Have you ever suffered from ‘Imposter Syndrome’? (The Daily Post challenge for Thu, 27 Mar, ’14)
It’s the first day of the new school year in summer, and I’m in the assembly hall with all the pupils waiting to find out in whose class I’ll be this year. It’s the start of my second and final year at Intermediate – it only teaches Forms One and two, then we have to move onwards and upwards to Secondary School.
The Principal is standing at the lectern, the teaching staff seated in a row behind him. One or two are wearing strange black robes. One by one, a teacher is called to stand beside him, and a list of names is read out. The children leave the rows where they’ve been sitting with friends or foes from their Primary Schools or last year’s Form One class. Their teacher stands over them, pointing to the first girl to arrive to show her where she’s to stand They form a line across the hall in front of the stage, then follow their new teacher who in a military style, comes down the stage steps and leads them off,
“Sshh! Silence as we walk!” We hear that from inside the hall as the line is led across the quadrangle to block B, room eight. My classroom last year.
The allocation continues… until I’m one of those left for the last teacher. We know him – it’s Mr Turner, the Deputy Principal. Our name’s called, and we form the line, and he walk behind us as we leave the hall.
“Room A4. You know that.” His voice is brisk, but friendly.
Once in class, I see the seats are arranged as they’d been in my last year’s classroom. Rows of neatly aligned desks, in pairs, which have name tags and a pencil on each. I find my seat and at last can look around to see who I know and who’s new.
My heart sinks … Robert from “Por’smiff-in-Englan’ “ isn’t here. I hope he is at the school, and me jabbing his bum last year with my new compass didn’t make his Mum and Dad leave town.
We start lessons, first having to stand at the front of the class and tell who we are, whose class we were in last year, what we had enjoyed most over the December-January holiday. Then we had to show a sample of our best writing, in our best handwriting, so we were asked to write for half an hour without stopping or talking, about either the holidays or what we wanted to be when we left school.
More routine tasks – then the bell rang for morning break. Outside, among the hordes of new kids running around exploring the grounds, peering into the windows of the Art and Science, the Woodwork and Metalwork, and the Cooking and Sewing blocks, I roamed around the quadrangle. I’d not recognised many of the girls in my new class, and was looking for one of last year’s friends. Joanne came pelting up to me.
“Lynne! G’day! I’m in Mrs Percival’s class. Where did you get put?”
“Mr Turner’s class.”
“Ooh, that’s the ‘brainy kids’ class! Boy are you going to have to work hard there!”
“No, it’s not the brainy kids’ class. Why would they put me in there? I’m not brainy.” I felt indignant at the idea that people could have decided so wrongly. Then she dropped another bomb-shell:
“Well, we were in the Form One brainy kids’ class last year. Of course they’re going to put you in Mr Turner’s class. Ooh, there’s Mary – see you later!” And she was gone.
Leaving me feeling numb and dumbstruck. Me – brainy? No, they’d got it wrong, surely.
Well, I was in the “brainy kids’” class all year. And it was a year of hell, emotionally. There were funny moments – like when one of the boys went snooping through papers on Mr. Turner’s desk one lunch time, and announced to us all …
“Hey, he’s Frederick, Gordon, Sylvester, Turner!” I don’t think any one of us ever forgot his full name. after the laugh we got out of it.
Mr. Turner demonstrated playing the violin – bowing and pizzicato, tunes, sound effects. It was that which made me ask my Mum if I could learn the violin. He called in a St John’s Ambulance speaker, to demonstrate reviving someone with chest compressions, I asked Mum if I could do the St. John’s First Aid course, and finished it in half the expected time, passed the tests, and started on their Home Nursing course.
As Deputy Principal, there was a time each day when Mr Turner had to leave us with work and go and work in his office in the Staff Block. He’d be away for between a half and a full hour at a time.
Whenever he was over in his office, I would keep my head down, not talk to anyone, and make sure I got the chore done – while all the time expecting him to say on his return…
“Lynne, it looks like we made a mistake. You’re not meant to be in this class after all. You’re meant to be with Miss Porteous” (She was the teacher in charge of the special needs kids who couldn’t learn and the hard cases who wouldn’t learn.)
It was that shock of being lumped into the role of imposter, feeling I didn’t deserve to be there and the fear I would be discovered as an imposter, a fake, a dumby, that made me work so bloody hard for him.
It was many years later that I knew enough about schools ( trained as a teacher) that I realized I was one of the brainy kids, which had been why the private convent school had placed me into the Academic stream, rather than the Trade & Commerce stream. At the time I thought only the clever kids got to do sewing, cooking, domestic science, typing and in their senior year, shorthand. I was SO jealous of my older sister, who was learning French AND German, and Clothing, I was sure she was (is—still do think so) the clever daughter in the family.