Problems for Teachers That Limit Their Overall Effectiveness

Problems for teachers
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Problems that teachers face include handling student needs, lack of parental support, and even criticism from a public that can be largely unaware of their everyday lives. Addressing these problems and bringing awareness to the educational environment that our teachers and students face daily can help improve teacher retention, student success rates, and the overall quality of education in our schools.

Balancing a Wide Range of Student Needs

No matter what type of school you're talking about, teachers have to deal with a wide range of student needs, but public schools may struggle the most here. While private schools are able to select their students based on an application and assessment of the best fit for the school and community, public schools in the United States are required to take every student. While most educators would never want to change this fact, some teachers are faced with students who distract the rest of the classroom and add a significant challenge.

Part of what makes teaching a challenging career is the diversity of the students. All students are unique in having their own background, needs, and learning styles. Teachers have to be prepared to work with all learning styles in every lesson, requiring more prep time and creativity. However, successfully working through this challenge can be an empowering experience for both students and teachers alike.

Lack of Parental Support

It can be incredibly frustrating for a teacher when parents don’t support their efforts to educate children. Ideally, a partnership exists between school and home, with both working in tandem to provide the best learning experience for students. However, when parents don't follow through with their responsibilities, it can often have a negative impact in the class. Research has proven that children whose parents make education a high priority and stay consistently involved may be more successful academically. Ensuring that students eat well, get enough sleep, study, complete their homework, and are prepared for the school day are just a few of the basic of the things that parents are expected to do for their children.

While many of the best teachers go above and beyond to make up for a lack of parental support, a total team effort from the teachers, parents, and students is the ideal approach. Parents are the most powerful and consistent link between children and school since they are there throughout the child’s life while the teachers will change annually. When a child knows that education is essential and important, it makes a difference. Parents can also work to communicate effectively with the teacher and ensure that their child is successfully completing assignments.

However, not every family has the ability to provide the necessary supervision and partnership, and some children are left to figure things out on their own. When faced with poverty, a lack a supervision, stressful and unstable home lives, and even parents who aren't present, students have to overcome numerous hurdles to even make it school, never mind succeed. These challenges can lead to students failing and/or dropping out of school.

Lack of Proper Funding

School finance has a significant impact on teachers' ability to maximize their effectiveness. When funding is low, class sizes often increase, which impacts instructional curriculum, supplemental curriculum, technology, and various instructional and extracurricular programs. Enrichment programs are cut, supply budgets are limited, and teachers have to get creative. Most teachers understand that this is completely out of their control, but it doesn’t make the situation any less frustrating.

In public schools, finances are usually driven by each individual state’s budget and local property taxes, as well as federal funding and other sources, whereas private schools have private funding and often more flexibility in how it is spent. That means public school teachers are often more affected by lack of funding and are limited in how they can spend their money. In lean times, schools are often forced to make cuts that have a negative impact. Most teachers make due with the resources they are given or supplement with their own personal contributions.

Overemphasis on Standardized Testing

Not every student learns in the same way, and therefore not every student can accurately demonstrate mastery of educational topics and concepts in a similar fashion. As a result, standardized testing can be an ineffective method of assessment. While some teachers are completely against standardized testing, others tell you that they don’t have a problem with the standardized tests themselves but with how the results are interpreted and used. Most teachers say that you can’t get a true indicator of what any particular student is capable of on a single test on any particular day.

Standardized tests aren't just a pain for students, either; many school systems use the results to determine the effectiveness of the teachers themselves. This overemphasis has caused many teachers to shift their overall approach to teaching to a focus directly on these tests. This not only takes away from creativity and limits the scope of what is taught but can also quickly create teacher burnout and put excess pressure on the teachers to have their students perform well.

Standardized testing brings with it other challenges as well. For example, many authorities outside of education only look at the tests' bottom line, which hardly ever tell the whole story. Observers need to take much more into account than the overall score.

Consider the example of 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 percent of her students score proficient, and the teacher in the inner-city school has 55 percent of his students score proficient. If only comparing overall scores, the teacher in the suburban school would appear to be the more effective teacher. However, a more in-depth look at the data reveals that only 10 percent of students in the suburban school had significant growth during the year while 70 percent of the students in the inner-city school had significant growth. So who is the better teacher? You can’t tell simply from standardized test scores, yet a large majority of decision-makers want to use test scores alone to judge both student and teacher performances.

Poor Public Perception

We've all heard the old saying "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Unfortunately, a stigma is attached to teachers within the United States. In some countries, public school teachers are highly regarded and revered for the service that they provide. Today, teachers continue to be in the public spotlight because of their direct impact on the nation’s youth. There's the added challenge that the media often focuses on negative stories dealing with teachers, which pulls attention away from their positive impact. The truth is that most teachers are dedicated educators who are in it for the right reasons and doing a solid job. Focusing on a good teacher’s best qualities can help teachers overcome the perceptions and find fulfillment in their profession.

Educational Trends

When it comes to learning, experts are always looking for the best tools and tactics for educating children. While many of these trends are actually strong and worthy of implementation, adoption of them within schools can be haphazard. Some believe that public education in the United States is broken, which often drives schools to look at ways to reform, sometimes too rapidly. Teachers can be faced with mandated changes in tools, curriculum, and best practices as administrators race to adopt the latest and greatest trends. However, these constant changes can lead to inconsistency and frustration, making teachers' lives more difficult. Adequate training isn't always made available, and many teachers are left to fend for themselves to figure out how to implement whatever has been adopted.

On the flip side, some schools are resistant to change, and teachers who are educated about learning trends may not receive funding or support to adopt them. This can lead to a lack of job satisfaction and teacher turnover, and it can hold students back from delving into a new way to learn that may actually help them achieve more.