Guest Post: Enabling Student Authenticity by Eric DeVillez

Eric DeVillez in a boat with his sons
Associate Professor Eric DeVillez

The Task

I was invited to write this guest post in early 2019, and I promised to have it submitted by March 1st.  Right now, it’s August 15th.  August.  The 15th.  Seriously?

In utmost sincerity, I’m not one for missing deadlines.  Heavens, I’m a Virgo.  A Virgo writing teacher—I live by accountability to deadlines.  I see my students rise and fall by observing or missing deadlines.  The stumping task at hand, the one put forth all those months ago, is seemingly simple: “write a post about enabling students to be their authentic selves.” Pretty simple, no?  After many forced and inauthentic drafts in response to my perpetuation of student authenticity, I have to say, I’ve concluded that I really don’t know how I enable students to be their authentic selves.  I don’t.  No, this isn’t the self-aware throwing of my hands into the air while saying “oh, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” all the while having a precise understanding of approach, technique, and importance.  Truly, what has taken me so long is that I can’t answer the question for the simple fact that I’ve never really seen myself in that light before, not as someone who “enables authenticity.”  Remember that song “Pepper” from the mid 90s—“you never know just how you look through other people’s eyes?”  Here and now, that’s me.  So—the question really becomes “how do I effectively do something that I never really knew that I did,” at least not in the way that it was presented to me.


These past months, time and again, the phrase “because I’m authentic” keeps coming back to me as the primary reason why—and how—I enable authenticity in my students.  And it makes me cringe to say it aloud for the many ways cynics might poke fun at me:

Cynic in mocking voice: “OOOOoooooh, I just loathe talking about myself, but here’s a 45 minute rant about just one of the many ways in which I’m great, so buckle in.”

Me, resigned: “I know, I know. . . .”

Actually, I’m that guy, the cynic, a classic Gen Xer.  I can say with great clarity and understanding that I’m the guy who winces when hearing people saying such things, talking about themselves loudly, broadcasting self when they should instead be listening to others.  If you have ever had a chance to speak with Moraine’s own Kevin O’Connell, you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say he’s truly humble and would rather turn any conversation about himself unto you, and such turns don’t take root in deflection; rather, he has genuine concern for you.  He’s one of my heroes here at Moraine because just by being who he is—leading by example through incredible listening and seemingly never outwardly judging the information I find myself sharing with him—he sets a standard.

And maybe that’s it, O’Connell’s key—my key—to enabling authenticity in my students: he asks questions because he genuinely wants to hear people respond, and that sincere nature makes us feel comfortable with sharing of ourselves.  From within that comfort, I sometimes find myself remembering and sharing information with him I otherwise probably would not have shared, the genuine stuff of my life, because he’s authentically asking, listening, and remembering what I say to him.  Were you to ask him about him, chances are pretty good he’d spin the question onto you, and you’d walk away twenty minutes later having dug into some gem about yourself that you didn’t even know you were carrying.


Because I try to be authentic.  Because I want to listen.  Because I try not to outwardly judge.  And sometimes, I too miss deadlines.

Eric DeVillez is an Associate Professor of Communications. If you’d like to contact Eric, please contact the CTL and we will forward your message to Eric. Be sure to reference this post in your message.