By Tia Luck
We’ve all been there: staging the perfect social media post, not speaking up when we have an idea or questioning our accomplishments. Imposter syndrome is the feeling we’ve all experienced to hide some part of who we are to better fit into the perceived expectations of a group. These feelings of self-doubt, trying to prove yourself — or fit in — often occur in schools and workplaces.
Pretending in this manner undermines our subconscious sense of self-identity. Not surprisingly, imposter syndrome has grave impacts on students’ ability to engage and learn at higher levels, has a negative impact on self-esteem, and can affect long-term mental health. This stress is known to cause anxiety and depression. It is especially apparent in our students from marginalized populations, according to the American Journal of Pediatrics. In particular, for the developing identities of children, no one should need to hide who they are to find acceptance and success in school.
To address this issue, a significant part of our work at Eagle County Schools is creating and nurturing identity-affirming schools. We want students to feel safe, be themselves, and take academic risks.
Taking risks requires safe and brave spaces. Safe enough to be our true selves, brave enough to talk about our differences. The past one-size-fits-all “equal” approach to public education did not value our individuality and encouraged imposter syndrome. Let this new decade see us bring value to each student’s unique background and distinct learning style as we develop students who are college-, career- and culture-ready to participate in our diverse community and world.
From our focus this school year, we’re seeing learning environments improve. Staff members are gaining greater awareness of their identities and building deeper connections with each other, resulting in better collaboration. As students are sharing their identity and backgrounds, schools are responding by adapting instruction to better suit student identities. Youth Equity Stewardship students are actively participating in training with teachers, providing active feedback. Students are engaging beyond the classroom, attending board meetings, and other seminars of interest to them.
We have seen an increase in elementary reading scores by prioritizing relationship building in reading groups. As students feel safer by opening up about some of their needs, they’re building trust with one another, and are more comfortable in their struggle to learn new skills.
These changes are exciting, but we’re only at the beginning of our efforts. There’s much more work to do. YES! participants participate in their third workshop today. They will focus on creative expression and creative resistance. These students are ambassadors who use their learning to have a positive impact on the environment in their schools.
In addition, one of the most fascinating young speakers in America, Kelsey Tainsh, is presenting to elementary and middle school students on January 27 and 28. As we did with Mountain Film, Tainsh will also present to the community Monday, Jan. 27, at Berry Creek Middle School. The event starts at 7 p.m. and is on a first-come, first-served basis. She’ll explore the link between equity and mental health. As a 27-year old stroke survivor, Tainsh connects with her audience in ways other speakers can’t. Look for more information to follow so you don’t miss this message.
By working together — educators, support staff, students, parents, and community members — we’re profoundly transforming education in Eagle County Schools so that everyone feels valued, welcomed, and included.
Tia Luck is the equity coordinator for Eagle County Schools. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.