On Friday, I wore a kameez to school.
(This is the top part of a suit that women and men from central Asia wear. You can find out more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shalwar_kameez )
It was a gift from a family at a previous school. Mine is very pretty – black silk with gold and white embroidered medallions and trim. I had worn it gratefiully once, but then it disappeared into the back of my closet until I suddenly remembered it. I consulted with one of our staff members about the best way to wear it, and she enthusiastically agreed that I could wear it with jeans and flats or heels.
As soon as I walked into the school, I was overwhelmed by the reactions. Staff complimented me on it. An occasional teacher was delighted and told me I was wearing “her clothes” now. Parents noticed right away and commented how much they liked it.
Best of all were the students. As they passed me in the hallway or saw me outside, many did a double take and said, “Hey! You’re wearing what my mom wears!” or “I like your kameez!” I could tell from their reaction they couldn’t believe their principal would wear one. Some grade 8 girls gave me tips on how to wear it next time.
I thought about those reactions later that evening. Who would think such a simple thing would be noticed, commented on and resonate with people? Our impact as principals is profound, and so often, we don’t even realize it.