Tattoos have been present all around the world for thousands of years, this is a fact that has been proven many times throughout history. There was even a 5000-year-old tattooed mummy found in 1991. All public knowledge. Yet, in 2019, a big part of society still frowns upon a tattooed teacher.
I am currently a special education teachers’ aide at a center for children with autism and am going to school to one day be able to have my own classroom. I am constantly praised by my co-workers and parents on my ability to teach through art and play. However, why is it that I am also often questioned about my ability to be hired as an actual teacher because of my body art? None of my tattoos are offensive and I do not reference them nor converse about them with other teachers or parents. It seems that the only people to judge me are the ones that don’t have any. In fact, most of my students’ parents have at least one visible tattoo. Not one student has ever treated me differently or been scared to approach me. I have even had students who only interact with me because of my tattoos. They have felt more comfortable with me because their parents also have tattoos and I am who resemble them the most. Yet, my ability to teach with tattoos continues to be questioned.
I am lucky to have had amazing teachers growing up. If asked about, I can tell you about at least 9 teachers that made a big impact in my life and have a lot to do with who I am today. I can talk about how they made me feel, the lessons they each taught me, who taught me how to read, who took the time to teach me division when I struggled, the coach who helped me with my jump roping, my ESL teacher who worked so hard with me on writing in English because it was my second language, and so many more valuable milestones and lessons. What I cannot tell you is what they looked like. How they dressed, their hairstyles, if they had any tattoos, nothing about their appearance. Why? Because it did not matter. What mattered was what I learned and how they made me feel. I did not expect anything from my teachers because of what they looked like. I more appreciated what I learned because of the role they played in my life.
We are not born with the ability to judge and stereotype others. That is learned behavior. As an educator, I plan to teach otherwise. if we promote tolerance in schools we need to teach by example and practice it every day. Individuality and creativity are so important to teach and if I am being told to cover my tattoos in the classroom, I am teaching lies. I am forced into hiding a big part of who I truly am. No, I do not wish to exhibit myself as a piece of art, nor do I wish to have extra attention directed towards me because of my tattoos. I only wish to not be forced to cover my body artwork. I wish for it to be a choice. Though, I cover it most of the time anyway, I wish to feel that sense of freedom in simply having the option.
In conclusion, teaching with tattoos, does it really affect my ability to teach? Of course not. Such a clich©, but I will continue to teach children not to “Judge a book by its cover.” I will also continue to decorate my body with tattoos because it is who I am, and being the best “you” that “you” can be is what I promote to my students.