Imposter Syndrome

May 14, 2016

I was reading a post on The Toast (yes, it rhymes) by Mallory Ortberg (here’s the link – Everyone Has Imposter Syndrome – Except For You) and found myself laughing out loud.  In my case, this typically means two things:

  1. Someone has taken something that scares me and made it humorous.
  2. I have learned something (often in spite of myself).

She says, “According to Social scientists working on a decades-long population study have recently concluded that every single living resident of the United States suffers from a condition known as imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments, except for you, an actual fraud who is almost certainly on the verge of being found out by the people who only think they love and respect you any day now.” (emphasis mine)

Have you ever stood in front of a classroom, 20/30/40 sets of eyes looking back at you, and think to yourself, “I have NO idea what I’m talking about!  As soon as I open my mouth, everyone is going to know I’m a big fake.  I don’t know enough about this to speak authoritatively on it…They all know more than I do and I will have nothing to contribute.”


I don’t believe you.  I suspect that most of your reading this have had these thoughts at least briefly flit across your mind.  Whether you are an educator, a regulator, a sculptor or a dentist (okay, maybe not a dentist), it is not at all unusual to wrestle with moments of Imposter Syndrome.

Personally, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. It keeps me humble and it pushes me to continue to hone my craft.

For those of us who suffer from this more than occasionally, Margie Warrell, author of Stop Playing Safe and Find Your Courage, has a short video interview which gives a few suggestions on how to stop being held hostage by Mr. I.S. (Imposter Syndrome).

I have no illusion that at some point I can stop learning and growing and really, I don’t want to.  Don’t let your thoughts paralyze you, bury you in self-loathing, cause you to cease sharing the gift of the knowledge you do possess.





Grammar Matters

May 11, 2016

Before you read any further, be clear I do not consider myself a grammar expert.   I nearly failed Grade 9 English because of my affinity for dangling participles.  I do, however, cringe when I see an article full of typographical errors or when someone writes something like, “I’d love too!”  Gah!

Of all the people to give us a grammar lesson, welcome Mr. A. Yankovic!




What did I learn?

May 8, 2016

Top Ten Lessons from Provincial Instructors Diploma


What have I gleaned from my time in the PID program?  In no particular order:

  1. Peer review is an amazing resource, one we don’t utilize enough.
  2. If you make your lessons easy and then blow students away on exams, alignment is not present and your students are going to be…displeased with you.
  3. Rubrics are not a multi-colored cube that makes people tear out their hair in the name of fun. They are a way to reflect clearly how you will assess a student on a particular assignment.  Cuts down on guesswork (on both sides).
  4. Creating an Outcome Guide helps instructors to know the outcomes they are looking to achieve in a course so they can build their lessons and assessments to ensure these goals are achieved.
  5. Critical thinking is, in this digital age, even more critical. Just because we have access to more information than any generation before us doesn’t mean all of that information has been well researched, thought out or relayed.
  6. APA Format. That’s all I’m saying about it.
  7. No one technique or style is going to reach every student, which is why we need to have a variety of strategies in our proverbial tool belt.
  8. Just because students are entertained doesn’t mean they’re learning. Conducting both formative and summative assessments helps us to gauge the level of comprehension of our students.
  9. We need to stay on top of technology and use it appropriately in our teaching.
  10. No longer are we merely “sages on the stage”. We are curators of knowledge, encouragers, facilitators, people who guide and push our students to learn how to learn. The learning only begins with us.

The G.I. F.T. of Feedback

May 3, 2016

Ever wonder what your students really think of their learning experience?  What helps them learn?  What doesn’t?  What are suggestions that can help improve learning in the classroom?

This infographic I created (my first one ever!) will show you how to find out…

JReid - 3260 - The Gift of Assessment - Digital Project - 2016.05.03.jpg

Lifelong Curiosity

May 1, 2016

I have mixed feelings about the concept of life-long learning.

No one would dispute that in today’s work environment, the introduction of new technology often outstrips our capacity to keep up and with the wonderful world of the internet, we have access to more information than any other generation.

Perhaps I sound a bit dated in saying this, but do you ever wonder if some of the “new” is not better?  Just because new teaching concepts have been introduced and new ideas for engaging our learners are being taught, does this mean we should blindly adopt them?  Are we dinosaurs if we don’t want to use clickers in our classrooms to allow for voting or You Tube videos to emphasize a point?


To be clear, I am not implying that we should do things a certain way because “we’ve always done it that way”.  My point is that as part of that ongoing pursuit of the latest and greatest, we should use some critical thinking skills.

Just because it’s new:

  1. Doesn’t mean it’s better.
  2. Doesn’t mean it’s right for you in your classroom.
  3. Doesn’t mean you’re a brontosaurus if you choose not to follow the latest trend.

Instead of life-long learning, let’s operate in the world of life-long curiosity.  Try new concepts and ideas, absolutely, but do so after researching them and establishing they will help you to achieve what you want to in your classroom.


Is it a discussion if only one giraffe’s talkin’?

April 28, 2016

You know what I’m talking about.  In every group (classroom or otherwise), there seems to be that one giraffe who has something to say about everything.  You know there are other giraffes who have something of value to contribute to the conversation, but they are either reticent to speak in front of others or are introspective and need a bit more time to formulate their thoughts before they articulate them.  With Chatty Giraffe (Chatty G), no such airtime exists.giraffes-627031_1280In a classroom, this can pose a problem.  As instructors, we want to encourage discussion.  A good conversation brings out new ideas and engages the group in critical thinking.  It also gives the instructor an idea of where each of his/her students are at with respect to the content they are learning in class.  How do we encourage quieter ones to participate and the chattier ones to do so in a less overwhelming way?

Brookfield (2015) in his book The Skillful Teacher provides several great suggestions for using discussion methods in the classroom.  Something that surprised me, though, was his thoughts on using participation marks.  Typically I am not a fan.  Petralia (2013) says, “Mandatory participation marks marginalize the shy and instead serve as easy grades for those to whom speaking comes most naturally.”  He adds, “Students must be encouraged to participate because they find it genuinely worthwhile to discuss the topic, not because they just want to earn easy marks.”  I tend to agree with him…and yet…

Brookfield comes at participation marks from a different angle.  He looks to the intent of participation when crafting his expectations and says that his aim is to “socialize students into understanding participation as listening carefully, responding to contributions, synthesizing and analyzing comments already made, asking questions of others and showing appreciation.” Here are some of the specific behavioral examples he provides his students that demonstrate to him they have participated well:

Ask a question or make a comment that shows you are interested in what another person says.

Make a comment that underscores the link between two people’s contributions and make this link explicit in your comments.

Ask a cause and effect question – for example, “Can you explain why you think it’s true that if these things are in place such and such a thing will occur?”

In looking at the Petralia statement I quoted above, it seems that Brookfield has found a way to incorporate participation marks into the curriculum while still fulfilling what Petralia hopes for.  Perhaps giving students marks for participation in discussion but using a rubric like Brookfield’s will motivate those who are more reticent to speak out and cause those who love to contribute to do so in a more meaningful way.

I think it’s worth a try…



Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Petralia, A. (2013, 12). Participation Marks: the good, the bad and the ugly. Retrieved from The Bull and Bear: