I am a fraud “my time at TMC14”

TMC14 is real!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ok as I am on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown, an identity crisis, and a feeling of complete inferiority. I ask why. DID tmc do this to me, Kinda…. I came here expecting great things and I am bombarded with so many things beyond great. I then reflect back to Wheeling, West Virginia and reflect to my practices. I thought I was pretty good, on the leading edge of technology, implementing project based where I could and idolized by students. I felt as if I were a good teacher. Then I show up in Jenks. To be surrounded by this many people that are this far above me in every area of teaching, learning, growing, intellect, honesty, humor, and kindness, hit me like a stake through my heart. I truly feel as I am nothing compared to those I met here. And going from feeling like top dog to nothing is crushing to everything that I held dear to me. So if I am not a great teacher…… WHO AM I
I got the honor Thursday night to sit with amazing people sharing their fears, hopes, and personal secrets of their life in teaching. They were so honest, so completely naked, and I, wanting to join in “fit in” offered some of my fears but then as I awoke today I feel dirty. My heart is heavy, because I lied. Well I didn’t completely lie I just shared certain fears and strengths that manipulated people to see me the way I wanted them to see me. We were all skinny dipping but I had a flesh colored bathing suit on “with painted on abs”. So, to those who were sitting and being honest Thursday night, thank you, and I am sorry. Even as I write this blog it is really hard not to write things to manipulate others into liking me. So if I can’t be honest to you…….. WHO CAN I BE HONEST WITH?
And as I enter my 9th year of teaching, I could be entering my last year. There is a high possibility that I could be going into sales and this conference confirms my movement into that field, because I feel so inadequate….. so beyond inadequate. I feel defeated. My crisis is……. Teaching is not what I do….. It’s who I am….. but if I can’t teach…………..WHO AM I????

25 thoughts on “I am a fraud “my time at TMC14”

  1. So, may I push back a little on this?

    Imagine a student who decides to take an Honors course for the first time and comes to you with these same feelings of inadequacy? What would you say to him/her?

    I’m not sure it’s a great analogy…but how would you empower a student to develop a growth mindset when they reach that place of perceived limitation (which ALL of them/us eventually reach)?

  2. Dear Mr. Kent,

    I assure you, you are not a fraud. And you are not inferior to anyone at TMC14. That you are there shows that you care about teaching and learning, growing personally and professionally, staying current, sharing ideas – all signs of someone sincere, not fraudulent. I am not in Jenks this year, but I was in Philly last year, and I get what you may be feeling.

    The truth is, many of the teachers at TMC14 have also admitted feeling inferior (look through this morning’s #tmc14 thread). It’s hard not to when so many great ideas are being shared – but remember, these people are there sharing a few great ideas, they can’t all be that awesome all of the time. What makes it harder still is the celebrity reception some of the veterans get from those newer to the mtbos. That’s not reality, and I wish it would stop.

    When you go back to Wheeling, think hard about how you felt before going to Jenks. Being surrounded by all of these new people and new ideas can’t have taken anything FROM your teaching practice, you just need to figure out what little bit of it you want to add TO your teaching practice. And as for being honest, it only matters that you are honest with yourself. You owe no one else a piece of your soul.

    There must be a thousand reasons why you are idolized by your students. Please don’t let a weekend with other teachers make you feel any less of a hero – your new students deserve to have that awesome teacher, Mr. Kent this fall. I wish you sharp pencils and sharper students!

    Jennifer Silverman (@jensilvermath)

  3. Julie says:

    Mo!!! I have never seen you teach, but I know that you are NOT a fraud. I know this bc you read Harry Wong, make the first day different, and learn all of the students names. All of this shows how much you care! Any teacher who cares that much for students is not a fraud. Any teacher who would write this blog post is honest and brave, not a fraud. We all feel intimidated at TMC. These teachers are unreal, right? But just being here, and recognizing that you want to be better makes you a wonderful teacher, not a terrible one. My goal is to implement just five of the hundreds of things I learned this week. But there is no way any of us could do them all. We are all feeling overwhelmed and overloaded, and probably insecure. However, it’s realizing that we are NOT perfect that allows us to strive to be better. No one is perfect, but no one who wants to be better is a fraud.

    I’ve enjoyed getting to meet you. You are a kind and personable. I pray that you don’t quit teaching and will give it just one more year. Students need such caring teachers like you!

  4. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to someone a couple of years ago:

    “With that video you’ve completely shredded my notion that I am doing a good job in the classroom.”

    I can relate to your current crisis, as I had spent seven years pursuing a certain approach to teaching, felt like I had honed/polished my craft, was receiving various kudos and complements from students, parents, and colleagues, etc. But then I came across something that shattered the ceiling of what it meant to be an amazing teacher. I was introduced to an entire world filled with people who all—every last one of them—seemed to be better at teaching than I previously thought was even possible.

    Later in the email…

    “It’s a discomforting feeling, but even now I am incredibly grateful for what you’ve done.”

    Grateful? Yes. And here’s why:

    “And either way, thank you for shattering my idea that I was doing “alright”. My students can—and hopefully will—receive so much more in the years to come.”

    I stopped by your blog because someone on Twitter mentioned your blog post. It resonated with me because I’ve been there (and in many ways am STILL there, though in different ways and different measures than I was several years ago). My task is now to figure out how I can take steps (more often than not, they’re just baby steps) toward improving my craft, for my students and also for myself.

    One other thought… I love teaching. It’s a huge part of me. In a very real sense, it’s who I am (something else I connected with in your post). But there is more to me than teaching, and I suspect the same is true of you. Sometimes that’s an encouraging thing for me to recall (after a difficult day, a terrible lesson, etc.) I hope it’s an encouragement to you after what sounds like a very intimidating conference.


  5. Wendy Menard says:

    Hey, Mr. Kent – sadly I could not be at TMC14, but I know exactly how you feel – because that is how I felt last year at TMC13, and how I feel quite often when basking in the collective brilliance in the MTBoS. But we all feel like that to a certain degree, and like you said “Teaching is …who I am…” – to me, that’s half the game.

    I don’t know you, but if you are that invested in your teaching, I sort of doubt you can’t teach. And I am sure there are things you do very well. When you get back home, take some time to decompress, and try to reflect back on all the great ideas you heard, and pick one or two that you think work well with your students and your practice. Change takes time, and if we change a just little bit all the time, we’re going to end up pretty great.

    [Forgive me for this bold, bossy comment. Your post really moved me.]

  6. Brett Parker says:

    Great teachers know they can always do better and strive for it. Admiring your colleagues shows how good u r! Teaching is a humbling experience, but you are making a huge difference.

  7. Andy says:

    As someone who listened to you late last night, I’m just not completely sure what things led to your conclusions. My guess is that you are comparing perceptions of others against the reality of yourself. Perceptions are formed from the very limited perspectives you have into others’ classrooms based on what they choose to say, blog, or tweet. Self reality is based on a much wider set of data, leaving a lot more room for someone who expects a lot from himself to be critical. Even if there is an appreciable difference in teaching skill, knowing that you are not the best at something does not make you worse than pretending that you were as good as you could be and covering your eyes. You are in an awesome position of being good at what you do with room for growth by your own standards. Unless you intend to give up and stop learning, TMC and the MTBoS is exactly where you belong.

  8. Dan Meyer says:

    Hey look here’s Sam Shah on feeling like a fraud:


    THE Sam Shah.

  9. Andrew says:

    Just try to be better tomorrow than you are today. This is all we can do.

  10. pegcagle says:

    Everyone who asks more of themselves and has the guts to step onto a bigger stage has at least a momentary feeling of inadequacy (unless they are an unmitigated ass). It was a common comment around PCMI that it was understandable that participants might be a bit full of themselves upon arrival, but anyone who went home arrogant just proved they were not paying attention. Since Dan already invoked THE Sam Shah, I will include a link to something Sam had me write based on a conversation we had about how to continually feed your belief in the work we do and your contribution to it.

  11. gfrblxt says:

    Mr. Kent –

    There are plenty of “big names” above this comment telling you you’re not a fraud. I’m not a big name, so my telling you you’re not a fraud may not carry the same weight.


    There is ALWAYS going to be someone who knows more about X, who can teach Y “better”, who can come up with a thousand different examples of topic Z that you might not have thought of. And that’s OK, because that’s just the nature of life. But you have to remind yourself – YOU are the one who stands in front of your students EVERY DAY and tries their damnedest to make a difference. YOU are the one who CHOSE to go to TMC14, indicating that you have a great deal of interest in mathematics teaching and improving your craft. Nothing at all can take that away from you.

    I wish you luck. But more importantly, I wish you peace of mind. You are a teacher. Be proud of that.


  12. millikinjax says:

    I’m impressed with your honesty here. Thank you for sharing this. It’s given me a lot to think about and I don’t even know you. The fact that you have these feelings points out that you are a caring instructor that just wants the best for his students. Thank you again. I like to be challenged to think.

  13. Eric Fleming says:

    Mr. Kent, I know nothing about you and also did not attended TMC14, although it does sound like a fun.However I am a second year teacher and I am sure that you have capabilities that I do not possess currently, but I do not think less of myself. In a similar fashion nor should you think less of of yourself in the company of other possibly more experienced teachers.

    The truth is that perfection is an illusion, a destination you cannot reach because it’s like chasing the horizon. Having an ego is a waste of time and for the same reason I bet some of the people you think are great inwardly feel the same way about themselves. The difference is they feed off their sense of their own inadequetcy, propelling them forward only to reach a new plateau continuing the cycle of self improvement.

    So if you want to enter this mythic pantheon of math teachers, imagine having a conversation with your future self. Future Kent knows he’s nothing without you. Future Kent learned everything from all of your hard work and courage and therefore thanks you profusely. The only way for you to thank yourself now is to take that first step forward, and then the second, third, and however many steps it takes until finally you reach that point. The point where you realize how far you’ve come and it’s time to thank your past self, now your present self, for where you wanted to be.

  14. Man, it is so nice to know that others have the exact same feelings. I think participation in MTBOS is like a double-edged sword because on the one hand you get fired up and full of ideas and excitement… But on the other, it’s like a constant reminder of all the things you don’t do “right.” And if you’re here it’s because you *want* to be the best teacher you can be.

    A few months ago, I had a deep crisis that I’ve been doing it all wrong, could I even be harming rather than helping my students?, and wrote a similarly depressed blog post. But I’ve come to realize that like our students we too are works in progress, learning as we go, and it’s not possible to leap a tall building in one bound when before you were only clearing regular hurdles. And you were clearing those hurdles; not being able to leap over a building doesn’t diminish that.

    Be kind to yourself. And it seems like I’m writing this to you, but selfishly I’m also writing it as a reminder to myself.

  15. […] posts have already been made. A couple of them are really touching and reflect insecurity (see here by @MrKent800, see here by @lmhenry9). Glancing at my neglected digg reader I see that there are […]

  16. There’s already lots here, but I want to add my voice to the list telling you that self doubt is a natural part of reaching out and trying new things. As a long time try-er of new things, I understand this cycle pretty well and I would suggest that after the self doubt feeling goes away, you will feel even stronger than before. It’s always darkest before the dawn 🙂

  17. Pam Wilson says:

    Sorry our paths didn’t cross at TMC14 but I look so forward to reading more in the future from your journey. Your post resonates with so many. My initial thought – I hope this guy doesn’t leave the classroom for sales – what a loss for so many students. If you can sell our product, like Dan Meyer refers to it, well, that’s a crazy good thing. In my blog title it says I want to be innovative – but compared to what? I will never be as techy, progressive and on fire as my tmc colleagues. But their drive to learn, passion about our craft and openness to share gives me tools and ideas to support changes for my own needed growth so I can become better than I was yesterday. Have an amazing school year!

  18. Chris says:

    Your post has been on my mind for the last couple of days. I was at TMC14 this year for the first time. I get the overwhelming feeling as you look around the room and see 149 other people who seem to do the same job you do so much better than you do. Here’s my take on that feeling. TMC14 and everyone there is a light along the path to the allusive perfection. When we think the end of the path is near there is a new idea, a new technology, or a new methodology that detours us from gaining the allusive perfection. It is frustrating and spirit breaking. But, the light of others remains steady along the path. They are their to help us to the next level in our quest for our perfection. They are not there to leave us in the dark. Embrace their ideas and help because each year you work with the most imperfect creation, the human being.

  19. […] it was Mr Kent’s “I am a fraud” post or Lisa Henry’s, but I fell into more and more conversations with people who felt […]

  20. […]  I cared about them because I knew who they were. I wanted to be on twitter.  And when I saw this post reflecting about inadequacies, I wanted to write a blog post to respond to it because I knew that […]

  21. Shawn says:

    I’m going into my 9th year also. It’s refreshing to hear your comments because they echo mine in many scenarios. I feel you’ve stripped them down to bear honesty, which is hard to do I’m sure.

    I think there are 2 things to consider:

    1. Social Media (including twitter) has the effect of highlighting people and making lives appear very glamorous. John Scammell commented on your post in regards to many ppl feeling inferior after hearing highlights and great ideas that you didn’t come up with.

    2. It’s all relative. The second smartest person might feel inferior to number one. It’s natural to feel “lesser” in a group of motivated people that have come together to share so many ideas. That environment is not natural in most school settings.

    Special option 3. I couldn’t go to TMC and am just jealous.

  22. […] A post by Mo titled “I am a fraud” and as a follow up a post by Lisa Henry titled  “Hi My Name is Lisa” which resonated […]

  23. […] a variety of awesome teaching ideas, strategies & methods.  There were moving blog posts by Mo, Lisa Henry, and numerous tweets disusing feeling scared, or […]

  24. […] giving me the courage to take this educational leap of faith.  For all of you that commented on my blog  with encouraging remarks… thank you….   For @lisaherny and @samjshaw sharing their […]

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