Month: February 2014

Fresh Canvas, Clean Slate

My body matches my research – clean surface, no markings, a canvas ready to learn. Just as my skin is free of stencils and ink, my mind is like a fresh sketchbook: filled with blank pages that soon will be laced with information, insight, and a continued appreciation.

There are several realms and topics within tattoos that I could investigate. This post will sort through ideas that I have in regard to beginning my research. While I intend to organize my thoughts, I am treating this research blog much like I treat teaching: I state now that I am not in control of where my research takes me. Teaching has proven that any amount of planning can always get erased by an outside force–inclement weather, a last-minute assembly, or a brilliant comment made by a student that switches the gears of the entire lesson. Therefore, I am laying out my ideas, but always in the back of my mind is the thought, “This can always get thrown off, and that is okay.”

Behind Door Number One: On Thursday, February 20, 2014 I attended a local workshop in South Jersey with two other eighth grade teachers. The room was freezing, the folding chairs were like sitting on metal bleachers, and the presenters were as fascinating as watching slugs race. The workshop itself was geared towards middle and high school students and attempted to highlight the economic demand for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. Essentially, the workshop attempted to deter teachers from suggesting students enter fields such as psychology, philosophy, or any type of liberal arts field because they will not make money, and the need for workers is not present in those fields.

As an English teacher, I rolled my eyes. And yawned. And held my tongue as my field continued to get bashed. However, one topic the presenters addressed was tattoos in the workplace and, more specifically, during interviews. The presenters surmised that having a visible tattoo will eliminate any chance of getting hired because of the level of competition that those without tattoos bring to the table. One of the areas I am highly considering to research is tattoos in the workplace. In what fields is it acceptable to have a tattoo, and one that is visible? In what field is it frowned upon, and in what type of business is it not allowed? And why? What is it about tattoos that scares employers?

These questions lead me to Door Number Two: What images are socially acceptable? And, as such, in what locations on the body does society deem appropriate, and why? Where would a huge spider tattoo on the back of one’s calf measure up against a flower on the top right of the back? While there will be some who interpret each tattoo differently, it seems as though society has deemed certain people with certain images on certain locations as Untouchables. Why?

Door Number Three deals with athletes. I don’t have to have ESPN on longer than thirty seconds before a picture of an athlete comes up sporting a tattoo. In basketball especially (where more skin is exposed than football, baseball, or hockey), players run around the court with their forearms, necks, and legs coated in tattoos. Check out Chris Andersen, “Birdman,” and I rest my case. Why are there so many athletes with tattoos? And why is it acceptable for basketball players to run up and down the court covered in ink when it is not acceptable for business men and women?

Door Number Four attempts to analyze the motivation behind tattoos. What lies behind the need for something to permanently remain on the body? Why do some people memorialize family members while others hop into parlors giggling and saying, “I don’t really know what I want. Maybe a heart or a flower or something.”

As of now, these are the areas that I will most likely focus. Of course, a new idea could completely shift my attention. Bring on the colors. And the Birdman.

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Is that spelled E-A-G-E-R or E-A-G-R-E? A look into the world of tattoos.

The classic risqué mermaid that ribbons when the muscle is flexed. The unique Chinese symbol etched on the forearm. The “Mom” surrounded by angel’s wings. Tattoos are no secret. They are a performance. A gripping story that the bearer endures and shares.

Tattoos have always intrigued me. On other people, they are awesome. The intricate detail that speaks volumes. The colors and outlines that mesh into a background transpiring time. They tell a story. A history. On me? There’s more of a chance of the Boston Red Sox offering their star player to the New York Yankees free of charge.

TLC has adopted shows such as LA Ink and Miami Ink. Spike sports Ink Master. A&E’s Inked and Tattoo Highway have blared out among television screens across the country. There is a pressing need and desire of the American public to experience, if only from a distance, the volume of what it means to secure a tattoo. Therefore, there is obviously more to tattoos than the embarrassing “Amber” ex-girlfriend tattoo strategically placed on the forearm that mocks regretful ex-boyfriends.

While I have seen quite a few of the many tattoo shows on television, I have never researched this topic. Like Oz, there is a man hiding behind the curtain of tattoos about whom I want to learn. His tricks, his flashy shows, and his subsequent humbling appearance.

I intend to write a feature article about tattoos. Once I begin researching, I will narrow down the topic. As of now, some of my ideas include the motivation behind tattoos or tattoos in the educational field. As a teacher, I am eager to interview teachers who don tattoos and to ask them about their experiences as such. In my district, teachers are able to flaunt their tattoos; in others, tattoos must remain hidden under layers of clothing. I intend to interview teachers from different districts in both the public and private sector to gain their insight and experiences in the professional field.

A feature article, unlike a work of fiction, will allow for wit, sarcasm, and the boiled down truth about tattoos to take place that may otherwise be lost in a short story or work of poetry. I intend to keep the same voice in which I have written this entry. However, once I begin the researching process, I may find that I need to revamp my genre, and I am open to change and reformation. Tattoos are universal, as there are several tattoo magazines and television shows, and this topic will have an appeal for a larger readership.

This research topic lends itself to several different archives. I plan on interviewing people with tattoos, especially teachers and administrators. As such, there is a teacher in my district who shows off her double sleeves every day. A friend of hers, however, in another district, is not allowed to show any ink. I would love to interview both of them to gain their perspective on this issue as well as other educations in the field.

I also plan on going into a tattoo parlor or tattoo parlors to interview the shopkeeper and tattoo artists. With any luck, while I am there, I can speak with someone getting a tattoo. It is my hope that these interviews will propel me into other realms of discovery about tattoos. In addition, several tattoo magazines exist, and I plan on leafing through them to gather more knowledge about the world of tattoos. This is an open topic that will allow for me to engage in several types of research archives, and these magazines will offer several angles to pursue.

Researching tattoos will be no easy task. Never have I set foot into a tattoo parlor, and I imagine the experience might be something like that of a western—the out-of-towner walks through the saloon doors to find the bar music immediately stopping with heads turning to inspect the unfamiliar face. It will require me to speak to people with deep stories and heartache for each tattoo. While I will attempt to maintain the I-belong-here-face, I will respect the environment and continue to gain insight into an extraordinary atmosphere.

The following are publications that would consider such a work. To begin, Rethinking Schools is a magazine that circulates in all 50 states as well as Canada and internationally. The magazine promotes social justice in the educational field. While several articles are committed to issues of race, tattoos are an intricate part of the social field that would attract readers to the sense of belonging. In addition, Ink Fashion is a magazine that sports the latest trends in tattoos. Huffington Post is a publication that values articles on entertainment. What better place to establish an article about tattoos? The Huffington Post has published several articles highlighting tattoos in entertainment (such as an RIP Brian Griffin tattoo),  and my article would be a good fit with a new twist.

I am eager to come away with a new understanding from this experience. Researching about tattoos will challenge my thinking and allow me to enter a domain quite unfamiliar to myself.