Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF)

News & Views

A Hair-raising Brush with Conformity

A Hair-Raising Brush with Conformity

D34-ILSC President Mark Dallas recalls the moment he saw what the Union could do for his do

The first thing I recall that made me realise the importance being in the union was one I suspect is not usual for many members, but all the same an example of the protection of basic human rights.

I had been a (non-participatory) member of OSSTF for around 3 years when I started to experiment with chemical substances. By that I mean the kind you use to colour your hair! Call it a sort of pre-mid-life crisis if you will, but I figured I could get away with sporting a blond-and-brown mohawk, and yes, I rocked it.

Students were either nonplussed or vocally approving. My profile was raised and I was easily identifiable as 'the teacher with the punk hair'. It garnered all the right kind of attention. However, at least one of my employers was not of the same mindset.

My supervisor called me into his office to discuss my new do. I could tell from his demeanor that the proposal he was about to make was not his own and that he would probably prefer to be doing something more important, like running a school. I was about to go on a short vacation, and he asked me to see "what [I] could do about the hair" by the time I returned to work.

I couldn't say I was that surprised, but I knew him to be a better person than to believe that my barnet would affect my ability to teach or the students' ability to learn.

At that point, I could've just gone on vacation, checked my vanity and had a crew cut before going back to the classroom. Instead, I decided to take my boss's advice and see what I could do. At that point, I remembered I was in a union.

I explained the situation to my Vice President, and she told me she’d make some inquiries. A couple days later, she got back to me. “It’s OK," she grinned, "You don’t have to do a thing.”

Relieved that I didn’t have to shell out for a pedestrian buzzcut, I had a great vacation.

Since then, my hair has been sculpted into several 'rebellious' styles and dyed in many countercultural colours.

Although I have finally(?) opted to allow my executive-style natural salt-and-pepper to come through, should I be once again overcome with a desire to let my pilar freak flag fly, it's comforting to know I'm a member of a union that protects such tonsorial rights.