Uniforms – Reflections of an Educator
Authored by Olivia Vollbrecht
Applying the hand, head and heart technique, to examine my views on Uniforms in the Early Learning setting;
Hand, my practical self acknowledges the benefits of uniforms. As I dress for work each day, a mental checklist rattles off… hot day = messy play… Cold day = messy play… little food covered fingers, snotty noses, dirty toes up against my t-shirt and sometimes even wee, poo and vomit. I can have a small appreciation for the fact that I do not have to choose exactly what threads of my ‘own’ that I have to put through such recourse.
Then I turn to my head and ask it what it thinks about this topic… I am able to recognise that uniforms are a symbol, a way to advertise or represent your workplace. I can consider myself proud to wear one because I love where I work and welcome any opportunity to discuss it. Uniforms have a place, but I’m just not sure if their place is here… with the children… it’s almost like my head is telling me to wear one at every opportunity OTHER than work so I can advocate for my centre and the children I work for out in the community? Too crazy? Perhaps. I cannot ignore the idea that uniforms assist parents; parents are able to identify easily who in fact works at the centre to know who to perhaps speak to, ask questions or even pass their child to when it is time for them to leave.
“I am able to recognise that uniforms are a symbol, a way to advertise or represent your workplace. I can consider myself proud to wear one because I love where I work and welcome any opportunity to discuss it. Uniforms have a place, but I’m just not sure if their place is here… with the children…”
My head starts to jumble now, because I suppose this is where my heart comes into it, so bear with me as I confuse the two. If we are suggesting a uniform is an aid for parents to know who works here then we are offering a way for parents to make a connection without making connections. Parents may not know our name, what room we work in, how long we’ve been here or even if their child knows us because perhaps, due to my uniform, a parent doesn’t seek the answer to these questions. Then there is the added complacency that can arise from the perspective of the staff. “I have a uniform so you know I work here,” one might think. “I am wearing a uniform so it’s ok to just smile sweetly at you,” I’ve been guilty of. “I have a uniform on so I don’t need to make sure you know who I am before you leave your child with me,” could also be another thought. So I’ll ask my head what it means then if we don’t wear a uniform… well it means parents need to know who we are. It means we need to work extra hard in making sure that we are building those connections. Remind families of our name; what we know about their child and what our relationship is like; what room we predominantly work in and that we too belong, uniform or not.
“If we are suggesting a uniform is an aid for parents to know who works here then we are offering a way for parents to make a connection without making connections”.
Now let me introduce you to my heart. One of the primary reasons I became drawn to getting something down on paper about this seemingly passive topic. A childcare centre is an institution, I’m not claiming they have white walls and strait jackets, there are a variety of ways that an institution can be represented, uniforms, funnily enough, are one of them. Despite this being the case, we work extra hard in all aspects of our curriculum to avoid looking and feeling like an institution. Would it be suffice to suggest we go the extra mile to best assimilate home, nature, and what is natural to a child in their early stages of development as we can?
So how then does a uniform assist that notion? How does a uniform enrich our curriculum? My heart tells me it does not. My heart suggests a uniform is a division between the children and I, even between the parents and I, my heart suggests that a child should see us as the educators who care for them and this place they belong to as their ‘second home.’ Tomorrow, I won’t come to work in my PJ’s, I will practice sun safety and I will still do a mental checklist about what I’m prepared to put my ‘threads’ through so I am adequately dressed for the day but my attire wont be a symbol of separation, it wont highlight that I work in an institution. My clothes will be something that represents me because I want the children to know me as a person, as their carer and the parents alike. I will have to work harder, I may introduce myself three times to the same parent in one week but I know then they will know me and it won’t matter if I’m wearing a uniform or not.
What do you think?