Imposter Syndrome: A Cure

Everybody that's ever wanted to be good at something has, at some point, felt like an imposter. It's the feeling you get when you find someone who is better at something than you or had an idea you've never had and all you can focus on is that you. are. not. enough.

Usually at some point you also try to imitate these people who seem better than you in some way. If they can do it, so can you! So you try it out and....it's okay. Maybe. For a while. Or it fails. Big time. And now your pile of failures has just grown larger. The qualities you admired in someone else now seem ever farther out of reach.

But here's the thing...

The definition of an imposter is: a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.

Point #1: You can only be an imposter if you're trying to BE someone else. If you're pretending. Trying new things? Not an imposter.
Failing? Not an imposter.
Admiring qualities in someone else? Not an imposter.
Trying to emulate someone in order to better yourself? Not an imposter.

Point #2: If you are putting on new characteristics and trying new things because you think being someone else is better than being you, those changes won't be authentic. You think that you are choosing what you want and what will make you happy, but if it goes against your nature, you're going to be miserable.

Point #3: As a teacher, when you hear of new ideas and strategies, a litmus test is to decide if it excites you or makes you feel dread. It's impossible for us to try all new things, especially all at once. Pick the things that excite you. They will give you more energy, motivate you to take bigger risks, and cushions the feeling of failure if it doesn't go well. If you hear a new idea and you feel guilty that you aren't doing it, overwhelmed in how to even start, and doubt that you could even pull it off....that idea's probably not for you.

And who's to say you won't feel excitement for that thing next year? Or the year after that?

We have a finite amount of time in each school year to execute ideas. But a lifelong journey of looking for things to excite us.

MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
Look at problems or gaps that come up often or really bother you. Focus on strategies and ideas to address those first. Give yourself some peace. Get off to a good start. Commit yourself each year to at least one thing that will make a difference for you and your students in some way.

MP2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
Make sense of the quantity of time and energy that you have but also what is sustainable over time. Baby steps. People are doing the best they can with what they know. When you know better, do better.

MP3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
When that little devil on your shoulder starts to tell you that you are not doing enough or that you are not enough, argue back with all the progress you have made. How far you've come. What you've tried. Your successes. Your survival. And every time you hear of something new to try, critique that through the lens of your nature, your school culture, your students. You are not meant to be everything to everybody.

MP4 Model with mathematics.
Model your staying power, your consistency, your willingness to show up through the consistency of patterns in math, patterns that always hold true, and the beauty that shows up in those patterns.

MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically.
Try things that will you make you better, more efficient, more available and that are sustainable. You don't have to have every new piece of technology (it's not like you could afford it?) or know every new social media site to love kids and improve their math experience.

MP6 Attend to precision.
Be precise in how effective and how much change new ideas will bring. Is your time worth it? What are you investing? For how long? What is the payoff?

MP7 Look for and make use of structure.
Can you address gaps through daily bell ringers? Can you try new strategies on lessons you hate? Can an activity be used with more than one practice structure? Can your scheduling solve a problem for students? Can something you write all the time be turned into a form? Can you build a template? Can you make something a routine? What structures can you use to your advantage?

MP8 Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.
Where can you find shortcuts? Can students cut things for you? Can you make a bunch of copies all at once and do something else while they run? Can a student take over decorating that bulletin board? Will a student help straighten up all the notebooks and binders? Can you tidy up the room while you walk around checking work? Can you NOT grade everything? Would a rubric help you grade faster? Can you gather information with a Google Form? Doc? Slide? Sheet? Treat yo self! Make your life easier.

So when you are feeling like you don't measure up, remember that you are measuring the wrong thing. Measure where you are compared to where you started. Measure your successes. Measure your gratitude- it's usually a major symptom of the imposter syndrome. Measure your ability to try new things.

You can't fail at being you.

You can't be 'not you enough'.

Whatever amount of 'you' that you are right now...is the perfect measure.

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