Recently, I was a finalist in the TechWomen100 Awards. Although I was honoured by this, my imposter syndrome rose and made me start to question if I ‘deserved’ it and if I was ‘worthy.’ I’ve reflected more on this experience in my latest Nexus Education Blog, but today, as a former primary school teacher working in EdTech, I wanted to specifically look at three things that might cause former teachers in EdTech to have imposter syndrome.
1. Not having a tech background
If a teacher hasn’t worked in the technology industry before, they may feel that they do not have the appropriate skills and knowledge to succeed in their new role. They may not have relevant qualifications and little to no understanding of the technical jargon being thrown at them. Jargon is something teachers often come across in education, but this is new jargon, and it shows you how this terminology makes things seem overcomplicated and is a barrier for those unfamiliar with it. Not to mention, any role outside of teaching is a whole new world and it’s hard for teachers to know what to expect!
Additionally, teachers can sometimes undervalue the tech skills they have learnt and used during their time teaching. Although this use of technology may feel, ‘not very techy’ because, for example, ‘you’re not a programmer and you don’t know how to code,’ using tech to facilitate learning, speed up processes, communicate with others, and engage learners can be good stepping stones into other more advanced technical learning. Teachers are adaptable, hardworking, motivated, and often enjoy learning, so they can really excel given the right training and support.
2. No longer being ‘in the classroom’
There seems to be a fear that if you step outside of the classroom, you are no longer an educator and, therefore, working with educators and trying to be supportive of their challenges can feel false, like you are an imposter, because if you are not teaching, how can you possibly understand? You start to wonder how you can know what is really going on day-to-day, the way teachers are feeling and what’s coming next. How can you say you are there to support education when you left it, when you created another gap to be filled, when you said goodbye to something you claim to have been so passionate about, something you were so emotionally invested in? Where do you even fit in?
As you navigate this new relationship with education and try to find that balance, (ask the right questions, listen, and research) you also have a whole new day-to-day working life to get used to. How do you manage your time? After having every hour or even every minute of your working day timetabled, how do you go from that to managing most of your own time?
There are lots of changes to process and this can create the anxiety that allows imposter syndrome to rear its ugly head. Unless the change is embraced, this unwanted feeling of ‘not belonging’ will continue to follow you around.
3. Years of ‘not enough’
Teaching is an incredibly demanding job, with high expectations and high stakes. The words ‘observations,’ ‘moderation,’ ‘appraisal,’ and ‘results,’ may cause you to break out into a cold sweat upon utterance. Teachers can have almost every aspect of their job watched, analysed, and scrutinised. There’s always ‘room for improvement,’ and ‘things that could have been better’ and this can lead to teachers themselves becoming self-critical and anxious about their future performance – even (and maybe especially) in a completely new role.
Although many schools preach a growth mindset and learning from mistakes to their pupils, often teachers don’t have this same luxury. Because the best is always expected from teachers, they don’t get enough opportunities to take risks and to get things wrong. This can cause a reluctance for them to use their intuition, to be creative, and to put forward ideas in their new roles, for fear of how it will be taken, and because of being far too used to being micro-managed.
Due to high expectations, teachers may be reluctant to ask for help. They see others around them ‘getting on with it’ and may even think they are finding it easy when that’s often not the case. Like one teacher, another may also be afraid to show they are struggling too. All this feeds in when moving across into a new role. The expectation is that it will all be the same: you won’t be ‘good enough,’ or do it ‘well enough’ or have ‘done enough.’ The worst-case scenario is predicted even before you begin. You then become afraid that asking for help just validates to you and everyone around you that, ‘you don’t belong here.’
So where do we go from here?
This is where you come in! If you are a former teacher working in EdTech I would love to hear about your experiences with imposter syndrome and whether you have any guidance on how to combat it. If you are working in a leadership role in EdTech (whether you are a former teacher or not) I would love to know what your company is doing to help former teachers working within your organisation combat imposter syndrome.