This article was originally going to be about a self help book. I was going to do what the self help book said and follow it for a while to see if it actually worked and how that could apply to high school students. Then, we discussed changing it to different forms of media (tv shows, books, TED talks, etc.) that had an influence on people that have already been through high school, like teachers, to see if they had anything to contribute to the high school experience. But, then I got to thinking, what about the teachers that found something so important to them, they decided to permanently mark it on their skin? I talked to JHS teachers with tattoos to get some insight that might help in the journey through high school.
“I think the more notable tattoos that students seem to recognize and talk about is the one behind my ear -it’s a semicolon- and the one on my collarbone, which you can typically see, and it is set up as the first half of an analogy, and it says ‘read; learn’ as in ‘to read is to learn,’” says Fouts.
“The one on my collarbone is just representative of life as an avid reader and is representative of what I teach and what I preach, if you will, as a literacy advocate,” says Fouts. “Because I think reading takes you places and opens up many doors and teaches you things.”
“The one behind my ear, the semicolon, many people think surface level that I’m an english teacher, it’s punctuation and that is probably why I got it,” says Fouts. “Yeah, that’s one reason you can use, but I had a close family member attempt suicide. Many times you’ll see semicolon tattoos on people’s wrists that have respect for people that have attempted but did not succeed. They’re still alive, their story could’ve ended, but it’s continuing like you see with the use of a semicolon. Because I’ve already got tattoos on my wrists, I decided to put that semicolon behind my ear… with it having such a personal meaning and history, I think that situation and the reason I got that is always in the background of my mind and I’m just so thankful that that family member is still with us-which is the representation of the tattoo.”
“I think it’s just a constant reminder, especially the one behind my ear, of what is precious and what is valuable, and that you keep your loved ones close. It’s just a daily reminder that you don’t take things for granted,” says Fouts.
“I have a tattoo on my wrist, it says shalom, which is Hebrew.”
“Shalom is commonly used as a greeting, I think that’s how most people picture it when they hear the word shalom,” says Taylor. “But, it really means a number of things, like peace, wellbeing, or completeness, like wholeness, and that’s part of the reason why I got it.”
“I think the concept of shalom in itself just reminds remembering to have inner peace, accept who you are in your entirety,” says Taylor. “For every piece of you that a person has, just welcome that all into your like and accept yourself as a complete package instead of trying to break down ‘I like this about myself’ or ‘I don’t like this about myself,’ just be at peace with it, accept the wholeness, and feel complete with that.”
“Looking back through many different cultures and many different civilizations, having something as important to permanently put on your body, was a way for certain cultures to celebrate certain things and make sure of the importance and the permanence of what they were doing,” says Connelly.
“For the longest time I never thought I had anything that was important enough to permanently put on my body,” says Connelly. “However, nearly four years ago now, my son Silas Reagan Connelly was born with serious heart defects, and so Silas was not with us very long. So soon after Silas’s death, he only lived about two days with us, I unfortunately had found something that was important enough to tattoo on my body. As a way to have a physical outward manifestation of the memory of my son, I got a small tattoo on my left wrist in a Celtic or Irish sort of font, in his initials. After a couple of years, Mrs. Connelly and I deciding that our family will forever be incomplete and we weren’t going to add anymore biological children to our family, I decided for our older son, Elliot, in celebration and honoring of him I got his initials, EBC, in the same font on my right wrist.”
“I think it’s just a way for me to have an outward physical manifestation of the memories that I carry of my two sons,” says Connelly.
“I have the word ‘agape’ tattooed on my, I don’t know what you’d call this, your elbow pit? My first year teaching I read a book by the author Rob Bell, he’s one of my favorite authors, and it talked a lot about unconditional love (agape) and that a lot of people should strive to achieve that, that we don’t understand that unconditional love truly means that no matter what, you love somebody and you live your life that way,” says Carruthers.
“I had a tough year the first year I was teaching, and I was coaching, and there was a lot of drama, so I got it because I wanted to be reminded visibly everyday why I was there to unconditionally love my students. A lot of them, especially the ones that were struggling, maybe didn’t have that at home. So, it’s just a visible reminder to love my students and everyone around me no matter what,” says Carruthers.
“Everyone’s having a hard time, so you’ve got to love them,” says Carruthers. “If somebody wrongs you, or if somebody seems weird, there could be a deeper meaning to that and they could need love more than anybody. I think most people love very conditionally, ‘I love you unless you do x, y, and z,’ or ‘I love you because of this,’ but to love somebody unconditionally, you have to be very intentional and constantly strive for that because it is very difficult.”
By Sydney Langley