5 Challenges Teachers Face and How to Handle Them

By Madeline Kovarik
Dr. Kovarik has experience as an elementary teacher, a guidance counselor, a primary specialist, and a school administrator. She currently teaches graduate TESOL courses in the online program at Notre Dame de Namur University. She coauthored The ABC’s of Classroom Management, 2nd Edition, which is highly recommended for all new teachers.

Most colleges and universities do an excellent job of preparing teachers for the role of educating young minds. They teach you about developmental stages, lesson planning, student diversity, differentiating, and state standards, but they DON’T teach you about some of the more challenging and interpersonal aspects of teaching.

Isolation: Teachers enter their classroom and, except during lunch or planning periods, have few opportunities to visit with other adults like they would in most work environments. Seek out opportunities to co-teach. This might include having buddy reading times, working in cooperative groups with another classroom on a project, leveling reading groups between two classrooms, or sharing a fun activity where one person teaches and the other assists and monitors.

Health: New teachers have a greater tendency to acquire laryngitis, conjunctivitis, and urinary tract infections (Kovess-Masféty, Sevilla-Dedieu, Rios-Seidel, Nerrière, & Chan Chee, 2006). However, most teachers will tell you that after the first year of teaching, they are immune to almost anything that students bring into class. Make certain to get lots of rest and take the vitamins you and your doctor think you need.

Listening: The average father spends 7 minutes a day speaking with his child; the average mother, 11 minutes (Chadwick, 2011). So, it isn’t too surprising that some elementary students arrive at school ready to “talk a teacher’s ear off,” or that secondary students are so involved with social media. Teachers have a profound impact on students; they are the “ears” that students so desperately need. Plan time during the day to listen to your students, whether during lunch, on the playground, or in between class periods.

Time Off: While some in the general public look at teachers and say, “You only work for 9 months out of the year,” they fail to realize that in those 9 months, teachers pack in a year of work. Teaching is not a 9-to-5 job. There are papers to grade in the evening, lesson plans to create, and students to worry about; in fact, the average teacher works 12–16 hours a day (Murray, 2013). Remember the importance of taking time for yourself. Enjoy that bubble bath or good book—you’ve earned it!

Support System: Teaching has a way of involving (or drafting) everyone in the family. It’s the significant other who agrees to work late on the school’s homecoming float, or the teacher’s child who cuts out 100 red hearts for Valentine’s Day. One person earns the teacher’s pay; the rest of the family are “paid” through the teacher’s love. Maybe that’s what keeps teachers’ families together, though, as teachers tend to have lower divorce rates than many other professions (Fridman, 2012).

So why do teachers do what they do? Because they are loving, caring people who feel they can make a difference. They understand the importance of their role and how critical it is to come to school every day prepared and upbeat. Teachers realize that they are the thread that holds the fabric of society together, both today and in the future!
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Chadwick, C. (2011). Seven minutes a day: The modern-day excuse for a parent. The National. Retrieved from https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/comment/seven-minutes-a-day-the-modern-day-excuse-for-a-parent-1.459183

Fridman, L. (2012). Divorce rates by profession [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/265583476/Divorce-Rates-by-Profession-Lex-Fridman-Blog

Kovess-Masféty, V., Sevilla-Dedieu, C., Rios-Seidel, C., Nerrière, E., & Chan Chee, C. (2006 April 21). Do teachers have more health problems? BMC Public Health, 6(101). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1523205

Murray, C. (2013, August 5). How many hours do educators actually work? EdTech. Retrieved from https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2013/08/how-many-hours-do-educators-actually-work