This study examined how teachers form expectations of the students they teach and how their self-reported behaviours in the classroom reflect these expectations. This qualitative study, theoretically informed by phenomenological hermeneutic inquiry, used in-depth, semi-structured, interviews with six teachers in private schools in Melbourne, Australia, and results were critically analysed. The paper reports issues identified by the teachers as being important in the formation of their expectations of student achievement, particularly the idea that low achievement is closely related to students’ poor self-image. It then discusses a paradox evident in the behaviour reported by the teachers: that in their attempts to build student self-image and communicate high expectations, the teachers may unwittingly communicate the low expectations they are at pains to overcome.

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