Back – April 19, 2016

A-Sailor-Jerry-tattoo-design-of-two-sparrows-carrying-a-banner-that-reads-Live-Free

What symbol represents me?
Hello, I am back after taking a sick day yesterday. Other than catching up with the testing schedule, ELL reclassifications, and email, I spent much time today thinking about my philosophy of education. You see, I wanted to “brand” my Twitter and WordPress sites, so I wanted a similar design on both. This sounds like a simple task, but it is much more complicated than simply picking a picture and moving on. In fact, it has taken me nearly a week to decide on the design because it must identify me as well as convey my philosophy of education. So, I first had to decide what image represented me.

Who am I?
Don’t we live our lives trying to answer this complex question? What image fully conveys the depth of a unique human experience? Here is the thought process which led me to my choice of a swallow: My family has a tradition of swallow tattoos and, though I do not have such a design, I do consider it part of my family heritage. I could not be who I am without the individual experiences of my childhood in this particular family. Other than this obvious reason to choose the swallow, I had to consider the question of how this image represents me more deeply.

An “At-Risk” Girl
If you have been reading my blog regularly, you may have noticed that I struggle to be polished and sophisticated. I am more a product of my upbringing, a girl considered “at-risk” due to financial and family hardships, and someone many people probably wrote off as a lost cause. I was able to escape that hole by clawing, digging, and scratching my way out with a lot of help from public assistance, government programs, caring teachers, many loans, prayers, and family support. I make dumb mistakes, blurt out the first thing that comes to mind without any consideration of political maneuvering, tell the truth when someone asks about something, and put my makeup on in the parking lot so I don’t get stuck in traffic. No, I am rough around the edges and can be a bit controversial because I will accidentally ask people impolite questions when I think I am being charmingly inquisitive and showing interest in them. So, to me, a tattoo design represented this edgy, rebellious part of me that must make a concerted effort to try to fit in with the elite. (I still don’t know which one is the dinner fork.)

A Creative Choice
When I researched this particular design, its history gloriously confirmed my choice. A swallow is a nautical symbol, a design that some sailors in the beginning of the 20th century had tattooed on them when they were deployed. When they returned, they often got a second swallow to signify a safe return home. If they did not return, one legend claimed that a swallow would rescue them from the sea and carry them to heaven. I like this image of education as both a duty and an adventurous journey, and one where special blessings and protections are bestowed upon us. Even the romantic idea of returning home, whether at one’s place of residence or in heaven, holds a special sentiment.

To me, this tradition shows the immense creativity of the people at the time – the tattoo artists who use skin as their canvas, the sailors whose creative problem solving allowed them to return home, and the artists and poets who memorialize the lost by preserving their stories in the medium of paint and ink.

Teachers are Loyal.
Another reason I like the swallow is because it is loyal. Swallows are dedicated and persistent, like those who faithfully return to San Juan Capistrano every year. They also mate for life, unlike many animals who choose to fly alone. We are a community, forever knit together with our experiences with our students. We love them like our own children, and feel honored to be part of their lives. We are loyal and dedicated to our students and have committed to guiding them through their education, hopefully providing them with the skills and resources they need to fly freely. We remain connected to them even when they leave, as a tattoo fades but never disappears completely.

The Strength of Swallows
Swallows are also tough, and in various places around the world they might represent prowess in fighting or indicate a survivor, usually of domestic violence. We need to be tough as teachers to deal with stress, societal pressure, kids when they are being silly, parents who sometimes misdirect anger, and constantly shifting expectations and paradigms, among other things.

Free Birds
Finally, the freedom conveyed in the beautiful, colorful images of a swallow is unparalleled. Their wings take them wherever they choose to go, on whatever thermals lead them to where they are meant to be. Education is freedom. It provides the wings upon which children can soar in their lives.

I hope you enjoyed my story and how I came up with the swallow as my symbol. I don’t like the stuffy corporate connotation of the word “branding,” but if you think of it more like a tattoo, it becomes much cooler because you are expressing yourself, connecting your identity to a concrete image, and allowing others to experience your ideas as a consistent whole. Selecting a symbol helped me prioritize my beliefs and reflect on what I am pursuing every day.Perhaps you might consider “branding” yourself as well?

 

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