Recently, my good friend tweeted me an article by The Guardian. As much as she is one my closet friends, that sentence says a lot. She is a Guardian reader, whereas I don’t feel intelligent enough to be a Guardian reader. Saying that, we are both teachers, in Performing Arts subjects. I’m not sure if this is relevant or not.
Here is the article: Should teachers be able to have tattoos?
Setting the scene, I am a drama teacher in a secondary school. I’m just completing my tenth year in teaching. I have tattoos, several in fact, however only in the last few years have I gain body art that is more noticeable to the students, mainly on my arms.
The article above is more specific than just teachers having tattoos as it focuses on them being displayed in school. Apparently headteachers are “debating whether it’s OK for staff to display their body art in school”.
Firstly, what happens to those, like me, that do have tattoos? Do we have to stay covered up even in 25/30 degree heat? (obviously this is a rarity in England but it does happen!) Some would say that it’s the choice I make when I decide to have a tattoo is a visable place. I would say that my tattoos do not hinder by ability to teach. I wouldn’t say that I wander around the school deliberately showing off my tattoos to every student and staff member I pass but, as summer arrives, they are on show more, particularly the tattoo on my foot and those on my lower arms, none of which are offensive in any way. In all honesty, I don’t even think about it when I take my blazer or cardigan off. I forget that I have them.
Given that I’m a teacher and I have tattoos, I supposed I could be deemed a little biased. After all, I can only speak from experience. What I have found is that most students don’t make comment, and the ones that do (usually the older ones) will ask about them, and then that’s the end of the conversation. I will not entertain a conversation about my tattoos in the middle of a lesson but if they want to ask at the end, I will answer (appropriate) questions – usually the likes of “do they hurt?” ” what do they mean?” and “Have you got anymore?”. Once these questions have been answered, the conversation is over and it doesn’t come up again.
The article quotes Rhiannon Davies, a mother of seven year old twins who says:
“Part of being a teacher is about teaching pupils to respect people’s differences and not judge them by their looks.”
I couldn’t agree more and when I asked some of my (tattooed and non-tattooed) family and friends their opinion, my sister had a good point to make:
“I don’t think having a tattoo has any impact of the quality of the teacher, bit like piercing, religious clothing, hair styles and colour…if you’ve got the qualifications to do the job and you’re good at it, it shouldn’t matter. As for the impression it gives students, they’ll see people with tattoos everywhere (social media, TV, celebrities, public areas). Has David Beckham become less of a footballer after having all his tattoos?
Children should be encouraged to show their individual personalities. Uniforms – yes for smartness, but they don’t restrict them too much and stifle their personalities.”
It’s true isn’t it? We are constantly encouraging our children, and students, to be accepting of others: their beliefs, interests, passions and appearances. Therefore to discriminate a teacher because of their tattoos would be contradictory to this. Not only do we want them to accept others, but we want them to feel comfortable enough to express themselves, appropriately. Obviously I wouldn’t be encouraging a Year 7 student to go out and get a tattoo. When we do have conversations about tattoos, I take my opportunity to tell them to wait till they are older as their tastes will change and they want to be sure they will like it. I try to use my influence as a teacher and a role model to guide them in the right direction, not to tell them not to as that would be hypocritical and, lets face it, we all know that teenagers don’t listen anyway, but to contemplate things and take time to make big decisions, like having a piece of body art that will be there forever.
Within 2017, the majority of people have tattoos. When I got my first tattoo, aged 17, my mum said “What are people going to think when you’re 80?” and now turning 60 last week, she has a tattoo on her back. Ha ha! One of my best friends who has a half sleeve, both feet tattooed as well as a good collection of other beautiful tattoos, but isn’t a teacher, said:
“It’s more socially acceptable to have them (tattoos) now, more so than ever.”
Again, I literally couldn’t agree more. I genuinely don’t think that people react to tattoos UNLESS they are are offensive or places on areas such as someones face. This quote in the article, from Vic Goddard, a principal, made me chuckle:
“We have spoken to parents and some say you shouldn’t have them on a teacher. Others don’t give a damn so long as it doesn’t say ‘Fuck off mum’.”
It made me chuckle but it’s common sense isn’t it? As far as I’m concerned, tattoos are fine, as long as they are tasteful and not offensive. Interestingly I posed the question to one of my best friends, who doesn’t have any tattoos but is a teacher. She describes herself as “traditional” and more hilariously “a square sally” and deemed it more professional looking to not have them but, in the same sentence, believes in freedom of expression. As someone who hasn’t got any tattoos and doesn’t want one, she’s more “No” than “Yes” but doesn’t judge those that do. So everything in moderation is her motto, a good one to have….although I happen to know that ethos doesn’t work with her and wine – ha ha! 😉
I suppose that, no matter how socially acceptable tattoos are, they will always be a subject for discussion. This is why I like them. They provoke a discussion, whether it be about where you got it, who the tattoo artist was or what the meaning is behind it. When it comes to teachers, I think it comes down to how offensive they are and I would back any headteacher who asked a teacher with a “Fuck off Mum” on his arm to cover it up!
What are your thoughts? Do you have any tattoos? Are they looks upon in a certain light within their profession? What do you think about teachers with tattoos? Comment below or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.