Torie Anderson doesn’t think she looks like a teacher.
Over the years, as she’s taught English in district and charter schools in and around Detroit, she’s gotten pushback from administrators who wanted her to dress more conservatively, or to cover her tattoos.
But now, Anderson said, “I realize that the way I look has no impact on my effectiveness as a teacher.”
Anderson was one of four educators who told their stories on stage at the Lyft Lounge at Musictown Detroit as part of the Tale the Teacher storytelling event last month. Chalkbeat, which co-sponsored the event, has been publishing videos of the storytellers.
So far, we’ve published the video of one teacher who views teaching as a way to bring about social change.
Another teacher talked of using rap to excite his students about science.
Anderson recalled a story from her first job out of college when, working in a charter school, a principal scolded her for wearing shorts that revealed too much leg at a school football game.
“I cried the entire way home,” she said.
“I remember being told that I was a unicorn in a profession full of elephants,” she said. “I was told that I needed to find a way to be an elephant/unicorn hybrid, as if such a thing could even possibly exist.”
The elephant and unicorn figurines she bought after that incident have followed her through four schools to her current job at Detroit’s Davis Aerospace Technical High School. Both are still sitting on her desk, she said.
But now, she plans to get rid of the elephant “because I’m a f—ing unicorn and I’m no longer trying to fit into anyone’s idea of what a teacher should look like.”
Watch Anderson’s story below but note that it contains strong language.