There is nothing wrong with being different. What is normal? Please tell me that I am different as I don’t want to be like anyone else. Throughout my years of teaching, I have heard over and over from students how they aren’t popular or have few friends, because they are different. I‘ve had many classroom discussions pertaining to uniqueness and the importance of not allowing others to define you. I love talking to my students about their passions. I love learning what drives them. As I have these discussions with my students, I emphasize the importance of being who you are and not what others want you to be. I always wonder if students truly listen to what I am telling them. Do they have enough courage to be themselves? Or do they walk away thinking, “That crazy Mrs. Deacon doesn’t understand?” As they deal with peer pressures and trying to find themselves, I wonder if our discussions come back into their thoughts. How powerful are my words? What could I do to make them understand and believe in themselves? How could I help to remind them that uniqueness is wonderful? How, each day when they are in class, could I help them to remember our conversations? I thought, I need to show them. So, I had that idea inked permanently on my arm – yes, I got a tattoo. When the students walk in my classroom each day, they can see the picture of my tattoo, as a reminder that it is better than ok to be unique.
“You are unique, therefore you belong.” That is what you will find permanently inked on my arm. Everyone needs to hear this, in the form of a word or a compliment. They need to feel it, through a hug or a high-five, and they need to see it, perhaps even in my tattoo. My students are such an inspiration to me. As they grow into adults, I love learning about how they are impacting others’ lives and challenging their own abilities. Too many students throughout my years of teaching, struggle to find their places in this world; choosing a path in life that was different from what they truly wanted, or contemplated suicide, simply because they were “different.” But I am trying to let them know it is o.k. I’m different, be different, embrace it.
The symbols on my chalkboard tattoo are math symbols. I love math and it would be great for kids to love it too. And if they don’t, that is ok. I still want them to learn it and at the same time, encourage them to embrace what they do love and dare to be different. I can’t tell you how many times kids have said to me, “You tattooed math symbols on your arm?” My answer is yes. I am proud of my passion and I want to share it with the world. I want everyone to know that I find math beautiful even if they look at me strangely. It doesn’t matter to me what people think of my passion.
I have a second tattoo, inked on my shoulder, as a remembrance of my time working in the prison. This tattoo displays the symbol for infinity encircled by stars. One of my offender students once told me that he likes to look at the stars from his prison-cell window as it makes him feel as though he is part of the free world. The stars in the sky are a commonality for all of us. We can all see them, and we know they are there, even though we cannot reach out to touch them. His story stayed with me and I decided to make it a permanent part of me as well, reminding us that we are all part of something infinitely bigger than ourselves, no matter where we are in life.
“Be brave enough to make a change.”