Happy New Year!
The middle of the school year is nigh. Many students have settled into a very productive working routine while some are still finding out how to balance their newly found social life with their workload. Others still are struggling with self-doubt which is commonly described as impostor syndrome. Each year we face this at Lighthouse as we are steeped in high ability and high achievement. Sometimes, however, there is a mis-match between perceived ability and actual output. Many of our students come to us having been the biggest fish in a little pond but now they see themselves as a little fish in a big pond. In actuality, we work with our kids to help them understand that every student at Lighthouse School for Gifted and Insatiable Learners is a big fish in a little pond. Enough with the fishy language, right?
Simran Bhargava, in her article, “The Impostor Syndrome: Feeling Like a Fraud,” explains "‘imposter syndrome’ strikes people everywhere, especially high achievers. It makes them discount their success attributing it to luck, not real ability. Along with it comes the fear that anytime they could be found out. The more successful you get, the greater the inner stress. Now people have expectations of you that you may not be able to meet. Now each decision you make should be perfect because there’s much to lose.” At Lighthouse this manifests itself when students start comparing themselves to their age and ability peers. Students sometimes wonder, “Do I belong here? Did the teachers make a mistake admitting me? Other students can keep up, why am I struggling?” This is especially true when a gifted student meets their first struggle or failure and sees those around them seeming to have immediate success. Learning what it means to be gifted is very important for everyone who deals with gifted people; teachers, students, and parents all need to understand the double-edged sword that is giftedness. It is especially important to help the community understand that being gifted does not mean being “perfect,” nor does it mean better, nor should it mean that students are not allowed to be kids. It simply means that one has the ability, sometimes but not always shown in achievement, to learn more quickly, with more depth, and with more intensity.
I have had many discussions as our second term revs up about impostor syndrome with students. One student discusses past works coming so easily, but having to work so hard now to get the same result; “has the muse moved on?” Or struggles when their physical coordination to produce a product does not meet the vision they have in their head. Yet another student laments that their writing never lives up to the ideas in their head.
With such thoughts, discussions, and struggles, one danger with impostor syndrome is similar to the challenge previously discussed about perfectionism; some decide to shutdown believing that the effort is not worth the results nor is the pain of failure worth the heartache. Other students would rather work at home where the risk of “showcasing” their failures to their classmates is less likely. While others still, play the part of the “lazy,” “uninterested,” or “goofball” student to minimize the risk of showing their struggles.
Please have discussions with your child about impostor syndrome and help them understand that this feeling is normal, but one must continue to learn how to cope with this feeling in order to reach one’s goals. It is my intention to continuously have these discussions with Lighthouse students so that when, maybe if, they meet this challenge they understand that it is normal and it can be overcome.
Most kids at Lighthouse should be able to get their work done while at school if they are utilizing their time wisely and efficiently. One way families can continue to encourage good behavior at school is enforce that home is a place for family time, discussions about their Lighthouse work, and time to play with neighborhood friends. Although it is counter-intuitive, we do not give homework at Lighthouse nor do we expect kids to do homework.
There are, of course, times when a student falls behind for all sorts of reasons out of their control and they may need to catch up. One huge reason is taking courses concurrently at both LH and SLPHS. This is understandable. If family, however, enforces work time at home, this can serve to reinforce that the self-directed environment at Lighthouse is for kids to socialize with their friends. In essence, “why would I work at school rather than socializing with my friends if I know my parents are going to force me to work at home without friends?”
As always, thanks for entrusting your child to Lighthouse School for Gifted and Insatiable Learners,