The first chapter of Brookfield’s book “The Skillful Teacher” is appropriately titled Experiencing Teaching .
From the start of this book, Brooksfield has caught me. This chapter talks about how teaching and learning is messy and unpredictable. What works for one topic may not work for another. And what works for one group of learners may not work for another group of learners. Brookfield posits that exploring our experiences as teachers can help us manage the times when are best laid plans well bomb.
Brookfield also talks about some “truths” that he has discovered about his practise through his experience. While reading these, I could not stop yelling YES! YES! This is my favourite “truth” he shares:
I will always feel like an imposter and will never lose the sense of amazement I feel when people treat me as if I have something of value to offer.
This “truth” made me giggle. Each time I get in front of a class, I feel like I’m pretending to be a teacher. This does not just stay with my teaching experience either. As a manager, I also feel like an imposter. In both these roles, I sometimes feel someone will pop out of the woodwork and expose me for the imposter I feel like I am. It is humbling to think that I am not the only person who feels this way.
This brings to mind another experience I had in the PID program: Taking the in class 3220 class. The class was a mix of professionals just entering the teaching field and others who have been teaching for years. One of the commonalities that seemed to run through the group was our anxiety of leading a lesson. We all had varying degrees of nerves, which while we get used to over time, it does not completely disappear.
In my early years of being a leader, I used to blame my imposter feelings on a lack of confidence. The more I think about confidence, the more I realize that it is pretty rare that I feel completely confident. I always thought that if I just get more experience, my confidence will fall in line. BOY was I wrong. I am still rarely confident in the conventional way that I think you’re suppose to be. What experience has changed is how I manage this confidence gap.
My reflections on confidence have lead me to my own truth: I will never be fully confident and this is part of what makes me excel in what I do, both as a manager and teacher. My confidence gap keeps me skeptical. This prompts me to closely examine my actions and performance, so that I can improve. This makes me work just that little bit harder in attempt to mimic that actions and performance of what good confidence looks like, even though my feelings may not be completely aligned.
As a final thought, this reminds me of a TEDtalk by Amy Cuddy:
While her talk is centered around body language, what really sings true and applies to this discussion is that you really can “fake it til you make it.”
We may feel isolated in our anxieties about our confidence or performance, but this in itself balances us in our practise. It can allow us to closely examine our actions and forever seek better ways of doing and improving. And to me, this is what it means to be a good teacher.