Saturday, September 24, 2011


The other day, walking out of school, I thought, "What if I just quit this student teaching thing?"

The idea both surprised and comforted me at the same time. I don't want to be doing this, but I am and I need to and I will, but . . . quitting would just be easier. I don't want to stand in front of ornery teenagers and act like I have it all together, because I don't. So is it merely the title, the profession, the task, or the position that pours on this pressure to perform?

I am at a great school.
I work with excellent teachers.
I teach hard-working, intelligent students.
Yet, I dread going to school and look forward to the days when we watch a film in class.

So what's my problem?
Why am I not enjoying this?

Two possible solutions come to mind:
A. maybe I am just not meant to be a teacher
B. maybe I am missing some crucial, necessary part of teaching and once I figure out what that is, I'll like it. I need the missing piece.

The formal verdict is out, however, I'm leaning toward B. And unfortunately the missing piece is probably (brace yourself): me. One of my cooperating teachers, Ken, told me, "Ya know Ms. B, I've found that usually in a tricky situation where there are two choices, the right answer is usually the harder of the two." Eck. I knew he was going to say that.

You see it would be so much easier to say, "Nope, teaching is just not for me" (as it would be easier to say that about just about anything that makes me uncomfortable). I would rather just quit than face my fears, those fears that I will let everyone down, say something wrong, be wrong, be inadequate, not be enough, mess up, confirm how unintelligent I really am. I fear that my teachers and students will find out I am a fraud.

Lynn, my counselor, assures me (sadly) that this is normal. "It's called the 'imposter syndrome'," she tells me, "where early entry novices often feel like they are going to be 'discovered' for
not really being what they portend to be."

Fay called me Thursday night. We hadn't talked on the phone (via Skype, of course) in over a year. She and Tim still live and work in Cambodia. We talked. We caught up and she reminded me that I've felt this way before. When I taught English in Cambodia, I would often express similar doubts and fears. She always seemed surprised when I would tell her this. "But Heather," she'd say, "you're a human sparkler. Your worst opinions of yourself are invisible to the rest of us."

So if the feeling that I am a fraud is all in my head, how do I get it out of my head? Well, that's the million dollar question I suppose, because I've experienced these same fears and doubts in every single area of my life, feeling inadequate in one way or another. I call her Helga. She's pretty annoying.

For me, crowding Helga out means reminding myself who I really am. So this will be the mantra I write out each morning and read when I need to throughout the day:

"So, this is student teaching. After twenty-three years in school, I am completing the final two and a half months of my college education. This is it. I am doing it.

It is not my job to please every student, to make them happy, to make them like me. They do not reflect me. I need not take their facial expressions, moods, grades, or responses personally.

It is not my job to be perfect, to be flawless, to never make a mistake, to always have all the answers. It is not my job to pretend or "act" like I have it all together, because I don't.

It is my job to be a teacher-in-training, a student, a learner, a grower, to do my balanced best which is all I can ever do, which is always enough."

Yesterday, after another long week of school, I nearly fell out of my chair when Ken told me, the day after Fay reminded me on the phone, "Ms. B, you are a human sparkler, has anyone ever told you that? Because you are."

That's what I hear.
I'm slowly learning to believe.


kessia reyne said...

Wow-- two people told you that?! That's crazy. You better take that to heart!

Jessica said...

I love it when that happens. Mmmm :)