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Have you ever felt that your successes are down to luck? That you aren’t really qualified to hold the position you do?

Whether you’re thinking of applying to our programme and you’re worried that you might not be cut out for life as a teacher (despite having all the necessary qualities and qualifications on paper!), or you’re a trainee teacher and feel imposter syndrome creeping in, keep reading.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What imposter syndrome is
  • Why teachers are susceptible to imposter syndrome
  • 5 tips to help you overcome it.

Be it lessons you’ve learnt, skills you’ve developed, or the hard work you’ve put in, you are absolutely the right person for the great opportunities ahead of you.

What is imposter syndrome and how does it affect teachers?

Impostor syndrome – the idea that your success is due to luck and not because of your talent or qualifications – was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

The 5 types of imposter syndrome are: 

  • The Perfectionist: You won’t merit your performance unless it is absolutely flawless. Your perfectionistic traits mean although others may admire your achievements, you’ll rarely see them in the same light.
  • The Expert: It’s natural not to know everything when starting a new job – but ‘The Expert’ won’t see it this way. Unless you know everything there is to know about your chosen subject or topic, or you’ve mastered every step in a process, you’ll feel like an imposter.
  • The Natural Genius: You’ll often put yourself down if you don’t pick something up straight away. Since you’ve always been a high performer, if something doesn’t come easily to you, you’ll likely feel like a fraud.
  • The Soloist: You may feel having to ask for help means you don’t deserve to be where you are. To you, it implies that you couldn’t get there alone.
  • The Superperson: You feel like you have to push yourself to outperform your peers and be the very best at everything. Often feeling obliged to take on additional tasks, you’re likely to find yourself working longer hours and facing exhaustion. 

Trainees and qualified teachers alike strive to be the best they can be for their pupils, because a) they love what they do, and b) they feel privileged to hold that position and fulfil their vocation. With that comes a lot of self-criticism, pressure and responsibility, which can increase the chance of experiencing imposter syndrome.


5 tips to help overcome imposter syndrome as a future trainee teacher or Early Career Teacher

#1 Recognise the signs

The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to acknowledge it’s there. If you don’t recognise there’s an issue, you can’t take the steps to resolve it. It’s also worth understanding what to look out for and in which situations it’s most likely to arise. 

Imposter syndrome can involve:

  • Feeling like you’re only where you are due to luck
  • Finding it difficult to accept praise
  • Holding yourself to impossibly high standards
  • Obsessing over failure
  • Constantly doubting yourself and apologising to others

It’s important to note that many people experience imposter syndrome when trying new things. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed as you start your new career as a teacher, just know that you are not alone and we’re here to help

#2 Talk it out

A recent study found three in five UK workers experience imposter syndrome, and yet 94% of those surveyed said they’ve never discussed their feelings surrounding it at work. 

As the saying goes: ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. Talk to your peers and get some context on your situation. Remember, they are going through exactly the same experience as you and will likely share similar feelings, so by helping yourself, you may also be helping others.

And remember, if you need to talk, there’s always someone at Ark to listen. Our close-knit network will support you on your journey from trainee to fully qualified teacher, with experts on-hand to guide you and cheer you on every step of the way. 

#3 Mistakes are opportunities for growth

It can be tricky to shake feelings of self-doubt, especially when you’re starting something new and you may not get things right 100% of the time.

Mistakes are part of life and happen to everyone, so try to pivot your perspective and see them as valuable opportunities for growth. They certainly shouldn’t negate or undervalue your subsequent achievements!

As part of our training programme, we offer regular 1:1 meetings giving you a chance to check in with your tutor, address any concerns you may have and gain actionable feedback to enhance your learning and boost your confidence moving forward.

#4 Focus on your journey

It’s natural to want to compare yourself to your peers when starting a new role together. For the most part, it’s people’s achievements that are celebrated, so whilst it may seem like everyone else is sailing through, you’ll all be experiencing the same ups and downs. 

Again, this links back to our first point: speak to others and share your thoughts. They can help to validate your achievements, overcome obstacles and setbacks and show you that everyone is in this together.

#5 Reframe negative thoughts

Your mind has the ability to shape how you perceive the world, so it’s important that it’s a positive place! 

Changing your mindset takes time, but by making small changes like shifting from passive to powerful language – for example, swapping “I helped” for “I led” – and looking at things from a different perspective, you can have a big impact on your mindset.

We’ve introduced a number of programme features to help you on your journey to becoming a confident and successful teacher.

These include:

  • Ongoing support
  • The Wellbeing Curriculum
  • Timetable management
  • Wellbeing reps
  • A monthly wellbeing newsletter

Find out more about these mechanisms for embedding wellbeing into your training year here.