According to my good friend, Wikipedia, Imposter Syndrome is “…a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.”
Teacher friends, can you relate to this? Knowing I most likely am not the only one who feels this way, I decided to Google “Teaching and Imposter Syndrome.” Yeah, my hunch was correct. Imposter Syndrome is very common among teachers.
This may surprise the non-teachers out there. Nationally, we have a critical teacher shortage. The usual reasons given are low pay and lack of supplies. I submit, however, that perhaps right up there with low pay is Imposter Syndrome.
Why might teachers be more susceptible to this phenomena? I believe it is rooted in the fact that teachers are sensitive people. Why else would we choose to work with kids and make less money? (I understand this is a generalization). We don’t want to mess up or disappoint anyone. But making mistakes is inevitable. We are juggling so many details and tasks on top of the actual teaching part, which is what we really love. Just this week, my morning took a hard turn sideways when a sweet little girl started saying that her mom called the police on her dad. I forgot to turn in my roll on time that day. Then I worried I might get written up for this oversight.
The lack of adequate supplies is also a major frustration for teachers. I believe this issue also contributes to Imposter Syndrome. This year I was given 5 computers for my classroom and 2 reams of copy paper for the semester. We have some textbook readers but no math or reading workbooks. My task was to generate everything else using donations from students or my own money. Before the end of August I bought a box of copy paper at Costco and a big pack of 3×5 cards. So I am generating materials and creating fun and exciting learning opportunities, writing lesson plans, communicating with parents, keeping objectives up in kid friendly language each week, generating report cards, scheduling conferences, meeting with parents, and strategizing how each student can best succeed all in the 5-ish hours built into my work week when I’m not actually teaching students.
I’m tired after writing that, and I no doubt left off at least 10 weekly tasks.
There’s not enough time to do it all. I like to do things well and stay on top of all the details. As a teacher, I am going to forget things now and then. I am going to go in some days without feeling 100% prepared. I am going to go home to my family and tell my job I’ve done enough. Except it’s hard to do that. I want everything to be amazing. This may be harder for the teachers with families, medical bills, and kids in college. Some young teachers still live with their parents. Bless their hearts, but they seriously need to stop making the rest of us look bad.
About once a week, I think about quitting and even convince myself I’m not a good teacher. I know this is a lie, though. My students have always been happy, thriving, and learning. They regularly blurt out things like, “I love school!” And, “Do I HAVE to go home?” at the end of the day. I am gifting them with near saint-like patience and kindness (I’m not always this way at home, but it IS something I am getting paid to do). My students have always exceeded expectations according to cold hard data on academic growth. I’m a good teacher. My students are learning and becoming better people because of my efforts. I am saying this out loud so I will always believe it. I shouldn’t quit.
Non teachers, please encourage the teachers in your life. Administrators have a critical role in helping teachers feel valued and supported. They can set the tone for a positive and encouraging school culture. Donate time or supplies to your kid’s classroom or a teacher friend’s classroom. Children are the future. We all have a vested interest here.
Teacher friends, say this out loud with me: I AM A GOOD TEACHER! Now go change lives. You’re not going to be able to do everything perfectly. Nobody is. The kids need you. Keep the faith.
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.