Should Lecturers Have Tattoos?
Tattoos are as old as the hills yet they can divide people into lovers and haters. You might have a tattoo. Good for you, that's your choice and it’s your body. But if you are in a public-facing profession should tattoos be allowed?
Tattoos are everywhere. Around 1 in 5 adults in the UK has invested in some body art and for young adults this is about 1 in 3. But tattoos aren't popular with everyone.
Some say that tattoos are ugly and sound out the wrong message to children. Tattoos on the face are unlikely to present a professional image so should this be a bar to becoming a teacher? Tattoo wearers will lash out and say they are an expression of 'self' and a crucial part of their identity. We are all entitled to a private life and what we choose to wear on our bodies doesn't interfere with us being a good teacher. Does it?
Pen and ink
Lots of lecturers and teachers have tattoos. Some of these are visible and others are hidden away. The tattoos that can't be seen don't cause any bother but those that can be seen stir up plenty of emotion.
I worked with a teacher who was a real football nut. He loved 'his team' so much he decided to use his body as a canvas for all things Chelsea FC and go all tribal. His arms were covered and he always rolled his sleeves up to show his lifetime membership. He was proud of his 'tats' and it didn't interfere with his teaching.
Students seemed to be torn. There were some who couldn't care less and some who cared a great deal, mostly those in the Gunners, Spurs and Hammers camps. Staff were just as divided. Some rolled their eyes and felt it was "inappropriate" and "tacky" whereas others said it represented "difference and diversity" and part of a healthy culture education programme.
Parents can be split either way as well with those saying that teachers are professionals and role models and carry a social responsibility. And then there are those who say "as long they are good at their jobs, what does it matter?"
Perhaps not making a fuss about tattoos helps combat prejudice. Schools with an accepting, positive attitude toward tattoos helps normalise them. The last thing we want is tattoo discrimination and racism surely? They might also open up topics of conversation around important topics.
The issue seems to be not whether is it okay for teachers to have tattoos but whether they are visible and what the body art communicates. A butterfly and a couple of love hearts seems to be fine but 'controversial' tattoos can cause bother.
Do teachers need clear guidance on their appearance so that they present a professional image while also being allowed some self-expression?
Sometimes tattoos can be easily misinterpreted and they might cause offence and so worldviews might collide. But sometimes tattoos are a bit 'in your face' and part of someone's "regrettable past" and are "mistakes". A few footballers are quite good at this and make themselves sitting ducks for ridicule. No one would expect a teacher be allowed to display his support for fascism on his biceps and then teach PSHE.
Having a tattoo is a personal choice but there are consequences especially if they are political, religious or sexual. This is where it can get tricky for teachers and yes, that's when they can set a bad example.
None of your business
There are tattoos that are funny and cute and can easily be accepted into most people's world views. But then there's some ink that can cause a real stink. For those teachers who say "it's none of your business" then they are wrong. It's precisely a school's business. Where a tattoo is out of order then senior leaders have to step in to address an image that is going to provoke upset or outrage.
In a school environment, visible tattoos are deemed unacceptable if they could reasonably be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive and/or indicate attitudes or views which are inconsistent with the agreed code of practice for schools and teachers' standards.
Tattoos that are rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating are not acceptable, visible or not.
You won't find many teachers with educational tattoos printed on their bodies but there are the odd one or two. Perhaps some school policies even welcome tattoos but only if they help with spelling or maths in some way.
Tattoos might not always be welcome… do you give a damn what body art someone is plastered in if they can fill a gap in a shortage subject?
Are you a teacher with a tattoo? Or do you have a view? Comment here.