January 17, 2012

It's Not About the Hat

So here I am sitting in a staff meeting talking yet again for the umpteenth time about our School's Hat Policy. Apparently we voted on it (must have missed that) and decided that students could wear hats on special occasions but that was it. This all stems from a surprising student push that happened at the beginning of the year. Students, mainly our grade 10's, like to wear hats. They feel more comfortable with them on, I guess. They started a petition and handed it to staff. Some saw it as challenging and defiant, some were disappointed that they had wasted their efforts on something so meaningless, I was proud of them - they had decided to take action in a respectful way - it was a form of activism. Sure, it was only about hats…but as much as the issue is downplayed trust me, a hat policy is extremely important to many teachers. Anyway, their petition wasn't in vain…it did add some leniency to our current hat policy.

Fast forward 5 months….still talking about it. Some teachers aren't enforcing it (I am one of the guilty ones) and I guess we all need to be on board. Now I understand the need for teachers to be a single unit and to get on board with things. But hats, really? Is this that important? I guess I'm a rural boy that likes hats, but to be honest I don't really care that much. I am not pro-hat if that's what you're thinking. My problem is with our approach. It is a power struggle. I don't really know of any real reasons for banning hats. The only arguments I have heard are that it is disrespectful and we need to teach kids how to dress properly for certain places. Two things with those arguments that are interesting: knights used to remove their helmets when they were in the house of friends - when they were among people they trusted; and perhaps students feel that hats are appropriate for school - how we view school and how students view school may be different. I wouldn't wear a hat to school as it would be unprofessional, but I would and did wear a hat to my university classes. But really, who cares…seriously…isn't this a bit ridiculous? I feel silly even writing this.

I talked to a gentleman a few years back at a conference. He actually travelled around the country giving a presentation "It's Not About the Hat"….seriousy! Weird hey? And I guess that is my struggle - it's not about the hat. I feel, that as a staff, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Every hat discussion always comes from a negative place: a lot of complaining about students and how they are so defiant and disrespectful. People get pretty excited about making students take their hats off - that it somehow represents our power over them and you're going to be damned sure that we exercise that power. I have several grade 10's that slip their hats back on, often…but they are doing well in class and I enjoy them. So, tomorrow I am supposed to start harping on them about their hats. I usually just give gentle reminders, and sometimes I get caught up in learning and forget about hats. It's not like I'm making a point of letting students wear their hats - I do enforce it. I just don't get too carried away about it. I guess that's supposed to change. I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I feel like I'm being asked to get involved in power struggles that I don't want to be involved in. Sure, students should be able to comply with this simple request. But our Grade 10's are…challenging…and perhaps we need to focus on different things…like attendance, and building relationships, and academics, and building confidence. I have no problem with reminding a student several times to take their hat off and perhaps even asking them to put it in their locker or give it to me. I do have a problem with sending that student out of my class - away from a group learning environment - and down to the office for a possible punishment…all for simply wearing a hat. But, I do want to be a team player. Any suggestions?

1 comment:

  1. Hey, if Chuck Norris can pull a hat out of a rabbit then surely you can figure this out.

    Unfortunately you have the uncomfortable decision between doing what is right and doing what matters. They are not the same thing.

    Have fun and never forget that underneath Chuck Norris's hat there is only another fist.