Most tutors tend to be humble in all the wrong ways. We certainly don’t shy away from displays of knowledge. On the contrary, when the time for trivial facts, equating acumen, or drunken demonstrations of testing prowess roll around, tutors rarely hesitate to leap into the fray.
Let the conversation turn towards practical questions about how to teach or build a successful tutoring practice, however, and you’ll see how quickly hubris crumbles into abject humility…
“I don’t have that much to share.”
“I don’t really know what I’m doing.”
“Other tutors know much more than me.”
The ranks of independent educators are afflicted by one of the most insidious and chronically painful diseases there is: imposter syndrome. Most of us are familiar with imposterism, wherein accomplished individuals doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments. Those with this problem–and there are many–suffer a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Some observers identify as many as five different flavors of imposter syndrome, all of which may look familiar to you. This malady seems immune to treatments of common sense or factual evidence, as even the most accomplished professionals can be infected by imposterism. The mighty Maya Angelou wrote honestly about her struggles:
“Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”
If you are a tutor, you probably stand out to most others that know you as a smart, generous, compassionate professional. Day in and day out, people actually pay you to learn–and keep coming back. Add to this any level of success in a field teeming with qualified competitors and you almost certainly have a great deal to share. Plus, most educators possess special advantages in the realm of self improvement. Consider psychologist Adam Grant’s insights into imposter syndrome:
“Impostor syndrome: I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s only a matter of time until everyone finds out.
Growth mindset: I don’t know what I’m doing yet. It’s only a matter of time until I figure it out.
The highest form of self-confidence is believing in your ability to learn.”
So next time someone asks you to offer some advice, recommend some resources, or maybe even record a Test Prep Profile on the Tests and the Rest podcast, put that imposter syndrome to the side and give what you’ve got to give. You are an educator, which means learning is one of your superpowers. Believe in your ability to learn, and believe in yourself.
— Mike Bergin
Kailey Ossanna is the owner of KO Tutoring based in Maryland and focuses on math tutoring, test prep, and college admissions.
What is one more resource you strongly recommend?
Mathchops – It saves me so much time! I love the topic breakdown, which allows me to focus on what my student needs the most. Mike McGibbon is also very helpful if you have any questions.
What is one insight every tutor should hear?
Connection drives education. Find ways to connect with your students, even if it’s silly.
Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts
How to Use Backward Chaining to Differentiate Instruction
What is backward chaining, and how can it make you a better tutor?
The Ultimate Guide to Prioritization, Part 1: How to Decide What NOT To Do (When Everything Feels Important)
Time management is really task management
5 Micro Teaching Skills You Must Need To Know Before Teaching
Mastery comes from many related skills performed well.
The Surprising Reasons People Actually Buy from You
Maybe expertise isn’t first and foremost in the buying decision.
A Simple Guide To Doing A Technical Audit For Your Website
Tutors should have websites, and those websites should work properly.
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