Is It Time to Change the Rules on Teaching with Tattoos?

tattoo

As the summer holidays roll around and long-overdue dental/doctor/hair appointments get made, some of you might also be considering booking into the tattoo parlour. And one of your considerations might be, do I want to be covered up come September and for every school day thereon? Because, unless your school is governed by a more liberal mindset, that seems to be the authoritarian cost of being inked.

Why sporting an indelible piece of body art in the workplace is automatically frowned upon is not entirely clear. In case people hadn’t noticed, the tattoo industry has rather moved on from the biker gang stereotypes, although even the traditional emblems such as anchors, skulls and wings seem relatively innocuous. If there are teachers emblazoned with I ❤️MUM, then it may be in their own interest to cover up – much as familial love and respect should be promoted, doing so in such a way could leave someone prone to bullying from the cool kids. For the most part, however, the educators we know with tattoos are proud of their designs; after all, paying for a permanent mark to be left on your body is not a decision to be made lightly.

Perhaps that’s part of the issue: the impact that exposure to body art might have on impressionable young minds. A teacher exhibiting a floral motif on their forearm, toning delicately with their floral dress, must be a bad influence! Or, perhaps, they are representative of a progressive society, well-placed to discuss with young people the merits and drawbacks of body art.

Rights of Man has made it into the classroom but tattoos are one of the final frontiers of scholastic censorship. A former colleague had a comic book-inspired sleeve tattoo – Spider-Man down one arm, Wolverine down the other – which foreshadowed Marvel’s box office pre-eminence and could have formed a constructive talking point with his Media students were it not for the need to keep it secretly tucked beneath long-sleeve shirts. Moreover, it expressed his personality and his interests far more accurately than the Oxford shirts concealing the artwork that had the power to wow the teenagers in his care.

When PSHE lessons task students with designing a tattoo to express their personality, surely it’s time for a more grown-up approach which acknowledges that teachers are part of approximately 30% of the population who have tattoos. There’s even cross-cultural merit in the topic. Perhaps discussing the topic in school will afford young, impressionable students the foresight to reconsider their potentially regrettable tattoo choice after seeing some well thought out art on their teacher’s arms. Prove us right: if you’re one of those thinking about having a(nother) tattoo this summer, what will it be and where?

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