In case you haven’t noticed, I like to
break bend the rules. Upon presenting my first tattoo to my mom, she cried, “Who will ever hire you?!” and I replied, “If someone doesn’t want to hire me over an Elvis tattoo, I don’t want to work for them.” (Of course, I also live in Portland, Oregon, where half the population has visible tattoos.)
While I pretty much forget that I even have tattoos (until someone points them out), I’ve always secretly thought that getting a tattoo with a former student would be a nice middle finger to the institution of learning that I represent.
No, I’m not saying school or teachers are bad, but there often seems to be a biased expectation of what a “good” teacher looks like, sounds like, and acts like. Case in point, I googled, “good teacher” and every picture looks like a version of her:
Ugh. Barf. (I won’t even go into the ageist/sexist/racist rant that a “good” teacher is universally accepted as a young, white woman).
But what former student to actually get a tattoo with me? I had no plan. While I keep in contact with several of my former (now adult) students, it’s still kind of weird to be like, “Hey, come hang out with your teacher who is almost twice your age and get a lifelong memory stamped on your body.” Errrrmmmm…weird.
Over the summer, my former student, Camerean, and I started messaging about getting tattoos if he rolled into town (he even drew up a possible sketch). We made no specific plans, but when he said he was going to be in town for the Thanksgiving weekend – we shot the idea around once more.
Anyone who taught with me ten years ago remembers Camerean. He went through our school (and my classroom) like a tornado. His artistic, social, and entrepreneurial spirit moved at a frenetic pace that often got him kicked out of class. Let’s be real: school systems are pretty much set up for the obedient, polite children – not the Basquiats or Van Goghs, who are driven by a deeply creative DNA. Many said he would never make it, and when he dropped out in 8th grade, they felt it was proof.
But hey! Today he’s a master pizza chef, practicing artist, and animal enthusiast living in Seattle – with grand plans to open his own fleet of pizza trucks.
For those that don’t have tattoos, the process to get a decent tattoo in town is to make an appointment well ahead of time (we’re talking 4-6 months), drop a hefty cash deposit, and have a “consult” with the tattoo artist. You can also walk in to a shop, but it’s first-come, first-served and you are basically relegated to picking flash off the wall. As we had obviously not made plans ahead of time, we met for a couple beers and then walked into a nearby shop that happened to have a last minute cancellation.
We picked something off the wall, hopped into the chair, and went to it.
Three hours later, Camerean and I had tattoos.
We joked a lot about how weird it probably sounds that a 21 year-old guy and his 37 year-old teacher were hanging out and getting tattoos together, but neither of us do things the way everyone else does them – which is why we get along.
Since we didn’t get to choose his original sketch, I also have a feeling this isn’t our last tattoo experience.
Shoutout to Skot at Sea Tramp on SE Stark, the oldest tattoo shop in Portland.