Ever feel like a turkey?

This sketch, illustrating imposter syndrome, is in the same series as the sketch from the previous post. This training session is given broadly, but is in large part designed for teaching assistants at MIT. When I was a TA at MIT for freshman chemistry, I was surprised to find that my students were not robot geniuses speaking in a secret language of differential equations, but rather they were for the most part 18 and 19 year olds terrified of not living up to expectations. I could relate, because as a 1st year grad student, I was still a little nervous about whether or not I belonged there too. An extreme form of this is called imposter syndrome, in which one believes that he or she doesn't belong, and lives in fear of being "found out". Hence the wise but self-doubting owl in the illustration, seeing itself in the reflection as a decidedly less clever species of bird. This is why educators should be careful to use "wise criticism" when talking to struggling students, as opposed to saying things like, "So... your family must have a strong alumni connection to this school?"