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Imposter Syndrome (pt. 1)
What is Imposter Syndrome, and how can I combat it?
This lesson is not code-related, and could be used at any point in the year. It would perhaps be best served at the start of year, mid-year, or after a particularly difficult project or lesson.
This lesson is meant to serve as an add-on to any Computer Science course. It does not need a specific coding language - in fact, student computer use is not required as the entire lesson is unplugged - and follows no greater scope and sequence beyond an optional follow-up lesson that focuses on digital contributors to Imposter Syndrome. As such, it can be delivered at any point during the year. A suggestion would be to consider using this lesson to begin or end a particularly difficult topic or project, or at the end of a strenuous week.
Built on the RULER approach, the goal of this lesson is to start guiding students to recognize and understand Imposter Syndrome and work towards being able to label, with specific language, their own feelings, express them in a way that is appropriate to the situation, and regulate with some of the presented strategies. While lessons on Imposter Syndrome could be a part of many content areas, we believe it is especially important in Computer Science classrooms where students are often struggling with a brand new and potentially difficult content area.
The lesson comes with a significant amount of resources and teachers are encouraged to select the ones that they think will resonate the most with their students.
Students will be able to:
- Define imposter syndrome
- Recognize when they are feeling imposter syndrome
- Understand the specific causes and consequences of their imposter syndrome
- Work towards labeling with specific language their feelings, expressing them in a situationally appropriate manner, and regulating with suggested strategies.
45 Minutes (~1 Class Period)
This lesson could certainly be extended for two class periods to allow more time for student discussion. Additionally, suggestions are given on ways to continue promoting the strategies presented in the lesson over the course of the regular curriculum.
- 3A-IC-24 Evaluate the ways computing impacts personal, ethical, social, economic, and cultural practices.
NYS Computing Standards
- 9-12.IC.5 Describe ways that complex computer systems can be designed for inclusivity and to mitigate unintended consequences.
- 9-12.DL.7 Design and implement strategies that support safety and security of digital information, personal identity, property, and physical and mental health when operating in the digital world.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
- Imposter Syndrome - the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.
- Affirmation - emotional support or encouragement.
This lesson can be delivered at any point during the year. A suggestion would be to consider using this lesson to begin or end a particularly difficult topic or project, or at the end of a strenuous week.
- Chart paper w/ Prompts
- Jamboard (takes place of chart paper, markers)
- Google Form or Classroom Assignment (takes place of post-its)
There are no formal assessments in this lesson, however, students will be asked to write affirmations for themselves and other students to use when imposter syndrome strikes. This could be used as a participation grade.
Display on board: Take two minutes to briefly journal your feelings on this class - how have you felt about what you’ve been learning about and making? What sort of mood/energy/vibe do you usually come into class with?
Feel free to modify this question as you see fit based on what your class has been working on, or what they may need
Ensure that your room is ready for the first activity by having chart paper hung with the following prompts (you may certainly modify or adjust based on the needs of your students):
- What are things you consider yourself to be really good at?
- What are things you may have started out struggling with, or needed to practice A LOT, but are now really good at?
- What is something you continue to struggle with?
- Describe a time when struggling helped you to be better at something.
- Describe a situation where you felt out of place, or like you didn’t belong.
- Imagine you are placed in an advanced class for an activity you consider yourself to be really good at, with other students who also feel that way - how do you feel being there?
- Imagine you are placed in an advanced class for an activity you struggle with, with other students who may or may not feel that way - how do you feel being there?
Resist the urge to get shares from the Do Now, and instead explain that today we are going to do a little reflection to help us be more comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and thus become better programmers. Begin by giving instructions for students to complete a chalk talk protocol and distribute a marker to each student. The basic gist is that students - completely silently - will circulate around the room, writing responses to each of the chart papers posted on the walls. Make sure students understand that their responses can be related to school or not, and can be things that are small - like tying their shoes - or big, like mastering a new, complex roller skating trick.
You may put on soft music while students circulate, but encourage them not to talk and to try to visit posters where there is not a large group. If they see things they agree with, they can make a checkmark or circle to show agreement. Once they’ve written on posters, they should continue circulating to review what others have written and respond or mark their agreement. Allow ~10-12 minutes for this protocol.
Intro, chart paper/chalk talk protocol, video, student discussion, affirmations activity, lead off to next possible lesson
Once students finish the ChalkTalk and sit, explain that we are reflecting on these things because there is a very dangerous thing that can strike in new, uncomfortable situations and especially in the world of CS: Imposter Syndrome. Define Imposter Syndrome for students and then cut to a video or article - you can select which one from the resources you think best fits your students, but we recommend this TEDEd Youtube Video as a good starting place.
After the video, ask students:
- Who saw (or wrote) something during the ChalkTalk that sounded like Imposter Syndrome?
- Why do we think talking about Imposter Syndrome is especially important in this class?
- Who do you think experiences Imposter Syndrome?
- If you’re feeling brave, would you like to share a moment when you feel you’ve experienced imposter syndrome? It’s okay if no one shares - be prepared to teacher model a moment you’ve felt like an imposter. (It’s happened to everyone!)
Display a slide for students that shows the following quotes to help explain that EVERYONE gets Imposter Syndrome:
- “I have written 11 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.’” - Maya Angelou
- “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” - Albert Einstein
- “I try to remind myself that “I am awesome” and that struggling is natural, but there is a part of me that no matter what feels like I don’t deserve anything. That all I’m doing is putting on a mask for others and for myself to feel better about what I do and who I am.” -Tian, High Schooler, Napa, CA (NY Times Interview Series)
Explain to students that the best way to combat Imposter Syndrome is first to understand what it is, so that you can begin to recognize it when it’s happening to you. From there, one of many good strategies is to give yourself reminders - affirmations - that you deserve to be where you are and are capable of great things.
Give each student 3-4 post-it notes and ask them to write their name in the corner of just one. Then, ask students to:
- Write on the post-it with their name an affirmation they want to receive when they are feeling out of place or like they do not belong in your class
- Write on the post-its without their name affirmations that they would want to tell others who may be feeling like they do not belong in your class.
Ask students to either place the post-its somewhere in the classroom, or collect them. (Try to keep named and unnamed post-its separate) Inform students that you will be delivering these affirmations when they most need them during the year.
Time permitting, ask students to revisit their brainstarter - if they wrote something that resembled imposter syndrome, ask them to think about if it was just their brain tricking them, or they really need assistance. Let students know that working with a supportive peer group and/or talking to a counselor or trusted adult are other great ways to combat imposter syndrome, and that the more comfortable they get with failing and taking risks in order to grow their skills, the less they will start feeling like every mistake is a mark that they don’t belong.
While this lesson can be delivered alone, we recommend the following to continue beyond this single class period:
- Imposter Syndrome Pt 2 Lesson - this will discuss causes of imposter syndrome as it relates to social media (specifically this Instagram article) and ask students to redesign or reimagine social media to better affirm the users.
- Include Journaling Activities in your lessons - building the metacognition to understand their own feelings is the first step in student social-emotional learning, and journaling activities that focus on feelings and emotions surrounding class can be helpful in allowing students space to process.
- Ask students to create a ‘Failure Resumé’ of times they failed ‘effectively’ - this could be a great post-project activity
- Utilize other imposter-syndrome resources to pepper in throughout other lessons - the tiktoks especially can be nice reminders and pick me ups for students