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Be the Change: End Stereotypes



Joined: 6/4/2015
Posts: 1
TheImpossibleGirl

On a brisk New England day, I appear at first glance to be a typical teacher, an average mom, aunt, sister and wife. There is nothing initially distinguishable about me. I look like an ordinary thirty-something mom running errands with her sticky toddler; most people don’t give me a second look. Whether I am at the bank, doctor’s office, pharmacy, or P.T.O meeting I am treated as expected, with polite respect and it is always reciprocated.

On a humid New England day (if you know NE this could very well be the next day), pull a layer off and you may be shocked to see my immense collection of tattoos. I am no longer a typical teacher, or average thirty-something mom. When I am at the bank, doctor’s office, pharmacy, or P.T.O meeting I am no longer treated with polite respect. Even in (almost 2016) heavily tattooed women are still less accepted than men are. I have experienced this first hand. I am now treated as though I am uneducated, unemployed, and classless. Imagine just one long-sleeved shirt having that much power over how the whole of society treats you.

I have over 20 tattoos; however, I am not in a motorcycle gang, rock band, or cult. I am not a thug, rebel or hipster. I am educated and employed (10 years teaching 8th grade English). My inked skin is only a surface layer, a visual reminder of my struggles and strength. We should not be judged based on just one of our many layers when we have so many more that make us whole. I try to instill this in my daughter whenever the opportunity presents itself. My hope is that not only will she accept others wholeheartedly, but herself as well.

I believe this lesson is also important for my students. The first day of school starts with stereotypes. We start with tattoo stereotypes (for obvious reasons). Some students are relieved to find out that I am not a biker gang member, rock star hipster rebel, while many are a bit disappointed. Common stereotypes are then discussed: jocks, nerds, and cheerleaders are commonly mentioned. A discussion about where these stereotypes originated and how and why they are perpetuated usually follows. Students make connections with which stereotypes they may have been labeled with and we create a “What I REALLY AM” board to extinguish fixed beliefs in our culture.

By shedding my layers I hope this new generation will be one of acceptance without judgment. They are growing up in in a culture where EVERYONE is judged on appearance: celebrities, politicians, royalty, and musicians. My hope is my students won’t pass judgment based on stereotypes alone when meeting someone different from them. Hopefully their short nine months of classroom experience and education will be enough time to remember the many layers of humanity, even if your English teacher isn’t the biker, rock star hipster rebel you wanted.

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Comment by thiegsr


Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire StageofLife.com editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Dec 2015 / Jan 2016 Be the Change essay being selected as our first place adult essay!

We will be contacting you via your registration email for prize details.

You can check this page after March 20th for all the writing contest results::
http://www.stageoflife.com/Writing_Contests/WritingContestWinners.aspx

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Sincerely,
Rebecca Thiegs
StageofLife.com Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2016 6:57:19 PM
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