Things Teachers Tell Students (But Don’t Do Themselves)

Like most jobs, being a teacher can get a little bit hypocritical sometimes. Embedded in any position of power comes a role that can easily become mired in duplicity if one is not careful. Politicians routinely fall victim to their own words when they fail to represent the living proof of their politics. You can’t be the mayor who is tough on crime but then committing your own acts of impropriety on your down time. For teachers, the hypocritical dualism between what one says and how one actually models it is a little bit less cut and dry. But still, there are a few glaring examples. Below are 3 things teachers tell students but don’t do themselves:


  • Telling students to sit still and work.

I have fallen victim to this hypocrisy many times. In the past, I have expected my students to sit and work for forty minutes straight and fuss when a few of them keep getting out of their chairs every five minutes. But when it comes time for these teachers to do their work…oh, I guess the same rule doesn’t apply, huh? The next time you sit down to mark a set of English papers or write a bunch of report cards, keep a running tally of how many times over the course of an hour you need to take a mental break. In fact, right after I finish this sentence I think I’ll go check to see what’s in the fridge (even though I ate an hour ago)…


  • Be quiet and listen when I am talking.

The heading actually isn’t completely accurate. It should read, “Be quiet and listen when I am talking…and listen some more when I keep talking, and keep listening while I keep rambling.” When we talk (some people call it instructing, or teaching) for 20 minutes straight, we shouldn’t immediately snap on the kid that is fiddling with his pencil or looking out the window. I am not saying that your kids shouldn’t be paying attention when you are talking in front of the class. But how many times have you zoned out during a staff meeting? And I bet when you did, your principal didn’t snap on you for losing focus.


  • Deadlines

What a touchy subject indeed. Of course teachers are professionals so at the end of the day accountability comes before complacency. But maybe I’m the only one that hasn’t learned from every single teacher I once had that told me, “You don’t want to wait until the night before to do this.” So now, let’s think about a student. Yes, a student and not a professional; a kid who is still learning about the finer things in life who, by the way, doesn’t get paid to complete an experiment on photosynthesis. When you think about it like that, it’s surprising to realize the amount of students that actually put their entire effort into completing that map of Canada for you.


These are just three lighthearted examples of the ways in which teaching can sometimes be a job that is a little bit hypocritical. Focus, attentive behavior and deadlines are all important aspects to learning and the school process. We can’t proceed without them. But it is something to keep in mind the next time we step into the classroom and go through a day of negotiations with our students.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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