Before TEACHERS WORE PANTS.
Two years after public school teachers in other schools were wearing dressy business pants suits to teach, our very conservative principal insisted that at our school teachers would professionally dressed. Although not in the written guidelines, we knew this meant a suit, blouse and skirt, or a conservative dress. Hints, questions, and requests were to no avail. Although we all respected him we were frustrated at what we felt were unnatural restrictions. It is very hard to demonstrate jumping rope in a pencil thin skirt and 2 inch heels.
One chilly morning after my husband had gone to work and my children were getting ready, I saw a line of hogs going down the driveway. I couldn’t go to school with the potential traffic hazard headed to the end of the drive. I grabbed a bucket, ran to the storage building, filled it half full with the dry feed we called shorts, added water and hurried after the runaways. “Soeeey, here piggies,” caught their attention. They turned and walked, then ran toward me as I continued the call.
The fence was down about 6 feet so I stepped through, poured the mash mixture into the trough, and baked away from the rush and surveyed the damage. A post was dislodged and fallen backward. Not too hard to stretch the fence, reinsert the post and tramp the dirt around. A nearby broken tree limb propped the post and held the fence in place. It will have to do until O. J. gets home. He’ll handle it.
Oh, no, a precious 30 minutes wasted on the hogs. The kids were almost ready for school and Marilyn was herding them toward the car. I pulled on a dress over the pants I wore getting ready on cold mornings and left the youngest ones waiting for the school bus. As my 16 year old drove, I put hand lotion on my freshly scrubbed hands, combed my hair, put on make up, and hoped the swine smell had not followed me.
We switched drivers at the high school and decided I could slip off the offending slacks before getting out of the car at my school. My parking place was more snug than usual when the car stopped. No standing in the shelter of the open car door to pull off the pants. I slid the seat back and began to tug at the waistband under the dress. Not enough room. I tilted to one side and tried again to pull the pants down. I glanced up into the eyes of a father staring at my movements behind the steering wheel. The dirty look/ teacher stare did not embarrass him. He seemed amused.
I opened the driver’s side door and twisted out through the narrow opening then bent over to gather, books, charts and purse. His face appeared even more interested. I’ll take the darned pants off in the teacher’s lounge as soon as I get in the building. When I was five feet from the door the principal politely opened the door for me. My face flamed from anger at the peeping father, frustration at the morning’s troubles, and shame that I appeared to have rebelled against the well understood dress code. No time or way to make explanations now. I passed the door to the lounge and stomped down to my classroom in the forbidden garments. Nothing I might say could rescue me from this now.
The day went by with no one mentioning my dress. Teachers, student teachers, and staff made a point of coming by to speak to me to check me out. I held my head up and pretended a peace I did not feel. I could not look anyone in the eye.
By the time I returned home the fence had been permanently repaired and my husband had supper under way. Hubby thought the whole thing was funny.
The next morning twelve out of the twenty teachers showed up for work in brand new pant suits. Evidently they felt I was some sort of heroine. I still walked around with the shame. After school I went into the office where the principal and secretary were finishing. Might as well face the music. Instead of indignation he looked at me with sympathy. I started to cry.
“I didn’t mean to flaunt the rules. I had on work clothes and didn’t want to be late, and couldn’t take the slacks off in the car, and the man was staring at me. And…’”
Principal looked at me for a couple of minutes.
“It’s all right. I guess it is time. Ever since the student teachers started wearing skirts eight inches above the knee we needed to find a way to restore decorum. I don’t approve of pants on women, but it beats the alternative.”
Dorothy Gast March 20, 2015