Highlands Blog: Mrs. Ratzlaff’s “Then & Now” about Dress Code
By Mrs. Shannon Ratzlaff
Secondary Administrator & History Teacher
One of the great ironies in my life is my position as a Highlands administrator, which has placed me in charge of dress code. The ironic part, which my students cannot believe, is that the thing I was most often in trouble for in high school was being out of dress code. And, in fact, if my high school teachers remembered this about me, they would probably laugh at where I am now. It’s definitely one of those, “Tell God your plans and He will laugh” situations.
I attended a school with a very strict dress code. The girls wore jumpers, ties, knee socks, and saddle shoes in elementary; and then oxford shirts, A-line polyester skirts, vests, and penny loafers in secondary. The first several months of every year were spent “breaking in” your shoes, which meant wearing callouses into your heels so they would stop blistering. While I didn’t love my uniforms, they never bothered me as long as I could wear them the way I wanted (which didn’t align with the dress code). I received many tallies (similar to our detention slips) for wearing skirts that were too short or for not having my shirt tucked in.
Like I said…ironic considering that a good portion of my current school week at Highlands is spent explaining the purpose of our dress code, helping students “find their way into the dress code,” and oftentimes showing pictures (of my younger self) demonstrating that their uniforms could be worse. It took me several years to realize the root of my dress code issue. I blamed the school for selling ugly uniforms and my teachers for being too strict. After all, who was getting hurt by my collar not being buttoned down or by my shirt being untucked?
Actually, the one being hurt by those things was me. A few years after I started teaching at HCA, I came to realize (or rather, the Lord showed me) that all of my dress code “issues” were not about the clothing, but more about my rebellious heart and my refusal to obey. It was a heart issue–an obedience problem. Silly as it may sound, I am pretty certain that any Christian testimony I may have had as a student was discarded by the rebellion I displayed by simply refusing to follow the rules. Beyond that, I imagine that my teachers’ opinions of me were damaged by my rebellious attitude because it transcended dress code and spilled into other areas like my work ethic and my attitude in class.
You may be thinking, is dress code really that big of a deal? No, it’s not. However, in the Bible, we are called repeatedly to be obedient and to respect authority. Disregarding obedience and embracing rebellion are a very big deal.
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. – Hebrews 13:17a
Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. – Proverbs 10:17
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. – Romans 13:1
I realized that all of my complaining about dress code and showing my disdain by rebelling against it was actually a rebellion against authority, which was by extension rebellion against God. Suddenly dress code became a big deal. As I mentioned, I came to this realization a few years into my teaching career; apparently I was slow to pick up on it as I still was struggling with certain aspects of dress code even as an adult!
One of the things I hope to help students realize is that being obedient in the small things will help them to be respectful of authority in the bigger areas and circumstances of their lives, and more importantly, obedient to the Lord and His will for their lives. Although the training process can sometimes be painful and inconvenient, in the end if we are obedient, there are rewards. Obedience teaches us that it’s not all about how I feel or what I want, which was my thought as a student, but instead it is about making the choice to obey and not to give in to rebellion.
Chuck Colson said, “Obedience is the key to real faith.” Will a sweatshirt or the wrong uniform shorts cause a person to fail in life? Of course not! But will a heart of disobedience and rebellion bring problems later? You bet! May the Lord use all of our circumstances, big and small, to draw us closer to Himself.
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