WOW: Undoing Imposterism

25 Sep

My Tuesday morning generally includes reviewing first readings that I’ve assigned to students in my “Teaching in Higher Education” and academic career planning courses, then looking over my notes about recent blog posts, articles, book chapters and email correspondence on aligned topics.

The juxtaposition that struck me this morning came as I clicked between two posts – the first an online document on making lecture more participatory that’s been available for some time via Harvard University’s Bok Center for Teaching and Learning; the second an early September post from a new-to-me blog on academic careers and gender that speaks frankly to the existence and impact of imposterism.

Ah, yes.  Those two things do come together as concerns for the graduate students, postdocs and instructors I work with regularly.  As new, current and future teachers they wonder how to present their expertise, knowledge and insights while remaining committed to active, engaged, high student-teacher participation and interaction when students doubt this as a “real” way of teaching.  New to teaching and to building courses that engage students actively in learning, the questions revolving around “feeling like a fraud” come to the discussion circle often.

Additionally, the majority of those I work with identify themselves – like me – as coming to academic careers via non-traditional routes and with personal identities that do not easily or often or fully align with still dominant demographic characteristics of faculty in higher education.  Again the discussion circles related to these identity contingencies address imposterism – Who am I to consider a research university career?  Who am I to up and leave my community?  Who will be an advocate for me when students…?

As much as the participatory lectures online document will help my students and consultees to find ways to interactively present during the times they are learning and teaching with learners, the post addressing imposterism will be of use for the ways it cuts through layers of silence to name the internalize and externally propelled, systematically unleased plague and point to necessary resources.  Resources for my students, consultees, peers, colleagues – for me – and for our allies who imagine changing not just how we are in academic teaching and learning spaces, but how we together work across our academic lives and work, our fully lives and networks to undo imposterism when it enters academic space ahead of us, as well as within us.

These two pieces will be of use.  The Harvard piece will be of use to each of us as individual teachers who remake classroom spaces and learning practices while helping our new students unlearn old practices that limit who they can be as learners and how they see us as teachers. The Scatterplot piece when we face down the imposter syndrome as colleagues, mentors, friends joining in the work of eradicating its impacts on the people we are and the people who join us in academic spaces – and beyond them.  For me, the combination is more powerfully suggestive than either alone.



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