Peace and Light by Chy'Na B. Nellon
I did not always want to be an educator. In fact, at one point, I was adamant I would not be. Then I met Dr. D. This magical black woman with locks down to her waist and a voice that was low and smooth with the rasp of jazz when she spoke. I loved coming to class. It was like entering another realm, one where the anxiety, frustration, and confusion of my blackness at a PWI (predominantly white institution) was met with understanding, discussion, and awakening. So I attempt to create the same magical environment when my students come to class. I definitely owe my teaching style to my mother, a theater and communications teaching veteran, but the reality that I could become a college professor and be my authentic self, I owe to Dr. Judy Dozier.
It is an amazing transition to see students go from being guarded coming in with their hoodies on, bad posture, refusing to engage in the discussion, and ignoring assignments to becoming excited to be in class. When my students come into class take a deep breath and begin to settle or chat amongst themselves and ask questions. I know they are relaxed and we have finally created an environment conducive to learning.
Though at an HBCU (historically black college or university) my students come with the same questions, the same frustrations in search of solutions without knowing quite what they are looking for. So we bring it out. My favorite achievement with any student is clear articulation. It is my belief that articulation; a clear conveyance of your thoughts in a manner that others can effectively understand and interpret is the most powerful tool I can offer them. So all of my courses are heavy on discussion. In the beginning, my students HATE IT, except for the few who love it (lol there are always a few). But over time, they become confident. They begin to make eye contact when making their arguments instead of looking up at the ceiling. They remember details to support and assert their opinion and last but not least, they know how to utilize their smart device for research! Ase. I love teaching. It is an amazing and powerful gift.
Chy’Na B. Nellon M.A., M.Ed
Faculty Philander Smith College 2018-Present
Chy’Na is an educator, consultant, and founder of Cultural Immersion Media LLC programming, consulting, and educational services.