Imposter syndrome and being a guitar teacher
Imposter syndrome is a term from the world of psychology. It’s a collection of feelings associated with chronic self-doubt. One aspect of this can be described as ‘feeling like a fake’. Imposter syndrome is something experienced by people in all areas of expertise and, ironically, to some of the most highly skilled professionals of all.
A fake guitar teacher?
Imposter syndrome and being a guitar teacher certainly have the potential to coexist. In fact because being a freelance guitar teacher doesn’t require any formal qualifications, this could make us even more vulnerable to it.
The trouble with being a guitar teacher is that there’s no industry seal of approval to say when you’re good enough (see also Am I good enough to be a guitar teacher?).
There’s no diploma that you can turn to for reassurance. Consequently, it’s very easy to feel like a fraud; especially in your early days of teaching guitar.
Are you a suitable guitar teacher?
If you experience imposter syndrome, it’s best dealt with as soon as it rears its ugly head. See it for what it is: feelings; not facts … or not necessarily at least.
Make an honest assessment of your abilities both as a guitarist and as a guitar teacher.
Next, make a similar assessment of your students’ current abilities and where they would like to take their guitar playing.
Then, ask yourself whether you are reasonably suited to be their guitar teacher. Identify precise subject matter than you can teach them and what material you could prepare to help them.
If you don’t have any students yet, imagine teaching a beginner. Could you do a good job teaching a beginner guitarist? Have you got good material prepared? Are your charges reasonable for what your deliver?
Have you overreached as a guitar teacher?
If you’re in your early days of teaching guitar then it’s possible that you may have taken on a guitar student that is beyond your current level of guitar teaching skills. Maybe they’re interested in a style of music that you just don’t cover well enough yet.
It should be quite easy to identify a student like this. If you genuinely don’t think you can deliver appropriate high quality guitar lessons to this student, you should tell them so.
You could also recommend an alternative guitar teacher in the area. This is the best thing for the student and may build a bond between you and another guitar teacher that could serve you in the future.
More guitar teacher doubts?
The good news is that if you still have doubts about your guitar teaching abilities after this little assessment, your students will make the judgement for you.
If you don’t have much to teach your students, or you have little prepared material, or you don’t offer reasonable value for money, they simply will not come back.
When it comes to one-to-one guitar tuition, the teacher–student relationship is broadly self-regulating. If the student is happy with the guitar teacher, the guitar lessons will continue. If they are not, they will (and should) go elsewhere.
So, if imposter syndrome and being a guitar teacher are a concern for you, my advice is to rationalise your feelings of self-doubt. Acknowledge that they are a normal part of starting a new career.
Make a genuine assessment of your ability to teach guitar, and the requirements of your students. Prepare additional material for areas where your teaching might be weak. And of course, do the best you can in each and every guitar lesson. The rest is for your students to decide.
|Stuart Bahn is a professional guitar teacher in London, and creator of the Be A Guitar Teacher video course.
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