Earlier this week, Sara Weintraub and I had the pleasure of traveling to Denver to participate in a conference at the International School there. We met our counterparts from all over North America with whom we worked on possible future professional development courses for our staff, among many other things. The conference took place at the ISD, and we had the opportunity to visit the campus. I am always curious to see what the classrooms, wall displays, and (even brief) interactions with teachers and students tell us about a school.

Visitors to The École often say that they have a clear image of who we are when they tour our buildings–the children are smiling, the staff is welcoming, the whole place is infused with palpable energy, there’s art on the walls (thanks to Nathalie and the Maternelle teachers), and we hear a mix of French and English spoken. But for me, there are colors too, the colors of the polos that became our House colors almost two years ago to the day for Field Day 2022.

I used to have a very strong opinion about uniforms and swore I would never work in a school where kids had to wear one. It might seem like an extreme position, but it is a pretty common one in France for people of my generation. When I became the head of school in Taipei, I fought tooth and nail to ensure that our students could come to school wearing whatever they liked– until I realized it was never really the case. Instead of a uniform, we had a dress code, which spawned endless, awful debates: How short is too short? Should bare shoulders be allowed? Are sandals considered shoes? Not to mention my longstanding favorite agenda item: How do we ensure that underwear remains invisible? We negotiated every inch, argued over every VPL, and dedicated what I felt was an unreasonable amount of time to the matter. Mainly because– and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise–I believe that behind every dress code hides a form of sexism designed to limit and restrict what is appropriate for girls to wear, to decide for them what they have the right to reveal (or not) and what looks best.

As you can imagine, by the time I arrived in New York, I was so disillusioned by my experience with a no-uniform policy that I was ready to see things from a different angle. Which is the case today–I am a real fan of The École’s uniforms. I think they are fun, colorful, and varied and allow our students to express themselves. They also give a clear image of who we are: a unique, spirited school that puts well-being at the center of its pedagogical project.

After the very popular introduction of the hoodies last year, we decided to make more improvements to the uniform with our growing Middle School population in mind. The Middle School uniform committee worked with Andria to make it happen. The main objectives were to add a variety of sportswear items to the P.E. uniform and to make the rules around the formal uniform less rigid so kids don’t find themselves wearing clothing that makes them feel uncomfortable. The new items can be discovered in the Uniform Guide 2024-2025 and will be available for children of all ages–not just middle schoolers (some items are already available for pre-order on the Untold Horizons website).

It feels strange to say it, but the only thing that disappointed me about my visit to Denver was that they didn’t have a uniform!