“Fake it till you make it.”
I have heard this saying many times, in many contexts, from many people. But I didn’t know the true meaning of this saying until I began teaching. My previous jobs – I say job because do you truly have a career shift in your 20s – provided on the job training, slow progression to larger tasks, individualized work plans, and the opportunity to figure things out before a big event or project. Sure, teaching has its training, classes, support systems, but you don’t really know what you’re doing until you meet your students. You “fake it till you make it.” They may know that you are new; if they have been to the school before, the will know you are new. But they don’t have to know that you are unsure of yourself.
While this is the largest application of faking it till you make it, there are countless others: sharing your love of reading (even if you hate it), sharing your school spirit (even if your basketball team hasn’t won a game in years), sharing your penchant for grammar (even if comma rules give you nightmares). Your students are sponges. They pick up everything you say and everything you do. They focus on your tone and your facial expressions. They can tell if the topic of the day is your favorite or not. But, they can also be easily fooled.
Our school teaches two novels a year in tandem with the text book. The novel for 6th grade will be changing to Wonder (yay!), but we had been teaching Dragonwings. I don’t know if you had ever read Dragonwings, but it was definitely not my cup of tea. It did have adventure and magic realism, but I’m more into realistic fiction, science fiction, and memoirs. Did my students know that I didn’t like this book, though? No! I told them before we started how much I loved the book and how excited I was to discuss it with them. They went home, read ahead, and could not wait to tell me their favorite parts.
I knew in those weeks that I could not steal any learning moments from my students. I could not steal any joy from them. Just because we may be covering something that I did not care for, that does not mean that one of my students may not find it to be the most fascinating piece of literature ever written. By faking your enthusiasm for required content, you allow your students the opportunity to make their own decisions about the content. They may come to the same conclusion you – many of my students did – but let them have that experience.