Tattoos are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among millennials like myself, and many newer teachers to the profession are either having to find ways to cover them up, or seek out maverick schools with more relaxed dress codes.
Tattoos have, of course, been around for a long time and there will be some senior staff who have been dealing with this dilemma for years.
But as more and more of us are getting inked in places that are visible, should we be worrying about covering them when at school?
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Many schools have policies that dictate how staff should dress, and whether tattoos should be covered.
These policies are understandable and arguably necessary to ensure that there is consistency in the way staff present themselves across the school.
But dress codes that dictate the covering of all tattoos can prove problematic for us teachers who have them on parts of our bodies that are difficult to cover with clothing. Tattoos on hands, for example, can only really be covered with heavy makeup or gloves.
And even then, make up isn’t always successful at covering darker colours and can end up smudging. And it might look even weirder to turn up to school sporting a pair of yellow marigolds.
In my early twenties, I made the decision to get two large tattoos on my feet. In my eyes, both are pieces of art. I enjoy having them and I appreciate the effort that the tattooists put in to create them for me.
Despite this, I choose to cover them with black tights, even in the blistering July heat. Partly because I need to in order to comply with my school’s dress policy, and partly because my tattooed feet clash horribly with a pencil skirt and heels.
But I sometimes choose to show off my tattoos in sandals on mufti day. This gives students the opportunity to see me as human, as someone who – perhaps surprisingly – has a life outside of the classroom.
Most of the time they don’t even bat an eyelid; and why would they, when tattoos are so commonplace nowadays?
But when they do ask questions, I am able to talk to them about the reasons behind my choices and the permanence of skin art.
Showing off my tattoos on these rare occasions also has the added benefit of subtly modelling to students how I am able to modify my appearance for different situations.
It’s 2019 and the old stereotypes about people with tattoos being thugs and hooligans fresh from the clink are long gone. It’s time to recognise that many of the students we teach will ultimately end up getting tattooed.
In fact, some of them may even complete art degrees or apprenticeships and go on to have very successful careers as tattooists themselves.
So whether it’s a spur of the moment holiday mistake or a well-thought out piece of art, and whether we choose to cover them or not, we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace our own tattoos and those of our colleagues.
Laura Tsabet is lead practitioner of teaching and learning at a school in Bournemouth