Saturday 24 September 2011

Tattooed Teacher

This has been triggered by an article in the Grauniad on tattoos, linked to by @teachingofsci. He and I (along with several others on Twitter) are tattooed teachers. Mine are pretty visible. I have a Metasequoia glyptostroboides cone on my wrist, and I end up pushing up my sleeves all the time when teaching.

I have the Ardley narrow-gauge trackway on my foot, and if I wear cropped trousers with sandals in the summer, it is also out and proud.

The third is a Camarasaurus skull on my back, and frankly it takes a tequila shot and the students not being my students anymore before I'm prepared to show that off in person.

The comments have been predictable, and this one is typical:
Tattoos are not mainstream. Intelligent people, on the whole, do not have tattoos. The only people who can afford to have a visible tattoo are people who know they will never have a position of authority or mix with educated people. A tattoo condemns you to be a loser for life.
This is similar to the question raised on the Creative Education blog: "Can you be a good teacher with tattoos and piercings?". I hadn't realised that when the needle pushed ink into my dermis it displaced and removed some of my intelligence and teaching ability. In this day and age, with so many people being tattooed, do we still have to go through this whole "you-must-be-a-stupid-loser-if-you-have-tattoos" process?

Not only do I have tattoos, many of my students are tattooed too. It's a brilliant conversation tool. The Metasequoia is an opportunity to discuss Lazarus taxa and the fossil record. It's something they have in common with me. And they've been told, by the sort of self-righteous dicks who comment on Grauniad articles, that they stand no prospect of getting a job ever with visible tattoos, so seeing their teacher with one suggests to them that maybe they actually can.

I interviewed for my current job (twice as it turns out) with tattoos. I interviewed for another role at an arguably stricter institution (with respect to dress code and formality) with tattoos and was offered the job. It has never stood in my way. I would also point out that demonstrably I am intelligent, as evidenced by former Mensa membership, an upper-second from Cambridge and a masters degree. The whole idea that people with tattoos are idiots and that teachers with tattoos shouldn't be allowed near children needs to be shot down and buried under concrete. I have enough paranoia that I'm a crap teacher before being arbitrarily assigned to that taxon on account of my ink. We're a little bit more evolved as a society now, and it would be nice to celebrate diversity in all its forms.


  1. We have a number of Metasequoia trees on campus an around town, if you'd like me to grab a handful of cones to go with your tattoo. Regarding the social stigma associated with tats & piercings, it may be true with older generations, say 40 up. But it is certainly NOT true amongst younger people. I would guess most of the college students I know have at least one. In my early 50's, piercings still kind of give me the willies, but not in a judgmental way; it just looks painful, and I'm squeamish.

  2. I love the glyptostroboides tattoo! And I really like this: "I hadn't realised that when the needle pushed ink into my dermis it displaced and removed some of my intelligence and teaching ability." Well said.

  3. The camarasaurus skull is awesomely detailed

  4. Lockwood - a very kind offer, although I pick up a load around this time of year whenever I go to Kew or Wisley, along with Sequoia and Sequoiadendron, so do save them for your own collection!

    Anne - I remember you loving Metasequoia in St James' Park. :)

    Jay - my tattooist specialises in biomechanical monochrome designs, so I knew he would do a good job of a skull like that. The detail is phenomenal, and it's probably my favourite so far. He did the Metasequoia too, but the quality of image I supplied for that was not brilliant.


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