I got this shirt in 2008 as part of a set of voting-themed clothing, and it is still dope as F*ck!
Shirt: "I, too, Sing America" t-shirt by Ragamuffin Clothing (company has since closed but still love the shirt) || Earrings: Large Adinkra Sankofa earrings by
I, too, sing America
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes.
But I laugh.
And eat well.
And grow strong.
Tomorrow, I'll be at the table.
When company comes, nobody'll dare say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen," then.
Besides, they'll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed.
I, too, am America
In an earlier blog post, I talked about the
I specifically discussed how I decided to be more authentic at work, in the classroom with my students. I was really tired of splitting my energy between presenting a professional image of a college professor (that was very much based on a socio-historical/cultural image of college professors as "old white men") and being myself. When I first started teaching at my current university, I was so worried that the students were judging me based on my youth, race, and gender that I developed a
about my teaching (despite this being my third university teaching job). I was afraid of my students viewing as "the unqualified, bad black female professor." So, I over-prepared and carefully chose my words when I spoke. And, if I misspelled or mispronounced something, I internally freaked out and then beat myself up about it after class. I hated going to work. I was miserable, severely anxious, and deeply depressed. This way of being was not healthy and limited my capacity to put forth my best work.
Though things got better as I got used to teaching at this university, I still had a bit of anxiety about my teaching. This all changed this semester; I decided that I was going to stop "playing professor" and just be myself all the time---smart, young, loud, opinionated, quirky, emotional, a bit fearless, and #veryblack. I wore my "
," and "
" sweatshirts, and
, with my dress pants, skirts, and shoes. I didn't back down from talking about racism, sexism, homophobia, police brutality, islamophobia, xenophobia, and other social ills happening on campus and across this country. I let go of my insecurities and "kept it 100" (as one of my students said). I stopped worrying about their evaluations of me. I talked to my students the way I talk to everyone else in my life. I challenged my students and myself to be honest, open, and authentic inside and outside the classroom. I admitted when I was wrong or didn't know something. I laughed at my spelling mistakes and brain farts. I allowed my passion for teaching take up 100% of my energy and focus while I was in the classroom.
After doing all of these things, I can honestly say I no longer feel anxious. Instead, I am now happy at work. And, I am getting the respect and praise that I wanted, needed, and deserved.
Here are the responses I received (in the form of notes from some of my students and a special message from the Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs) after I decided to "be authentic" at work:
Professor Tavernier, I thank you so much for all the work you have done and all the care you have taken for your class this semester. You can see what a difference you are making. How lucky we are to have you teaching with us.
To all of you, thank you for all you do.
Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs
thank you for teaching this semester and making my brain work.
Hope you have an wonderful christmas break Dr. T.
It was a pleasure having you as a professor, hope to see You again soon.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Professor, I would just like to thank you for an incredible semester! I learned a lot and I hope we can stay in touch. Have a good break and happy holidays!
I really enjoyed our class this semester and I hope that you have a great break.
Thank you for a great semester!
Hope to see you soon,
i wanted to thank you for an amazing semester and experience have a happy holiday and wish the best for you in the future.
I had a wonderful semester. I will easily try to take another one of your classes. i hope you had a great holiday, and Happy new year!
Thank you for being such a great influence on me this semester. You have taught me more life lessons than probably anyone. I appreciate you so much and am truly going to miss you. I am going to visit you next semester so please send me your office hours! Have a fabulous winter break and a very Merry Christmas! Don't forget about me! <3
Thank you for a great class. You really opened my eyes to alot of things and I learned alot as well.
Keep keepin it real
Thank you for teaching our class. I truly enjoyed it. Have a good break!!
Thank you for a great semester!
It was a pleasure being in your class.
Thank you for a fun and interesting class. I feel it really helped me learn a lot about things that are super important to me.
I hope you have a great break and thank you for being a great teacher. I look forward to taking another class with you in the future!
I just wanted to say thank you for this semester. You were one of the best teachers I've ever had and I am looking forward to being in your class (white collar crime) in the spring semester.
Enjoy the holidays,
Hello Professor Tavernier,
I Just wanted to say Thank you for all your help and support during the class it was greatly appreciated and I learned a lot and I definitely keep in touch! Have a great break
I really enjoyed your class.You made it fun and a real learning experience.I wish the best to you and your family for a happy and joyfull holiday.
Had the great pleasure of meeting Monica after her Code Red Experience Tour in NYC. I told her I was a long time fan and traveled to NYC from Boston on Sunday to see her, despite having to teach an early morning class the next day. She graciously offered to record a special message for them.
Monica and Toya T. Bucket List Moment. December 13, 2015
Me and My Students. Sociology. Social Inequality Class. December 14, 2015
Me and My Students. Criminology. Social Deviance Class. December 15, 2015
Most of my family and close friends know that I am a cryer. I cry at the movies, graduations, baby showers, funerals, weddings, family functions, and the election of the First black President of the United States. I am not an overly sensitive or emotional person. I don't cry if I bang my knee or cut my hand. I don't cry, if someone insults me or hurts my feelings (unless they are one of my parents or closest friends). I don't take any pleasure in crying in public or in private. I don't cry to get attention. Being known as the one that cries is extremely embarrassing. But, for as long as I can remember, I have always had a hard time holding back tears when I see others cry, in person and in movies/tv. I was the kid that cried when Little Foot's mother died in The Land Before Time or when Kevin saw his mother at the door on Christmas morning, after praying for her and his family to return. I cry when I see others cry and/or when I see others suffering and in pain.
From kindergarten, I became accustomed to the hot feeling behind my eyes when tears start to form. The feeling is as natural to me now as the feeling of stomach grumblings when I am hungry. As much children do, I learned that being seen as a cryer is not a good thing. The kids that cried when they bump their knee or was teased were seen as weak. They were the wimps and the crybabies. And I was too strong willed to labeled as one of those kids. So, I learned how to hold back my tears. I take deep breaths and start thinking about silly or mundane things to move my mind and my feelings away from the emotional or tense matter in front of me. I drink water. When those things don't work, I have learned how to mask my crying by acting as if something is in my eyes or as if my allergies are acting up. When I got to college and started taking course for my Psychology major, I realized that I was empathetic. Not to be confused with sympathy (because I do not shed one tear when a homeless person holds a sign stating their misfortunes), empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. Add on the fact that I am a thinker and habitual dweller, my empathetic heart goes into overload when I see someone in pain.
So, when one of my students started to tear up and eventually cry in my 8:30am Social Deviance class, during a discussion of labeling theory and mental illness, I felt that familiar burning feeling behind my eyes. But, instead of pretending my allergies were acting up, I let my tears fall and assured this student and the several other students,who bravely discussed their experiences with anxiety, depression, and mental illness, that I understood what they were feeling. It took me a few minutes to get my tears to stop falling. I engaged my "stop crying" techniques: wiped my eyes, drank water, and took a couple of moments to redirect my thoughts away from the stories my students shared and back to my lecture.
I never had an experience like that before in one of my classes. Crying in front of my students was never on my list of things to do in my life. But after it happened, I felt like God was giving me a wink telling me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and I was given an empathetic heart to better help my students both inside and outside the classroom. Depression and anxiety is a real problem on college campuses that often gets brushed under the rug as exam-related temporary occurrences. But the truth is, there are more than 1000 suicide deaths on college campuses per year.* Since the 1950s, suicide has been the second leading cause of death for college students.**
I really care about both the well-being and the intellectual growth of my students. Thus, if crying in front of my class showed them that they could take me about any issues that they are dealing with, and prevent them from letting their issues turn into severe depression, anxiety, or suicide, then I am okay with being known as the person who now also cries during class lectures.
*inforetrieved from http://www.emorycaresforyou.emory.edu/resources/suicidestatistics.html
**info retrieved from http://www.nndc.org/perspectives-on-college-student-suicide/