english, language arts, middle school, spies, teacher

8 Ways Teachers Are Like Spies

teacher hiding again

I first wanted to be a spy when I was a teenager; not sure what sparked my interest, but I was of course into all the romance of it. When the hit show Alias came out with Jennifer Garner, that sealed my pseudo-ambitions. My college friends and I would faithfully watch the episodes every Sunday (this was just before the binge-watching days of Netflix or DVR). We would occasionally execute low-risk spy missions, which would include bursting out around a corner of a hallway or stealing a dorm mascot. In real life, however, it was apparent to me and everyone around me that I was NOT “Spy Material.” I struggle with basic, critical espionage skills such as gross motor movements, hand-eye coordination, and split-second decision-making. So, long story short, I decided to become a teacher. You’re welcome, CIA.

awkward spy

Me, if I would have become a spy.

Fast-forward to present day. I’ve been reading a book the past week (because summer!) called The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman. I got it as a birthday present for my husband last year because I wanted to read it. Perhaps not so surprisingly, he hasn’t read it, and I’m now admitting it was a gift to myself. Anyway, as I was reading, it struck me like a toy train in the head (I live with little boys) that being a teacher is pretty much like being a spy.* Maybe I am living out my dream, after all! I’m going to try to convince you of this by the end of my blog post, which coincidentally, will self-destruct within three seconds of you looking at the last word. **

1. We try to avoid detection. When I have a short break, I can blend into the walls or work in the dark as surely as a ninja to maximize my planning time.


2. We never know who’s listening. Students have the ears of cheetahs (when they’re not being given directions). I will often find myself speaking in vague or encrypted terms, or with my eyes/eyebrows to other teachers to communicate Adult Stuff. We all understand the code.

eye contact.jpg

3. We, too, can have spy senses (when we’re not being given directions). Our powers of observation could likely rival the FBI. I can spot good deeds from across a cafeteria. Those halls can carry the sounds of voices, and if I hear anything — mean talk, someone about to lose their lunch, confusion over homework — I’m instantly attuned to the signs of distress. Sometimes, students don’t have to say a word, and I know something’s wrong and I’m automatically thinking about how to make the situation better. And I can mostly tell when someone’s lying or when they’ve plagiarized on their paper. If someone is acting a little fishy, like they have that certain gleam in their eye, I get within closer proximity immediately.

super hearing

4. I always keep students second-guessing. I write them notes on their papers about things they didn’t think I noticed. I have alluded to an alleged secret passageway behind the bookshelf in my room. Also, I like to joke around with students about how I’m leading a double life, possibly as a spy, by dropping cryptic comments during class and not clarifying what I said despite confused or wondering looks. They’re never quite sure (or so I’d like to think).

secret passageway

5. We often go long periods of time without relieving ourselves. I haven’t yet confirmed this, but I would have to imagine that spies can’t just use the restroom whenever they want.


6. We work with whatever circumstances we have. I WILL get those documents printed before the copier/printer self-destructs. And if I don’t? No problem. I will come up with another lesson on the spot. Unexpected scheduling conflict? I will make my plan fit in the time I have. Bam.

tech issue

7. There can be drama with that downloading bar thingy or other technology-related activities. You know when you’re downloading something, and you see how much has been completed? Well, I pretend that if it doesn’t get done “in time,” something BIG is going to happen. And I can’t let anyone see it. So if you come into my classroom and see me look up guiltily from my screen, that’s probably what’s going on. This can also be applied to: downloading videos to watch in class, trying to finish a presentation before your break is over, and getting everything saved before your computer shuts off for updates. If you want to add fake, low-key drama to put a little bit of excitement in your life, I highly recommend this.

download bar

8. This is our mission…should we choose to accept it. We have a limited amount of time with our students — counted in minutes, months, years. Our mission is to contribute to their success and fulfillment in life, whatever that may be…and our success is of paramount importance for the future.

children are our future

So do you agree? If so, any other ways teachers are like spies?


*I am prohibited by certain agencies and cannot confirm nor deny that I actually know what being a spy entails. If I told you, I’d have to…you know.

**Kidding. Any tech issue you have after reading this is because of your own device, not because of anything I wrote/attached to this post.

3 thoughts on “8 Ways Teachers Are Like Spies

  1. Great blog, looking forward to more. Perhaps I will save them to read during beginning of the year meetings,

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