when there is no leadership attention.

“There are few if any repercussions.”

Again, this is the choice of leadership. I never punished staff into dress code compliance. I did communicate and model my expectation constantly and when a staff member did not comply, we had an immediate conversation about the impact of his or her decision on the students and campus. Immediate leadership attention has amazing preventative and curative powers.

“Leaders’ toughest tasks seem to be on the simplest of things.”

This is your big insight moment. You are absolutely correct. Fixing the little things keeps the system running smoothly. Fixing the little things is what continuous improvement is all about. Remember Collin’s insightful quote, “The great triathlete rinses cottage cheese before eating it.” A school is like a car, ignore the little things (oil changes, air in the tires, wiper blades) and you will find yourself broke down on the side of the road when you least expect it.

“The world is weaving its ugly head and standards into our schools.”

This happens if we let it. Don’t stand for it. You were on one of my campuses. We rose above low expectations and standards in less than six weeks. You know first hand that a talented team can out work, out think, and out achieve a lazy world. Given the choice between easy and right, it is human nature to pick easy. Therefore, ensure that the only option is “right.”

As a principal, you set the tone and expectation on your campus. The average principal lets his or her campus operate under this assumption, “Well most of us try hard, but considering the staff and the students, outside expectations and rules for Our Average School, are not realistic.”

Great principals have campuses that operate under this assumption, “The rest of the district may be a bunch of half-stepping slackers, but here at Our Awesome School, we work differently because we are better.”

It is your choice; do you want to be average or great?

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…