Teaching is never easy, but some classroom situations make teaching especially difficult. Following are some of the top issues that make teaching more frustrating than enjoyable for teachers. Read on to find out more about Student Apathy, Overcrowding and Other Classroom Conundrums.
Classroom Situations That Make Teaching Hard
1. Class Size
Many schools are forced to have large classroom sizes in spite of overwhelming research that class size is one of the biggest contributors to student success. This is especially true for disadvantaged students.
The National Education Association (NEA) recommends a class size of no more than 15 students. The average number in U.S. schools is about 23 students in each class.
Writing in the We Are Teachers blog, Las Vegas teacher Angela Barton notes that large class sizes make teaching impossible and drives teachers from the profession.
“I think all educators would agree that we don’t give a flying flip that some studies by non-educators have found that lowering class sizes isn’t cost effective,” writes Barton. “We know firsthand that teacher and student morale, along with academic and social development, suffer with larger class sizes.”
2. Student Apathy
Student apathy is a common problem. Most teachers define it students who act like they don’t care and express little interest in their schoolwork. Some students show up with no homework done, no school supplies and no apparent desire to do any work.
One thing that puzzles teachers is students’ refusal to get help when they’re struggling to complete assignments or get better grades. This happens in spite of supportive systems in place at schools to help these students, such as study groups or peer tutoring.
- Sense of independence. Some students think they don’t need help or don’t need to do as they are told.
- Lack of self-confidence. Some students feel that they are simply not smart and there’s no point doing anything to improve their low performance.
- Time management. Some students are bad at managing their time and assignments, or are over-scheduled with classes, work and activities.
- Embarrassment. Some students are ashamed of the work they’re producing and don’t want to show it to their teachers.
3. Lack of Support for Low-Income Students and Families
Most teachers say that poverty and parental involvement are two of the key factors that cause poor student performance. The two often go hand-in-hand.
A 2015 Washington Post article cited a survey by Public Opinion Strategies which found that among teachers in low-income schools, “51% said they have spent their own money to feed students, 49% report helping students get new shoes or clothes and 29% have helped them get medical care.”
It’s clear that teachers are going to great lengths to help their students. It’s also clear that more support for low-income parents is probably one place to start helping teachers.
The same survey also found that “over testing” and student apathy were two other things that teachers found especially frustrating
The lack of parental involvement often includes children who don’t have a home environment that supports their efforts.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Involvement Partnership for Learning, children need the following in their home environment:
- Quiet, dedicated place to study.
- Limited television viewing.
- Family schedule and routine for meals, homework and chores.
- Sufficient sleep.
- Parents who are willing to ask about homework and offer help.
Unfortunately, there are too many students who don’t get that kind of supervision at home. This results in a low school performance that too often gets blamed on teachers.
What Can Schools and Teachers Do?
Most of these problems point to the same problems that affect under-performing schools in general. Low funding, lack of support for low-income students and large class sizes create apathetic students that lose interest in learning.
A recent issue of the TeachHUB blog featured an interview with educator Kristin Olson, author of the book Wounded In School. Olson studied more than 100 children who were defined as “in the margins,” meaning they were suffering from low performance and apathy.
Olson said that many of these students were simply emotionally overwhelmed by school and that efforts to help them simply backfired because teachers weren’t taking their emotional vulnerability into account. She said that teachers can help by speaking in a supportive way to these students while holding them to high standards.
“Hold your child or your student to very high standards because you believe it is possible for them to grow into it,” Olson said. “My interviewers said that it was that teacher who believed they could do so much more than they thought possible of themselves who really began to change the way they saw the world and their own place in it.”
Those words might be good advice for teaching in general.
- Are you teaching in a dream school with small classrooms, or is your room wall-to-wall students?
- Are your students arriving prepared for class, or are you battling with student apathy?
- Are your students’ parents involved and visible, or MIA?
If you think you’ve got the keys to solving these issues, why not broaden your base and reach large numbers of teachers and administrators. On the other hand, you may be looking for an alternative to remaining in the classroom.
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