I have more memories from my high school Sophomore English class than any other in my compulsory education. The teacher had a funny quip that forever settled the question: is it no one or noone? My favorite book that year was A Separate Peace by John Knowles, and the teacher rewarded me for a creative take on the accompanying project. I was curious each day what the journal prompt would be because she gave us the gift of silence to write.
Another memory remains with me. In an effort to motivate us to work hard, this teacher would regularly remind us of challenges coming down the pipe – the SATs, college professors that take no guff from anyone, the “real world.” These weighty speeches left me with a tight knot between stomach and chest.
Fear and inadequacy accompanied me in the new and challenging endeavors that teacher alluded to. Fortunately, they rarely stopped me, but I had to suffer through until confidence and competence could catch up and take over.
As an adult more than a decade into my teaching career, I wondered if it still had to be this way. I talked candidly with two colleagues I greatly admire and found out that there’s actually a name for this experience. It’s called imposter syndrome, and it’s most common in female PhDs. There goes my hope that finishing my education is the cure.
So, I talk to myself. I visit that vulnerable teenage girl and draw attention away from the ominous soundtrack. She needs to hear instead that I (her future self) trust her.
Trust and intuition are intimate friends, and intuition is a teacher’s greatest tool. Professional development is essential precisely because it enlarges intuition.
My best teaching moments (gauged by feedback) aren’t when I was trying too hard to remember and practice a skill, or to look like I knew what I was doing. They happened when I was engaged in the moment with my students and self-forgetful. They flowed from a core that has been shaped over the course of my life.
This is what the Master meant when he talked about staying attached to the vine. Your teaching is not separate from union with the Master. You’ve been pruned already, and you can trust that. As you develop personally and professionally, fruit that endures will flow, intuitively, from the core that is being shaped by the Master.