With almost every inch of his body tattooed over the course of eight years including his eyes and his tongue, Sylvain Helaine looks closer to a story-book villain than a typical educator.
However the 35-year-old said he had been able to maintain a good relationship with pupils and parents – once they had overcome their initial shock at his appearance – before a complaint was lodged on behalf of a three-year-old child who was not part of his class.
The child’s parent, who complained to educational authorities, alleged the three-year-old had experienced nightmares after seeing Mr Helaine.
Formerly a kindergarten teacher at Docteur Morere Elementary School in Palaiseau, a Parisian suburb, Mr Silvain was told by officials two months later that he could only teach children aged six and over.
“I think the decision they took was quite sad,” Mr Helaine said.
A spokesman for the local education authority said an agreement was reached with Mr Helaine to move him away from teaching kindergarten – with a spokesman saying pupils under six “could be frightened by his appearance”.
Mr Helaine, who estimates he has spent 460 hours under the needle, said he had experienced little issue with those in his class prior to the complaint.
“All of my students and their parents were always cool with me because basically they knew me,” he said. “It’s only when people see me from far away that they can assume the worst.”
He began his body modifications at the age of 27 while teaching at a private school in London – with the etchings gradually covering the entirety of his body and face.
However he has not intention of changing his profession despite his recent setback
“I’m a primary school teacher … I love my job” he said, noting that he hoped exposure to his tattoos would teach his pupils to accept those who were outside of the norm.
“Maybe when they are adults they will be less racist and less homophobic and more open-minded,” he added.
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