Le Prof Francaise

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 13 2011

Calling all Pierced and/or tattooed Corps Members…

I’m interrupting your regularly scheduled postings relating to Induction/Institute to solicit some comments from current corps members and alums  that relate to expressing yourself in the workplace.  I have small, not very noticeable tattoos (back of neck & inner wrist), as well as a few piercings (three in one ear & four in the other, and a very very tiny nose stud).  Anyway, I’m wondering what you’ve had to deal with in terms of removing piercing(s), having to cover up a tattoo, etc.  I know it depends on the region as well as the individual school.  For example, back in Detroit (my hometown as well as my placement area), it has been my experience that most schools don’t seem to allow much individuality with their teachers’ style of dress or body modification.   However, in nearby Ann Arbor, MI (where I went to college) and in Seattle (where I live now) it’s not uncommon to see a teacher proudly display their body art.  I’m hoping that my school allows people to be themselves (within reason, of course.  It’s not like I would ever expect things like miniskirts, assless chaps, or spandex to be allowed).  I actually dress pretty conservatively, in and out of the workplace.

My piercings/tattoos are so small that they aren’t a distraction anyway; most people don’t even notice them.  I also wear a silver ring on almost every finger; though this is not body modification it may not be acceptable at my school. I’ll be very annoyed if I have to remove my stuff, but I’ll deal with it.  After all, it’s not about me.  It’s about the kiddos.  I’m just saying that I can work just as hard to close the Achievement Gap with my nose stud as I can without it.  Having a body without holes or ink has nothing to do with whether or not you will be an effective teacher and impact your students.

For anyone who has any experiences to share, please do so in the Comments section.  Thank you, and please excuse the lack of cohesion in this post.  I’m typing exactly what I am thinking and I’m not really bothering to edit it so it will flow better or make more sense.

9 Responses

  1. Hey! Glad you are joining the corps! I wish you the best of luck with everything. You are going to love teaching so much you will forget about whatever you can’t do. You’re right– it will totally depend on the school. I will say, though, that you can probably get away with a small stud in your nose. As far as professionalism, the truth is you will be taken more seriously, in general, by your peers if you cover your tattoos. But it’s your choice how you want to express yourself. You won’t know until you meet your boss and coworkers what the culture of your school will be like. I have had to “change” a lot of things about myself, but they haven’t really felt like changes. There’s work me, and there’s non-work me. I’ve never felt like I’m being fake, or forced to lie about who I am. But yeah, bottom line, I can’t wear flip flops every day, even though that’s how I would like to express myself. I also can’t wear heels every day, even though that’s how I’ve gotten used to expressing myself professionally. I have to wear hideous, comfortable, grandma shoes. But now I just own it, it’s become a part of me, and it makes flip-flop time when I’m not at work so much more special. Hope you can embrace the new “teacher you”, whatever that may look like!

  2. always an adventure

    I don’t have a whole lot of information, but this issue has been on my mind, as well! What I have observed in my own experience is that at open house in Baltimore I saw some TFA staffers with nose piercings. I really think it is going to depend on the school and area, but like you, I would like a more solid and first hand accounts. Also, for me, when I interviewed at my school most of the female teachers style’s were pretty eclectic. Baltimore seems to be a pretty open minded area. Anyway, I hope there are people out their who can gives us the low-down, or maybe just support the pierced and tattooed corps members!

  3. Renee

    I am a current administrator and have a small tattoo of an atom (I used to teach chemistry) behind my right ear. It’s noticeable when I want it to be (hair back) and not when I want it hidden (hair down). I get comments mostly from students, adults don’t (outwardly) care as they know I work my butt off for the school day in and day out.

    My advice, try and look as ‘conservative’ as possible for the interview. Once you’ve gotten a job and can feel out the lay of the land you will be employed at, you can decide how much to show at that stage. I’ve found most schools don’t care, I would just get yourself in the door first.

  4. thelearningcurve

    One of my friends in my corps has been able to keep her eyebrow piercing in, while another has kept in her nose ring (ring, not stud). But the summer schools we’re teaching at are much more lax than our actual placement schools seem to be. My friend with the nose ring will likely be able to keep hers, my friend with the eyebrow ring will have to remove hers… etc. It depends on where you work, like you said. The school I work at is super conservative, so I’m thankful that none of my tattoos are visible, because I don’t think someone with more visible body art would’ve been hired there. If it’s really a big deal, your TFA contacts will tell you before hand, i.e. “Before you interview with these guys, take your nose ring out.” Or something along those lines.

  5. Michelle

    I have a teeny nose stud, but I got it my third year teaching, so my school colleagues had already gotten to know me and knew what a hard worker I was. My SO took out his earrings for his first year of being principal while his school community was getting to know him.

    I think the safe/conservative thing to do until you truly get a sense of your school is to take things out and/or cover to start because once anyone sees your nose ring or tattoos, you can’t take it back. There are probably going to be enough battles that this doesn’t need to be one?

  6. parus

    My school had a strict dress code, so I had to go thoroughly vanilla my whole time there. Biz cas every day, too. But it did seem that women were able to get away with a little more than men, and super manly men were able to get away with a little more than other men.

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