Teacher Self-Doubt: Curse or Gift?

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Hollie Anderton

Hollie is currently an English teacher and Head of Year in North Wales with a degree in Theatre. She trained in Bath Spa University to gain her PGCE and is currently a Network Leader for WomenEd Wales Hollie is the author of the Teacher Toolkit...
Read more about Hollie Anderton

Is it wrong to doubt yourself?

Every day our lives are plagued with self-doubt and uncertainty in our own abilities. Most of us deliberate over what to wear, how to act and what people will think of us – this is just a part of being human. As teachers, we have self-doubt in other areas too.

‘Am I doing enough for them?’, ‘Is it worth taking this risk?’, ‘But what about the data?’ are just some of the questions that we ask ourselves every single day. I know that the first question is constantly at the back of my mind when teaching. Our whole lives revolve around doing the best that we can by way of our 30 children which can be a huge pressure; so naturally, doubt in oneself occurs.

Of course, self-doubt can have huge negatives.

Self-Doubt or Reign Supreme?

When allowed to reign supreme, it can consume you, leading you to the belief that you actually can’t do anything. It can crush even the strongest of us until we are so driven to stick within the lines, that we become a cocoon of our previous selves. It can move us past the point of return and with the huge pressures that teachers are confronted with today, this can lead to brilliant educators leaving the profession.

Even with such drastic negative effects, self-doubt can be a fantastic tool. Without it, we can become over-confident and this leaves no room for growth. Self-doubt allows us to open both our minds and hearts to the possibility that we can do better. It allows us to see through the fog to the light on the other side that is reached when we overcome that niggling feeling. By embracing your self-doubt, you are setting an example to others to face their own issues and find proactive and effective ways to deal with them.

3 Tips for Challenging and Utilising Self-Doubt

1. Don’t allow it to eat you up. If you feel that your lack of self-belief is harming your ability as an educator, face it head on. This is the same with any fear or anxiety. You can’t hide from it. So instead of pretending that it will go away, find a way to rid yourself of it. Settle your own mind by being proactive: Take advice from a friend or colleague; map out your problems so that you can see it clearly; don’t hold all responsibility on your shoulders.

2. Don’t forget the reasons. Most educators became educators to make a difference. It may have been naive to think that every child you teach will become a better person because of it, but why should that mean that this can’t be true for the majority? With crippling self-doubt, you’re not living up to the high expectations that you set for yourself when you became a teacher.

3. Share the burden. Chances are, you’re not alone. As humans, we are sociable beings. Most of us crave some reassurance sometimes and that is okay. Self-doubt is a fear, most fears become a lot easier to deal with when someone else is aware. It’s not showing weakness, it’s showing enthusiasm to change.

Self-doubt doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from you knowing that you maybe can do more. We teach children to have a growth mindset, we need to start with one ourselves. There’s a huge difference, it seems, between self-doubt that immobilises its victim, and self-doubt that is a vehicle for change, and the latter is the doubt that we need to embrace.

So, in my opinion, self-doubt can help you achieve incredible things – like anything, you just have to treat it well.

Hollie Anderton writes for Teacher Toolkit


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