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I'm kind of an overachiever. It's just how I am. It's not with everything, but it definitely happens with teaching. My mind goes on overdrive because we have so much on our plates that my mind kind of goes...overboard. But I was feeling in the past couple of years like I was doing something wrong and I wasn't an effective teacher. Maybe it's because as teachers, we don't always hear the praise we need after evaluations. I know I am always waiting on the criticism to see what part I scored low in on the evaluator's rubric. I can't help it; my pay depends on it.
I'm not sure if this imposter syndrome came about before or after some years of not hearing how I was really genuinely doing in the classroom. I'm not even sure if that's why I started feeling this way, or if it was just my nature, but I decided last year that after identifying my feelings, they needed to change.
Are you a teacher dealing with imposter syndrome? You might be if:
1. You never feel like you are doing your best.
2. You don't feel qualified to speak like an expert in your area.
3. You wonder if your students are learning from you.
4. You question your evaluation scores, even if they have been satisfactory or above average.
5. You question your student's scores.
Ok, you may or may not be feeling like an imposter after reviewing this short list. If you are, read further on how to overcome it.
1. Recognize that you are doing your best. You make awesome lesson plans, you go to professional development opportunities, and you are always learning. If you are a teacher who comes to work, throws together a plan, doesn't use a planning period like it should be used, and then just leaves to go home right when the bell rings, then I'd say you are not doing your best. And if you were, you probably wouldn't be reading this post! (Also, it is okay to leave when the bell rings and not feel guilty about staying late. I do it frequently to go pick up my daughter, or go to Target when I need to go zone out for a minute.) I'm talking about those teachers who don't seem to care and don't seem to want to better their teaching practice.
2. Look at your experience. I finally realized that I have been teaching for 8 years now, and there was no reason to feel like I wasn't an expert. I've learned a lot over the years! But I also recognize that there's a lot more to learn. Staying humble and keeping a growth mindset while admitting that you ARE an expert is the balance to find.
3. Your students are learning from you. Unless you are sitting at your desk and not engaging with your them, they are learning in some shape or form. Ask yourself what you are wanting them to learn. Then design assessments that will give you the information you need to see how you are doing. If your students do actually bomb the assignment you wanted them to master, that just means that it's time to reteach the content in a different way!
4. This was the biggest issue for me- questioning my evaluation scores. My excuse was always: I got lucky that day. I got an administrator who scores on the easy side. But how come I was getting these scores for 8 straight years in a row?? Maybe because I wasn't such a bad teacher after all. Give yourself the credit you deserve.
5. The scores say it all. But we do know that students get tired of testing and don't try, and come to school tired or hungry on test day BUT for the most part, tests do tell us a lot about students. Look at your reliable test takers. Check out the students who are on top of their game. Sure, you may have those students who fall asleep and don't try, but keep an eye on those who don't. I'm willing to bet that their scores aren't so bad, so don't focus on the ones whose scores need a little help.
Bottom line: feeling like an imposter is totally normal in teaching. Embrace your criticisms and the growth mindset, and you will bloom into the expert you really are.
To learn more about strategies for incorporating language into your lessons, check out my course, My EL Mentor: Creating a Language-Rich Classroom! And if you are a high school teacher, consider joining my membership, My MLL Mentor, to discuss ideas like this with other high school ESL teachers!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.