Whether for the sheer love of children or to see the proverbial light bulb go on in a child’s head, professionals choose teaching as a career path for any given number of reasons. However, teachers face some very serious challenges that often go unnoticed. Though there are many obstacles teachers are confronted with on a day-to-day basis, three will be explored here.
The Measure of Success
1. A well-known African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but lack of parental involvement seems to be prevalent every school year. How so? Some parents are just plain unreachable or avoid the presence of teachers, altogether. But, this behavior is not conducive to fostering an excellent education, since learning goes way beyond that which takes place in the classroom. In addition to being taught in school, a child’s education should be followed-up at home with a parent, guardian and/or tutor if need be.
Either way, teachers wish for the kind of parent that actively supports and is involved in their child’s learning process, too. Other teachers say the inadequate support of parents is the biggest problem that plagues schools at present. What about new teachers? Eighty percent of up-and-coming teachers commented that in order to be effective they need the assistance of parents, as well.
2. Through carefully executed lessons, teachers implant a wealth of knowledge into the brains of students; many with very little monetary compensation. These professionals sometimes have mounting debt such as student loans, medical bills and mortgages. Also, factor in utilities, car and food and you’d be surprised at what’s left for teachers to make ends meet. Says one California teacher, “I feel my only route is retirement and possibly filing for bankruptcy.” “With pay cuts, furlough days, increased taxes and other bills, for the first time I am falling behind in my financial obligation, ruining a 30-year record of perfect credit.”
There may be good news on the horizon for teachers facing these and other financial hardships. NEA’s campaign for professional pay for teachers and support professionals is trying to step in and change this unfortunate circumstance. Through its nationwide salary initiative, NEA is pushing for a $40,000/year starting salary for all pre-K-12 teachers and the appropriate professional pay for higher education faculty and staff members.
3. Testing, testing…1,2,3. Countless hours are devoted to testing a student’s progress every year. But, the issue is not the testing in and of itself, it’s what’s done with the information obtained through these tests that actually matters. For example, is data used to remediate those who are performing at sub par levels? The answer to this question is no, for some school districts. What is the lasting impact this can have on students with disabilities? This can be extremely disadvantageous for both students and teachers alike, because teachers personally are held accountable for their student’s success. In regard to learning, NEA’s Positive Agenda for ESEA Reauthorization suggested smaller class sizes, adequate funding and support for teachers—even as high standards for students are required.
Making the Grade
All-in-all, teachers are one of our most precious assets. They have a vested interest in and contribute to the well-being of students. With this in mind, it’s important that teachers are given the tools they need to ensure this does in fact remain the case.