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Revenge of Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Jan 23, 2021

My "co-worker," Samantha, caught napping on the job...

Full disclaimer: this is a very raw, personal post about my experiences with virtual teaching during the height of the lockdown in Italy. Now that I have adjusted to this new style, or forced necessity, I no longer feel like a phony or a fake, and I am much happier and more comfortable with distance learning. I am posting this here not only for posterity, but also because I feel that seeing one another's moments of pure "human-ness," with all its failings and ugliness, is just as important as the Instagram-worthy moments. Although I am not really a "Pinterest teacher," I always endeavor to be the best I can be, to embed the arts and creativity into lesson planning, and to improve consistently upon my practice and approach. Sometimes, however, I have lows just like everyone else.

When I first began teaching over seven years ago, I was plagued with an uneasy feeling that someone might discover I was a fraud. Yes, I am well-educated with a bachelor’s degree followed by two master’s degrees, and yes, I have spent years preparing to be a teacher, but I was convinced someone might call me a fake. I had a bad case of Imposter Syndrome and I didn’t even know what it was.

Unsurprisingly, no one did come forward to call me a fraud, and gradually my self-confidence emerged, shoving my inner imposter fears right out the window. Well, that is, until Covid-19 brought everything rushing back to the forefront of my mind.

When my school in Italy first went under lockdown, I posited, as many others did, that it might only be for a short-time. As the first few weeks went by and the dawning realization that this quarantine would continue, I could feel my old nemesis, Imposter Teacher, creeping back into view. “What if everyone finds out you don’t know how to teach online?” the sinister inner voice hissed. “What if your students think you are ‘phoning it in’” she taunted. The self-disparaging comments and perpetual negativity continued. I was shrouded in self-doubt, feeling much like I had as a first year teacher.

I felt alone. I felt insignificant. I felt like I was losing the essence of what it means to be a good teacher. For those of you who know me well, you know that I am a perfectionist and an epic planner. I like to excel and am always competing with myself to be the best version of myself I can be. However, during this period of time, my mind was fighting me. I worried about my students’ progress. I worried about what other teachers were doing, or how they might be handling the crisis better. In general, I worried.

Just when this anxiety monster was about to take hold of me and consume me entirely, I called Mr. VP and Mr. Principal and laid out my stressors, frustrations, and challenges. I allowed myself to open up about what I was struggling with, even though my inner voice was chanting “Now they’ll know you’re a fake! What if they ridicule you?!” To my surprise, they neither called me a fake nor ridiculed me, but assured me I wasn’t alone in my worries, trials, and difficulties. I could hardly believe my ears - hurray! As I spoke with them, I could almost feel the Imposter Teacher cowering into the back crevices of my mind, being thrown back into her own negativity prison.

Unfortunately, this story doesn’t truly have a moral or any deeper message. I struggle with people thinking the worst of me. Always have. Sometimes, I can tame the Imposter Beast, and sometimes I need to get by with a little help from my friends. Sometimes I even need to call my mom and be assured that I am not a phony, even though I am an accomplished woman in my thirties! In the end, I will continue to always try my very best, and going forward, I will also be aiming to keep Imposter Teacher at bay before she turns into Anxiety Monster. I can do this simply by reaching out when I need to. It’s difficult to be vulnerable and ask for help. On the other hand, it’s even harder to try to do a good job when your mind is battling against you. Even teachers are human and imperfect, and maybe I need to remember that - and cut myself some slack.

My micro virtual-teaching workspace!

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