As a veteran teacher/educator, I have more than once felt like I was a poser.
Yes, even though I attended annually at least one but more like 3-5 professional development opportunities-workshops, university classes, district provided inservices-I felt like I really didn’t belong or that I wasn’t a “real” teacher.
After a year out of the public school classroom, I am started to understand. In almost every education class, ed. psych class, we are told, given research, and experience that teachers frequently teach the way they were taught. I did at first but the challenge of teaching math to people who hate math, have math anxiety, drove me to find different ways to motivate and engage students. I read the newest NCTM standards in the lat 1980s; I incorporated hands-on activities, math labs, math projects, and soon less math anxiety, more engaged students. Parents even told me they wished they had me as their math teacher since I seem to make it fun, interesting, practical, etc.
I also taught science (still do just not at the pk-12 level), and the hands-on, inquiry, exploration, real-world connections were far more engaging, far more practical for student learning (and a lot more work for me with 4-5 preps, six classes/day) but if the students were actually learning, applying their learning, and gaining scientific literacy and appreciation, that is what I needed to do. I am no different from hundred, thousands of other teachers. But in a rural school system, there were few whom I could collaborate and bond with in my discipline.
I reached out, traveled 250 miles just for a one day workshop on my weekend, I would go to summer trainings, and often at my own expense. But isn’t that what professionals do? Why then were some jealous? Disapproving? My goal was to improve for my students; not better myself over my colleagues. Unfortunately small minds sometimes do not see the rut they are in; the walls of the rut offer security.
So I was poser at first; attempting to fit in. Then I broke free, climbed out of a potential rut, and empowered myself. I still took risks, felt anxious that I might not have all of the answers no matter how much training I did, and kept forging ahead. Lonely, isolated, and sometimes ostracized. But if what I was doing was truly for my students, I stayed the course of learning to improve.
That double edge sword came back to force me to make a decision. Given the opportunity to leave the classroom and pursue learning full-time with financial support won out. Reading the research, discussing the research and my own experiences, and reflecting, all have helped me work through my own insecurities in terms of my classroom teaching life.
Now the challenges of being a doctoral student awaken new challenges, new learning opportunities, and even a concern that I am a poser as a graduate student!
Yes, I am not a typical graduate student. I have two master degrees in science content and science pedagogy; I have 30 years of classroom experience, and I have different goals/expectations. Some of the games played with graduate students is obvious but I see no reason to participate. This once again sets me out on the fringe of the group. I have a timeline I wish to keep, I have no need for many extraneous classes that 1. I have already taken, 2. know from teaching, and 3. do not fit my purpose in returning to the student life. I don’t want to jump through extra hoops and resist those who think I should.
Fortunately I have the best committee, committee chair and mentor who see my strengths, run resistance for me to prevent extra work, to help me stay on my timeline for completion. Even more so these are people who are well-known in their fields of research, have nothing left to prove to academia or other, and only see the good in people. What a wonderful to place to work. Now if only I could complete all of my courses now instead of on the university’s timeline–which is inadequate due to the lack of students in my area of study; and once again these wonderful mentors step in and make it right for my path, my personalized learning plan!
I am so lucky and even more so grateful for them and this opportunity, challenges and all!