Problems for Teachers That Limit Their Overall Effectiveness

problems for teachers
Dirk Anschutz/Stone/Getty Images

Teaching is a difficult profession. There are many problems for teachers that make the profession more complicated than it has to be. This does not mean that everyone should avoid being a teacher. There are also substantial benefits and rewards for those who decide that they want a career in teaching. The truth is that every job has its own unique set of challenges. Teaching is no different. These problems sometimes make it feel as if you are constantly fighting an uphill battle. However, most teachers find a way to overcome this adversity. They do not allow obstacles to stand in the way of student learning. However, teaching would be easier if the following are seven problems could be resolved.

Every Student Is Educated

Public schools in the United States are required to take every student. While most teachers would not ever want this to change, it does not mean that it will not lead to some frustrations. This is especially true when you consider how public school teachers in the United States are negatively compared to teachers in other countries who do not require every student to be educated.

Part of what makes teaching a challenging career is the diversity of the students that you teach. Every student is unique having their own background, needs, and learning styles. Teachers in the United States cannot use a “cookie cutter” approach to teaching. They have to adapt their instruction to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. Being adept at making these changes and adjustments is challenging to every teacher. Teaching would be a much simpler task if this were not the case.

Increased Curriculum Responsibility

In the early days of American education teachers were only responsible for teaching the basics including reading, writing, and arithmetic. Over the last century, those responsibilities have increased significantly. It seems that every year teachers are asked to do more and more. Author Jamie Vollmer highlights this phenomenon calling it the “ever increasing burden on America’s public schools”. Things that were once deemed a parent’s responsibility to teach their children at home are now the school’s responsibility. All of these increased responsibilities have come without a significant increase in the length of the school day or the school year meaning that teachers are expected to do more with less.

Lack of Parental Support

Nothing is more frustrating for a teacher than parents who don’t support their efforts to educate their children. Having parental support is invaluable, and the lack of parental support can be paralyzing. When parents aren’t following through with their responsibilities at home, it almost always has a negative impact in the class. Research has proven that children whose parents make education a high priority and stay consistently involved will be more successful academically.

Even the best teachers can’t do it all by themselves. It takes a total team effort from the teachers, parents, and students. Parents are the most powerful link because they are there throughout the child’s life while the teachers will change. There are three essential keys to providing effective parental support. Those include making sure your child knows that education is essential, communicating effectively with the teacher, and ensuring that your child is successfully completing their assignments. If any of these components is lacking, there will be a negative academic impact on the student.

Lack of Proper Funding

School finance has a significant impact on a teacher’s ability to maximize their effectiveness. Factors such as class size, instructional curriculum, supplemental curriculum, technology, and various instructional programs are affected by funding. Most teachers understand that this is completely out of their control, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

School finance is driven by each individual state’s budget. In lean times, schools are often forced to make cuts that can’t help but have a negative impact. Most teachers will make due with the resources they are given, but it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t do a better job with more financial backing.

Over Emphasis on Standardized Testing

Most teachers will tell you that they don’t have a problem with the standardized tests themselves, but how the results are interpreted and used. Many teachers will tell you that you can’t get a true indicator of what any particular student is capable of on a single test on any particular day. This becomes especially frustrating when many students have nothing riding on these tests, but every teacher does.

This over-emphasis has caused many teachers to shift their overall approach to teaching directly to these tests. This not only takes away from creativity, but it can also quickly create teacher burnout. Standardized testing puts a lot of pressure on a teacher to get their students to perform.

One of the main issues with standardized testing is that many authorities outside of education only look at the bottom line of the results. The truth is that the bottom line hardly ever tells the whole story. There is a lot more that should be looked at than just the overall score. Take the following scenario for example:

There are two high school math teachers. One teaches in an affluent suburban school with lots of resources, and one teaches in an inner city school with minimal resources. The teacher in the suburban school has 95% of their students score proficient, and the teacher in the inner city school only has 55% of their students score proficient. It appears that the teacher in the suburban school is the more effective teacher if you are only comparing overall scores. However, a more in-depth look at the data reveals that only 10% of students in the suburban school had significant growth while 70% of the students in the inner city school had significant growth.

So who is the better teacher? The truth is that you can’t tell simply from standardized test scores, yet there is a large majority that wants to use standardized test scores alone to judge both student and teacher performances. This simply creates many issues for teachers. They would be better served as a tool to help guide instruction and instructional practices rather than as a tool that is the end all for teacher and student success.

Poor Public Perception

Teachers used to be highly regarded and revered for the service that they provided. Today, teachers continue to be in the public spotlight because of their direct impact on the nation’s youth. Unfortunately, the media typically focuses on the negative stories dealing with teachers. This has led to an overall poor public perception and stigma towards all teachers. The truth is that most teachers are superb teachers who are in it for the right reasons and are doing a solid job. This perception can have a limiting effect on a teacher’s overall effectiveness, but it is a factor that most teachers can overcome.

The Revolving Door

Education is tremendously trendy. What is deemed to be the “most effective” thing today will be deemed “worthless” tomorrow. Many people believe that public education in the United States is broken. This often drives school reform efforts, and it also drives the revolving door of the “newest, greatest” trends. These constant changes lead to inconsistency and frustration. It seems that as soon as a teacher grasps something new, it changes again. The revolving door effect is not likely to change. Educational research and advancements in technology will continue to lead to new trends. It is a fact that teachers have to adapt too, but it doesn’t make it less frustrating.