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Learning Styles
October (2012)
Impostor Syndrome
This article came across my inbox a few weeks ago from a current parent with the attached phrase, "When I think of my high school experience, I think of these feelings."

After reading further, the article discusses the concept of the 'impostor phenomenon', a term first coined in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes that describes the feelings of inadequacy many individuals face in their day-to-day lives.

Everyone experiences this notion of inadequacy at times in their lives, and for high school students, these feelings frequently intersect academic experiences.

In previous posts and in this faculty spotlight, we note an important goal of academic courses at Proctor is to help stretch students' perceptions of their own abilities by providing the tools and experiences necessary to do so.

The article suggests three steps to help battle this impostor syndrome. Knowing that: 1) Nobody really knows what they are doing, 2) It is okay to mess up, and 3) Be kind to yourself.

When thinking about the educational process that this blog seeks to articulate, these three suggestions seem particularly appropriate.

If we are a school that places students in situations that stretch their own perceptions of self through high level academic courses, on campus experiential learning and unparalleled off-campus programs, our students will inevitably feel they are 'out of place' at some point during their academic career at Proctor.

Similarly, when we subscribe to the notion that the most lasting learning takes place when comfort zones are ignored, we will all find ourselves in a place where we have no idea what is going on around us and this can be a good thing.

The reality is that as we expose our students to more and more of these 'stretching' opportunities, they will become more and more confident in themselves as learners. At least this is what our experience has shown us over the past thrity-five years of offering off-campus programs.

The article referenced at the start of this post notes, "If we go about our lives with the understanding that it is acceptable for us not to be instantly good at everything we try, and that our existence is, above all, a learning experience, then we can save ourselves a lot of heartache when we feel like nothing is working out the way we planned. The difference between the impostor-plagued person and the self-confident person is not competence; it’s attitude."

As we head into the Winter Term, students and faculty prepare for classes, sports, and off-campus programs that will inevitably shape their lives. Students studying on Mountain Classroom, in Spain, in Euro-Classroom, in Morocco, and in Costa Rica will return to campus in the spring transformed (whether they know it or not), just as those students returning to campus from Ocean Classroom and Spain will soon recognize their own growth over the past term.

Watching students stretch, change, and develop a sense of self-confidence as they take increased ownership over their learning is an exciting process and we cannot wait to see the growth that takes place during the upcoming term!
Group experiences off campus place students outside their comfort zones.
This process can be extremely valuable in developing student self-confidence.
Mountain Classroom allows students to explore fascinating content in the Southwest...
...while learning new skills alongside peers.
Studying in Morocco may remove much of the 'familiar' from your life...
...but sometimes you can still find a little piece of 'home'.
Ocean Classroom places 22 students on a schooner with highly trained educators.
Understanding and appreciating group dynamics becomes an incredibly important piece of the learning process for students.
Appreciating each others' talents are a natural part of the learning process as well.
Being exposed to the natural beauty of Central America by studying in Costa Rica is not a bad option for sophomores either!
Proctor's European Art Classroom will take a new perspective on studying in Europe this winter.
Living, learning, and traveling alongside peers who may not have been your best friends on campus, affords each student the opportunity to redefine perceptions and to build new relationships.
You may feel like an impostor when your journey first begins, but eventually, with the right attitude, that feeling will change.