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Should Teachers Wear Scrubs?

Some teachers are going to be teaching online this year, so teachers are prepping our workspaces and collecting practical tips. But others are going back to school buildings—and although they are eager to see their kids, the health risks can feel overwhelming.

1. Scrubs could keep us safer

Viruses spread through the air. And we know that some viruses live longer on hard surfaces than porous ones (like fabric). But there’s a reason doctors and nurses change their clothes before they leave work or as soon as they get home. Clothing can harbor virus particles; we cannot claim immunity from this kind of transmission. And anyone who thinks that kids are going to maintain six feet of distance at all times has not been around many children.

2. Scrubs could save us money

Everyone knows teachers should make more money. That’s another issue for another day. But consider this: What will the wear and tear be like on our professional clothing during this pandemic? Experts recommend washing possibly contaminated clothing in warm water and drying it on high heat. We’ll want to wash clothing after every wearing. Somehow, I don’t think our LOFT or Target favorites are going to stand up to this kind of treatment for very long. Do we need to worry about replacing clothing at a faster rate on top of everything else? Scrubs are cheap, and they’re made for rigorous laundering.

3. The kids will be fine

Some people object to scrubs because they fear they will make students feel uneasy and that the association with medical settings could provoke anxiety. I guess this is a possibility. But in light of masking, social distancing, and the myriad changes that school-during-coronavirus will entail, will teachers wearing t-shirts and baggy pants register on the Richter scale of anxiety? Or could the peace of mind that wearing scrubs will give some teachers enable us to foster a more calm atmosphere? We’re confident our warmth and care can counteract any negative associations that may arise.

4. Dress codes are made to be broken

Dress codes exist so that schools can maintain an air of professionalism. We don’t want our clothing to be distracting or inappropriate. We want our attire to send the right message—that we take our jobs seriously. What message do scrubs send? That we are careless about our professions? No. Scrubs send the message that we want to stay safe. Social expectations are being adjusted in all kinds of ways—we no longer high-five, shake hands, or hug our friends. In the same way, if scrubs are introduced as an acceptable option for teachers, no one will think twice about them. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented flexibility.

5. It’s the least school leaders can do

Let’s face it. Teachers are now front-line workers. We are being asked to risk our health—and that of our families—to educate our students. For all of us, this is a leap of faith. But some of us are between the worst possible rock and a hard place. We (or our partners or our parents) have preexisting conditions that make us at high risk. And yet we need to keep our incomes and our health insurance. If the freedom to wear scrubs makes us feel a tiny bit safer, if it helps us sleep a little better at night, is it too much to ask?