Avoiding hypocrisy in teaching is not just about the things we do, or not as the case may be. It’s about being honest. None of us are perfect practitioners, probably not even close. There is nothing wrong with that. Teaching isn’t about obtaining perfection, ‘silver bullet’ solutions or even about imperfect teachers comparing themselves to perfect teachers.
The hard truth is: often, we are hypocrites because, in some ways, we are hypocrites.
Maybe it’s because of what we say. We want students to reflect and evaluate, but we struggle to find the time for observations or critique of our own practice. We want students to be creative, energetic, and enterprising, but we are reluctant to be try ‘new’ things in our own classrooms. We ask students to “seize the opportunities offered by new knowledge and technologies, but we say we don’t have enough time. We want students to accept criticism and feedback on their work, but we are unwilling to have ‘open to learning’ conversations. We want students to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners, but lack the conviction to be these things ourselves. The reality is teachers are people and people are flawed.
The word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word ‘hypokrites’, which means “stage actor, pretender, dissembler.” So think of a hypocrite as a person who pretends to be a certain way, but really acts and believes the total opposite. Usually it’s talking a big talk but failing to follow their own rules.
The reality is, we’re not hypocrites because of what we say or because of what we do—we’re hypocrites when we hide our faults and try to act like we’ve got it all figured out.
We expect a lot of our students, and rightly so. Do we expect the same of ourselves? One day, the young people we teach will be you and me. At what point do we expect them to stop being the people we expect them to be now.
Lately it has been a struggle to share anything. Not because there isn’t anything to share, quite the opposite actually. I simply lacked the motivation. My Hub students reminded me of the need to at least practice a little of the things I preach, especially because that is my expectation of them.
In the end, we do matter and we can make a difference. A teacher has immense power to influence the life of a young person. We must take care and accept the responsibility that is ours to care for and prepare learners for more than the status quo. At the same time we must not forget that we too are learners.
“Actually, we have misidentified hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is not the failure to practice what you preach but the failure to believe it. Hypocrisy is propaganda.” (Peter Kreeft)