Wednesday, 31 October 2018

You can't take the Tarn...

I've been working at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) for a year now, while I feel settled in my role I feel somewhat less confident about my 'self' shall I say.  Much of this is down to how I feel I am perceived, especially from where I have come from Barnsley, South Yorkshire.  Whilst this may sound negative, this is a 'humble ramble' of reflection on interactions I have experienced.  That said, I am treated with respect by my peers and they are absolute stars and have been very supportive of me, even some are from Yorkshire and have reassured me.  However, I still get those vibes of "oh he's from Barnsley/Yorkhsire...".

Some of this may come down to my transition from FE to HE which I have talked about previously.  I still feel like I am that kid that has just moved up from primary school to secondary school.  Remember those memories?  I remember them clearly.  You know, it's like trying to fit in with others and establish myself to people and groups of people, proving your worth etc.  But do I have to really?  Can I just be myself?  Is that enough?

When I first started at NTU, I was extremely nervous of working at a university but then there was the anxiety of how I will fit in.  My accent has been a core worry as many frown upon it.  In writing I feel I appear more clearly and the expectations are high but as soon as I open my mouth and Yorkshire comes out, the expectations oddly drop.  During my first week a new colleague said to me “your accent is music to my ears” (they had friends up in Sheffield) this helped me feel a bit more homely and comfortable around here.

I have reflected a lot recently on how I feel about this and I'm probably a bit sensitive to it.  I have narrowed down some things that I feel affect my confidence, especially when having conversations and interactions with colleagues:

  • Accent/Yorkshire upbringing
  • Status/ego of people
  • Outweighed by others knowledge
  • My own knowledge/contributing value

Broadly, these aspects affect me when speaking in some meetings and conversations I am involved in.  More so when I feel other people are more 'prestigious' than me.  I communicate effectively as my experience proves and can contribute to many things, but these aspects prevent me from being confident and make me feel inferior as a result.  I think all I need is a bit of bolstering and raising my self up from the depths of others opinions, perceptions and even my own.  Slightly relevant, I said in a recent reply on Twitter to a separate but interesting topic "To me, just be true and honest to yourself and explore others energies you can bounce off - mutual in that others need to see a reason to work with you. Which has its downsides of ego, status and joining in the rat race."

I was speaking to my friend about all of this on a walk recently.  How people at work react and express their body language to my accent.  Through my experience, I feel that many think Yorkshire (or Northern) folk are dumb, especially from Barnsley.  When I introduce myself and say I am from there, they go "Baaaarnsley".  What does that even mean?  I don't think I even say that (or do I? 🤔).  Over  the years and my job roles, my accent has been refined.  You can clearly tell I am from Yorkshire like, but after a few drinks, Barnsley comes out!  Many think Barnsley is an extremely dire place and we're all still trapped in this harsh miner community.  Yes it's present, due to it being founded upon that culture.  But like all places there are good and bad areas.  I think there are many Yorkshire people that have been brought up in this culture where dream jobs won't put food on the table.  Resulting in many feeling they have to constantly prove themselves.  I feel like that and have this strong motivation to show people what I am capable of, when there is no need to really.

I feel there is a lot of stigma still around in terms of Yorkshire folk being labelled as inferior.  I feel that when people see my profile and accomplishments and accolades in writing, then they meet me in person and hear my voice, I feel they are disappointed somewhat.  It's the expression on some peoples faces I pick up on.  Some people are all about status and hung up where you came from and where you was educated.  My online accounts still reflect that I live in Barnsley (since moved for work).  I'm proud of where I come from.  I appreciate my education and career more as I have fought for it.  Many have been given it on a plate and don't value their accomplishments.

Seeing Jodie Whittaker play the new Doctor Who (which she totally nailed) gave me further encouragement to be more loud and proud that I'm Yorkshire, just like she is and doesn't shy away from it.  So if being Yorkshire offends you, then go irritate yourself!  🙂  Because like The Doctor said; "I know exactly who I am!"

At a training event recently on SCALE-UP (Student-Centred Active Learning Environment with Upside-down Pedagogies), a lecturer shared their experience of facilitating an activity using TED Talks.  They basically showed their students some cultural myths TED Talks videos, such as how Africa was portrayed as a poor country etc and all the destitute imagery we were served through TV and marketing materials.  The videos went on to show the successes and the real beauty of the country and it's many areas.  It makes we want to do something similar - how can I turn negative perceptions of Yorkshire on its head.  Maybe I will come back to this at some point.  But yes Yorkshire does have a lot of success and celebrities who came from there.  I may even be talking utter nonsense - Yorkshire may not be viewed that negatively, I'm just emptying my thoughts.  Maybe I can be talking about Yorkshire successes a lot more and more so my own...

I'm off for a cup of Yorkshire Tea (my workplace stocks it for us).  Because let's be honest, there's no better brew than a Yorkshire brew! ☕

EDIT: Sue Beckingham (Sheffield Hallam University) made an overwhelmingly nice comment to me on this:

"We need to talk! 1. You are a brilliant educator and I among many others admire your work. 2. I empathise and want to assure you that many of us suffer silently from these feelings. 3. Thank you for being brave enough to share this."