I'm curious to know what teachers feel are the biggest challenges or problems they face in their everyday work. I'm particularly interested in challenges related to the teaching of literacy, but welcome any general challenges as well.
What causes you stress in your work? Feels like a barrier to making the progress that you'd like or expect? Is something you struggle with on a regular basis?
Feel free to vent.
International Reading Association
I have to agree. Time management is always a challenge for me too! If only there were a few more hours in the day...
In terms of teaching, is there a specific aspect that is difficult to find time for, such as grading, prepping for class, lesson planning, having time for one-on-one instruction with students, staying current on teaching practices? Something else I missed? Or is it the combination of everything that makes it difficult and overwhelming?
Thanks for contributing to this discussion.
I recently retired from the high school English classroom, but in the last few years, one of my greatest frustrations was teaching formal writing to juniors and seniors. They were so accustomed to texting and graffiti language that their spelling was horrible. For example, "u" for you. It was very difficult to convince them that using that language was inappropriate in English essays, research papers, etc. This was definitely a literacy barrier.
That's interesting, Lynne. I often cringe when I read some of the Facebook status updates, especially from my teen friends, but also from my adult friends! I can see how those kinds of habits would make it difficult to teach formal writing in high school.
Thx 4 ur feedback! :-)
I feel your frustration. As a teacher, you have to take your students and the skills they bring to your class at what ever level they have achieved and help them progress as far as you can during your time with them. I assume you have asked if there are resources at your school who might give them the professional help they need?
A nonreader is one who doesn't read fluently. You can't necessarily fix this problem; however, you can share with them the joy of reading in every opportunity you can create. Perhaps you offer a 15 minute silent reading time where they bring a book at their level and interest to read, and everyone reads. You read too. They see you enjoy reading.
You can also look closely at what they can do and then find ways to make reading relevant. What do they need to be able to read in your class? At their age, what do they need to be able to read to get along in life?
Best of Luck, you have raised this question in a good place. I look forward to reading more specific suggestions from educators who face this problem daily and have found ways to help their students progress.
That statement I made was a tongue in cheek remark. You see, I am an Electrical Engineer with two Master Electrician licenses. I have no idea how to teach anyone to read and am not trained to do so. I have a strong opinion about how anyone could possibly make it to the 11th grade and cannot read. I did not fail the student yet they want me to make up for the failure of some teacher years ago who failed to teach the student to read. I have a full load of teaching to do without having to make up for previous mistakes. I'm not being judgemental, just stating the obvious facts.
Yes, we just this year got additional help for this problem however, it is my opinion that the problem should have been corrected before the student got to the 11th grade.
I'm curious what "additional help" you just got this year for this problem. Have they given you strategies to help support students who are unable to read? Is there someone else being brought in to teach these 11th graders to read? Or are they focusing more on this problem in the younger grades so students are, in fact, able to read by the time they reach you?
I can't imagine trying to teach electrical engineering if basic reading skills aren't in place.
International Reading Association
This is definitely a tough one. I asked around here, and our Publications Manager recommended the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. There’s usually something in every issue (or every other issue) about working with struggling older learners. Perhaps you can access the articles from your school or local library.
Other possible sources for you may be:
Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning by Doug Buehl
Building Reading Comprehension Habits in Grades 6-12: A Toolkit of Classroom Activities (2nd ed) by Jeff Zwiers
I don't know that there's a quick fix, but there certainly must be effective teaching strategies that can help. I'm interested too to hear how others have handled it.
Thanks for sharing,
I have been teaching for over 4 decades. 27 years in the South Side of Chicago, where student were able to problem solve and were street smart. I now teach in the affluent area of Scottsdale, Arizona where students do not have the skill of problem solving. They want to be spoon feed, and teaching computer technology requires students to try and figure out how to achieve their goal. Specifically when it comes to the AZ Standards of Comprehension of Informational Text. They don't want to read the information on how to get things done. They want one-on-one/face-to-face instruction.
I would get discouraged by the large class sizes. During reading rotations and during writing time, I felt I made the biggest impact on teaching students to be proficient readers and writers when I was working in a small group. When you can help them on the spot and challenge them at their particular level, you can see students progress so quickly. But if students are working independently in a whole group setting, I would get frustrated when they weren’t producing their best work like they would when I was sitting with them. With smaller classes, teachers have more opportunity to walk around and check on all the students and individualize instruction. When you are teaching to the masses, it is easy for some students to be passive and not progress. As a teacher, I would say to myself “if I could only work with them one-on-one then I could get them up to speed.” I also tutored first graders in reading and writing and it was amazing how quickly I could get them back on grade level.
Interesting that you mention this Tammy. I was recently touring some local schools, and was surprised to hear a first-grade teacher talk about how she doesn't have time for differentiated instruction. She has 30 students in her class. She said that they all have to be doing the same thing and it works fairly well for her. I guess with that many little ones, it would be hard to individualize instruction.
Coming from a Montessori school (in our case, with only 20 students in a class and 2 teachers), it was a striking comparison.
I believe my greatest frustration is getting students to actually read the textbook. I teach online educational courses for graduate level teaching candidates. If there is someway to get the work the done without reading the textbook and other resources for the course, they will find it! Terry
I totally agree with you. Last week, I gave each student an essay in my class and asked them to read the essay and write three important points they have learned from their reading. Guess what? One student just read the first paragraph and wrote the three points and she didn't even bother to read the whole essay.
I recently read a blog post giving ideas for making textbooks come alive. Perhaps some of these tips would help your students get motivated to read the text. Check out Bringing Your Textbook to Life! 15+ Tips & Resources published in Tech & Learning.
It's not the students! I'd say it's a tie between helicopter parents (parents who hover over you & monitor everything that you do, they have a commentary about your every move & decision even though they have no background in education), & public officials making decisions about the education system (the budget, tenure process, curriculum, teacher evaluations based on student performance, etc.) when they do not have a background in education either. Actually, since there are years when you don't have helicopter parents, but you always have public officials adding their two cents, the biggest challenge is how they undermine the work that teachers are trying to do by not supporting the education system.
One of the biggest challenges I face as a middle school teacher is TIME. I have so many students these days that are truly raising themselves that often prep/lunch/after school time is spent dealing with student issues and trying to provide support for students that just need some encouragement. When there is little support from home, when things get tough, so many students want to settle for less than their best!
Another challenge is helping families see the need for education being a priority! Anybody want to share ways you have been successful with this?
I feel one of the biggest challenges of my job is the parents. It is not all of them, but there is either a lack of home involvement or there are those who feel they "own" the teacher and what is being taught. Teaching is such an awarding, amazing job that I wish wouldn't get interrupted with parent nonsense.
I just read a blog post tonight on Technology for Teachers titled, "Ten Common Challenges Facing Educators," by Richard Byrne. His comments include a slideshow that he presented the Fall of 2012 at the Tech Leadership Symposium on the campus of Bowling Green.
I'm curious if you agree with his ten challenges. Are there other challenges you would add to his presentation?