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.