What Should Catechists Wear When They Teach?

What Should Catechists Wear When They Teach? July 18, 2014

Over at Amazing Catechists today, I argue that what we teachers wear to class matters.  As always, it’s not a fashion talk:

No one looks to me for wardrobe advice, except maybe if they’re required to do a character sketch of frumpy middle-aged absent-minded housewives.  But even I know that what we wear when we teach matters.  If someone like me gives serious thought to clothing before I teach, that means it must be important.

First thing is making sure the clothes work for the job at hand:

If you know you’re going to have to get on your knees and scrub glitter glue off the floor after class, don’t wear delicates.

If you are unable to schlep books around because you’ve got a bad back, you have my complete and heartfelt sympathy.  If it’s because you are skittering around in kitten heels, I am {this close} to smacking you.  [I don’t say that at AC, it’s a reputable venue.  I keep it clean, panic not.]

Then there’s the question of professionalism:

There are catechists who rock the jeans-and-t-shirt look, and the message they send is one of confidence, enthusiasm, and competence.  “I can fix your truck and your theology, too.”  Some of us, though, just end up looking like we forgot to do the laundry.

I don’t prescribe.  I lay out a framework, you lay out your clothes:

Two questions to ask are:

1. Does this outfit make me feel serious about my work?  What I’m wearing should make me feel confident that I can get the job done.  I should feel smart, competent, and ready to teach.

2. Does this outfit communicate the right message? “Pretty” “Elegant” “Handsome” “Youthful” “Mature” “Sporty” “Modern” or “Stylish” are all fair game.  If my clothing evokes words like “Sassy” “Sexy” “Flirty” “Edgy” or “Slacker,” I need to change.

Then I bring up the one topic no one talks about much, despite the fact that everyone’s talking about it.

Why do I insist that clothing choice can help children learn the boundaries between appropriate interpersonal touch and sexual molestation? Because I’ve been privy to a case where a couple kids literally helped get a serial rapist arrested because that boundary line was one they’d internalized, without anyone ever explicitly giving them “safe touching” lessons.  That’s why.  I know it helps.  It isn’t the only thing, but it’s one thing.

Hence my simple rule for classroom teacher wardrobes:

Don’t put on display for your students any body part or undergarment that a priest should never be allowed to touch.

I single out priests because they’re a category of guys who, CPR excepted, generally don’t have a reason to put a hand down your shirt.  Statistically speaking, priests are actually pretty unlikely to molest your kid.


Couldn’t end it on that cheery note, so I finish with a reminder not to worry so much, despite the fact that I probably unleashed scruples in 500 catechists who have absolutely nothing to worry about.  Just have fun and dig something half-decent out of your closet.  You can read the whole thing here.

Nureyev models what not to wear at religious ed.

Photo by Allan warren (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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