You filled out the endless online applications, you put together a stellar portfolio of achievements, you killed it during your sample lesson, and what do you know- you got the job. You really did it, you-got-the-job. You are a REAL teacher. All of your years of schooling, student teacher hours and extracurricular commitments have paid off.
Last night you were sworn in at the Board of Education meeting and then you went out with family and friends to celebrate.
When you awoke the next morning that overwhelming aura of elation that surrounded you just last night quickly faded into a suffocating cloud of anxiety and trepidation. When you look in the mirror and stare at your reflection, erratic thoughts fill your head:
Why did they hire me?
Am I qualified?
Am I smart enough?
Are they going to see through me?
I can’t do this.
This, my friend, is what a senior colleague coined (as I freaked out before my first year of teaching) “teaching induced imposter syndrome.”
Teaching Induced Imposter Syndrome (TIIS): noun
An anxiety-filled reaction to obtaining a teaching job in your qualified field, and the sense that you are in fact, not qualified.
The truth, young Padawan, is that there is no cure for TIIS. This will only subside, day by day, as you gain confidence in your craft and self. I can, however, offer some sage advice about how to survive until that confidence kicks in.
#1 Remember that they knew what they were hiring– Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s the truth. An administrator is not hiring a master teacher (if you just entered the education field). They are hiring someone who they feel confident has the potential to become a master teacher, otherwise they would not have offered you a contract. They know you will stumble, that they will have to make improvement suggestions, but they see potential in you that right now you do not see in yourself. Just commit to always do your very best at any given moment, whatever your best is.
#2 Utilize all of your resources.
Extending logically from point number one, an administrator should not fault a new teacher for things they do not know (within reason), or have yet to master unless they have not taken advantage of the available resources. You have a grade level team, and you have an appointed mentor. You must meet with both, so come with a list of questions and do not stop asking until they are all answered. Side note: If you have a concern about your mentor, address this immediately with your administrator so that you do not waste time getting the guidance you will need. If you have questions about a specific strategy, i.e., higher level questioning, differentiated instruction, or checking for understanding, ask your administration to let you observe a teacher who HAS mastered this skill. This does not signal weakness, it demonstrates a commitment to furthering your education, your job and most importantly, your students.
#3 OVER prepare.
This is a piece of advice that is both common sense and something you will hear from fellow teachers ad nauseum. One of the things that you may NEVER be able to accurately gauge is how long a lesson will take. Why? Each year the students are different, period. If you over prepare you will never be stuck in a situation where an administrator comes in to see little Phillip playing on his phone out of sheer boredom. This does not mean creating “busy work” to pass the time, you should be creating meaningful, engaging assignments to fill the time from bell to bell, and then some, just in case.
#4 Fake confidence.
This could have been number one because in my opinion, this is the most important piece of advice for any new teacher. That old adage, “fake it ‘til you make it” is 100% true in this scenario for YOU. When you stand in front of your class on that first day, pick someone you want to be, maybe a teacher you had or the teacher version of a confident celebrity, project the confidence of that person and slowly you will become just as confident. I know that this sounds crazy but, why do you think my past students think my first name is Beyonce?
I would say, in closing, relax, but this won’t help. Nothing will help until you actually do it, but you WILL do it and succeed. Remember your purpose: to teach. You have the best job in the world with the biggest reward beyond monetary value: engaging and inspiring children. Every day, since my first day, while walking to my car in the parking lot, I have asked myself the same two questions: “Was I there for the kids, and did I earn my paycheck?” If you can answer both positively, then you got this!
—Rebecca Stone teaches 12th grade special education English at Long Branch high school.