Physical Attributes =/= Level of Professionalism

I’ve been dyeing my hair for as long as I can remember. I’ve loved having the ability to express myself and my creativity through hair dye. I am constantly hearing how unprofessional it is that I have unnatural hair colors. I also express myself through my three (and counting) tattoos--sorry dad. Although they are in spots on my body that are not often visible in everyday clothing, I still see many of my peers get ridiculed and rejected in the professional world due to visible tattoos. My professionalism is not confined or defined by what I look like. I am 5’1, 110 pounds, and often mistaken for a child, but that doesn’t determine my professional life; so why should my hair color or tattoos?

Having hot pink hair and tattoos does not impair my ability to accomplish any task I am given. My unnatural hair color and the tattoos I have chosen are all important to me. They are what makes me unique. I love these features about myself. I decided to be 100% me in my most genuine, honest, and wanted form. I’ve always been the type of person who is unapologetically myself. I refuse to change that for those who choose not to accept that about me. I happen to be a very professional human. My physical attributes exist completely separate from my professional life. 

When I was a senior in high school, I was lucky to have a Teacher’s Assistant internship role for class credit in a seventh grade science classroom. My hair was technically dyed at the time, but it was still natural-looking and there was an absence of tattoos on my body. I was 17 and had no background in educating as a professional. Yet, I created bonds with many of the students and was able to successfully be an influential mentor in their life. Now, I’m 20 years old with two years of going to school for education with bright pink hair seen a mile away and three tattoos. Being told that those attributes will weaken my ability to be a professional educator broke my heart. I am a better educator than I was two years ago. I am still able to build connections with students, read aloud, and educate with ink on my body and wild hair colors.

Future generations should be inspired to express themselves however they see fit. By telling me that I have to have blonde or brunette hair and cover up my tattoos to be seen as someone who is capable of working, we are telling the younger generations that they must conform to other people’s ideas of what is acceptable. My overall goal as an educator is to allow young kids to unapologetically be who they are in their most genuine form.