Imposter Alert!-Brookfield Chapter 1

I thoroughly enjoyed Chapter 1 of Steven Brookfields book The skillful Teacher. His discussion on teaching and the stresses and failures we can experience in our career was oddly comforting. Having someone come out and say that you will never be perfect, you will never have all the students like you and there will always be new challenging situations that arise lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I was particularly drawn to the section Growing into the Truth of Teaching, particularly the truths he established for himself about teaching. The feeling of being an imposter resonated with me, and the thought that someone of his level of experience could have that feeling gave me a great deal of comfort.

I often struggle with whether I belong as an instructor. I generally am not much older than my students, and in some cases my students are older than me.  I teach in a technical trade I worry that because I only had just over 6 years on the tools I am under qualified. I have also had run ins with people outside of my work, questioning how I got my position without a teaching degree. All of this at times makes me sit in my office some days and think how did you get here and why have they not figured out you don’t belong! I have shed tears over what has happened in the classroom, I have had students that make me dread stepping my foot back over that threshold and I have questioned countless times as to whether I can continue on.

I do continue on though, and the minute it starts to get easier something happens and it is hard all over again. I think that as teachers maybe we all feel a little like imposters and that scares us so we don’t talk openly about it. Maybe we all think we are going to be found out for the imposters we are and so we are scared to share these feelings. I think just as much as it is important for us to be human in the eyes of our students I think we need to be human for each other. I typically work with a majority of men, and at risk of stereotyping them, they tend not to share feelings or failures as freely as women. I often wonder if in a more female dominated faculty there would be more expression of failure and fears among staff?

I am going to share something profound that my mother told me once. I cannot remember the context of the conversation or how is came about but one day she said “Steph when you and your brother were young, you may have been around six, I was sitting there watching you play and it donned on me. I had no idea what I was doing with you. I thought oh my god, if anyone finds out that I am just taking this whole raising kids thing one day at a time, pretty much winging it they are going to take these kids away. I wanted to cry and just felt utterly defeated. Then your brother started to cry and you were hungry and I got up and just kept going. Sometimes you just have to keep going, it will all work out.”

When I read the line “Muddling through is about all you can do when no clear guidelines exist to help you deal with unexpected contingencies.”(Brookfield, 2015, pg. 1) what my mother had said popped back into my head. Although I know nothing about raising children as I have none yet, I cant help but find parallels between it and teaching. From watching all my friends with children and listening to things my mother tells me I realized that there is no step by step how to for either. There never could be because every person, situation, environment in both of the situation of teaching and parenting is so complex and different that we really do just have to take it step by step. What I am coming to realize is that this isn’t bad, or scary, or speaking to a lack of experience. That it is just the way it is, the way it has to be. We can prepare the best we can and be as informed as possible about techniques and methods but at the end of the day we are just going to have to muddle through.

Brookfield, S. (2015) The skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. (3rd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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