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What Teachers Wish They Could Change About the Job
Education professionals speak candidly about the challenges of low pay and high responsibility.
Although the majority of teachers love their work, they often cite frustration with the amount of time necessary to get things done.
Many people cite low salaries as one of the biggest drawbacks to the teaching. Those who feel that compensation should directly reflect the amount of time put into their work may be disappointed with teaching. Salaries are determined by local districts, and teachers receive the same increases across the board despite extra efforts such as coaching and supervising other extracurricular activities. Although teachers aren't usually motivated by money, they still feel the strains of living on a tight budget.
We're talking 24 hours, here. Many new teachers are surprised and frustrated to discover how much time actually goes into preparing for their classes. For teachers, the school day rarely ends at 3 p.m.--or whenever the last bell rings. Teachers spend much of their free time making up lesson plans, grading tests and papers, and performing a variety of other administrative tasks related to the job. Although the majority of teachers love their work, they often cite frustration with the amount of time necessary to get things done.
Parents can be difficult to deal with, and new teachers don't usually consider this issue when entering the field. Parents sometimes have unrealistic expectations for their children and place a great deal of pressure on them and their teachers. This can be especially true in private schools, where parents sometimes invest up to $25,000 a year for tuition and room and board. As a result, these parents feel very entitled to "involvement" in their child's education, regardless of what the teacher thinks is best.
Overwhelming Sense of Responsibility
Teachers genuinely care for their students and feel responsible for them--both academically and personally. Many new teachers struggle with the fact that they can't fix everything. As one English teacher told us, "I had a 14 year old girl in one of my classes whose mother committed suicide on Christmas day. I wanted to reach out to her and make her feel better, but I couldn't. All you can do is try and teach your students something that might bring some joy into their lives or make them feel good about themselves. And listen. If they want to talk, you can listen."
Potential for Social Isolation
Many new teachers--especially in public schools--find themselves surrounded primarily by students and older/married adult faculty. As a result, these teachers have limited interaction with people their own age. This can be especially hard for teachers who have just relocated to a new city and for recent college graduates who are accustomed to being with their friends. Although most teachers find ways to adjust, some do find it lonely at times.
Teachers must often exercise their authority with students in order to maintain a good learning environment. Dealing with problem students makes many teachers uncomfortable, and it can be especially intimidating for new teachers. As one teacher told us, "It's the worst part of the job, hands down. Sometimes I don't know who feels worse--me or the kid."
Bureaucracy and Politics
Teachers complain that they have to spend a lot of their time dealing with bureaucratic "red tape" and school politics. Limited resources often force departments to fight over the same funding, creating tension within schools and between faculty. In addition, many teachers cite forever-changing school policies (such as specific documents outlining appropriate student/teacher contact and the use of politically correct terminology) as one of the most frustrating elements of their job.
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