I am working for a degree in Teacher Education, actually pre-k through 3rd grade. I have always been interested in getting a small tattoo and was afraid I would not be as eligible for a job in a school. Do you or anyone you know have experience with this? This can be open to any professions, not just Teacher Education.


Tags: offensive, tattoos, teacher, workplace

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As young teachers/student teachers, I assume they will be more likely to examine our appearance as a factor in determining our maturity or readiness as teachers. Sadly, many experienced teachers I know have told me that as new teachers starting out the respect they earned by faculty and students was based on their professional appearance. 


Dear Shannon,

Before you get that small cute tattoo, take a trip to some shopping malls or big discount stores.

Casually examine those 20 year old tattoos on those middle aged shoppers. That is what you are getting.

It may be cute and sheik in the first few years, but it is merely a fuzzy colored blob at middle age.


Now, what does a tattoo say about you? The only people that will honestly admire it will also have tattoos.

A tattoo does not give a positive impression.


Dear Justine,

Yes they are an art form, and Yes! It is very judgemental of me. I agree 100%.

But a Tattoo never gives a positive impression, in the workplace or in the street.

Getting a tattoo is an exercise in bad judgement.

When I was in the Navy, I saw many tattoos...A friend of mine had his forearms fully filled with colorful snakes wrapped around from the elbows to the wrists. They looked great on a sailor...and if he remained in the Navy, it would be perfectly acceptable. But, lets say he left the service and applied for a job as a teacher. He is interviewed and he's wearing short sleeves. Do you think he is going to be hired??

Your appearence matters..."Plain and Simple".

A Tattoo may mean something to the person wearing it, but it means something entirely different to the person viewing it.



The school district that I used to work for had a policy about tattoos. Basically, teachers could have them, but the tattoo had to be covered and not visible during any student or parent contact.


The issue was student gang activity, and complaints that if students must cover their tattoos; teachers should be required to conform to the same standard.


Besides proving yourself as a professional to campus staff and campus administrators, consider what parents would think of a Newbie teacher with a visible tattoo. If parents fail to respect you, it is a steeper climb to earn students' respect.


And consider where the tattoo might be located on your body. With field days, staff picnics, faculty basketball or volleyball games, Walk-a-thons, etc.; you could look odd in long pants or high athletic stockings. And, I can imagine that turtle neck sweaters could get mighty hot at some times of the year. Teaching all day with one Michael-Jackson-like glove might also create a stir.


Good luck with your decision.


As you can read, most people would advise against it.  It is PC to say that we would not be judge on our appearance alone.  However in the real world, our appearance is what people first see.  We are all guilty of it so I to would advise against it until, at the very least, people know who you are. Also be ready to accept any consequences, good or bad, that come of with getting a tattoo.  


I am a middle school math teacher and I have a tattoo of an infinity sign on my back shoulder. It is never visible in class but since I work in the same community in which I teach, many of the students and parents have seen it at the pool during the summer. It has not been a problem for me. I know several teachers, including newly hired teachers, who have tatoos but they are not visible while they are teaching.


So to answer your question, yes I think you would be eligible for a job, especially if it is not visible in class. I think the underlying question is that could it possibly stop you from getting a job. I think the answer to that is yes as well. Depending on the community you are trying to work in and who is doing the hiring, it may tip the decision to hire against you or it may not be an issue.


The main thing to keep in mind is that as teachers, we are educating other peoples children and therefore our decisions are always going to be under scrutiny. This is why we have to be extra careful about what we post online, what we are seen buying at the grocery store etc. Because of this, I would recommend that if you choose to get the tattoo, make sure it's not somewhere that the students can bring it up in class or that it becomes dinner time conversation at the student's home that night. 

As educators we need to keep in mind how impressionable kids can be.  Your students will be influenced in many ways by the personal choices you make.  I would suggest that you try to keep your tatoo out of sight.  

I have several tattoos and tattoos that show. My district does not have a policy against it, but an adjacent district does. I teach 7th and 8th graders and although it is important about how impressionable I am on them, it is also important for them to be individual and to learn how to make good choices. If a student says something about a tattoo, I sort of brush it off, but is they are persistent, I explain that the law says they are not allowed to get a tattoo until they are 18 and that they should discuss their preferences with their parents/guardians as well as research possible side effects and such. Once that in said in one class, I never hear a peep about it from other students in that class.


All of my tattoos are in places that can be easily hidden, except for one. I highly recommend that if you do get one, you select a location that can be easily hidden, in case you decide to change professions in the future.

I have a sizable yin-yang tattoo on my left shoulder blade--no one sees it unless I deliberately show it. I got it someplace relatively hidden and in a place where I won't stretch too much as I age.  It's still in good shape after 13 years.  The only sort-of problem I had with it was the summer after I got it a friend got married and the straps on the dress came to the center of the back, showing the tattoo.  I got some Clinique masking makeup and no one knew it was there and I did not cause a scene in the photos.  Avoid any place that you can't hide or that is subject to shape changing (for example, getting pregnant could wreak havoc with lots of areas).

As in everything else as a teacher--discretion is your friend.

As others have said, get one that is easily concealable. The metric I generally use is t-shirt (or tank top, which ever is the smaller item you tend to wear) coverage. If a t-shirt hides it its all good.


I have my upper arms, up to the tops of my shoulders, done. Most people have no idea. About once a year a piece will poke out from under a golf shirt but all in all it's no big deal.


Let the quality of work define your reputation. If after you have established yourself as a quality professional, a visible tattoo wont make a difference.

I echo the comments.  If you get one, put it somewhere you can conceal it. 
Go ahead and rock that tattoo!  I have two very small tattoos that don't show during the school day. As long as it is easily covered, you shouldn't be afraid to be yourself and decorate your body with a little artistic ink.



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