Unpacking Top Issues for Teachers

Teachers are faced with one of the most difficult jobs in the country. Not only are they responsible for keeping children safe on a day-to-day basis, but they are the backbone of American literacy. When you consider the daily responsibilities teachers are tasked with followed by an ever changing curriculum, a 40-hour work week can quickly turn into a 60+ hour work week, and many districts fail to compensate teachers for additional hours.

As a result, many teachers are working multiple jobs to compensate for the paltry return on their arduous commitment to their classroom communities. While many of the demands are eminent in the classroom calling on teachers to conjure their creativity in lesson planning, they are also tasked with integrating new technologies, managing classroom behavior, communicating with parents, and maintaining their own mental health. All considered, this is a shared struggle, and those who feel deeply called to teach can share respite in the empathy emanating throughout the school hallways.

Whether you are an elementary, middle, or high school teacher, the semblance of hope in unity surrounding these issues can provoke a call for change.


One of the most influential components people divert their attention to when seeking a job is compensation. After all, the economy is an ever-changing entity that without careful consideration can leave some checking the couch cushions for spare change. While all jobs share some level of inadequacy with pay scales, teacher salaries encompass one of the largest disparities when considering demand and complexity.

For example, Chelly Brown, a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, highlights the extra unpaid responsibilities teachers undertake, such as coaching and participating in extracurricular activities. She expresses this sentiment stating, “You’re being asked to do a bunch of extra things and you’re not getting compensated for that.”

Unlike other fields where seniority and performance are the determinants of pay, education relies on inter-district primacy. Therefore, the longer you stay at the same school or within the same district, the higher the pension you are qualified to receive. As such, many teachers feel constrained to remain in the same geographical location which can have significant effects on their future plans and commitment to the profession.

Working Conditions

One of the most complicated aspects of being a teacher is the incalculable variation found within schools. School funding has always been an area of contention and the underlying economics which fund schools rely on taxpayer contributions to provide students with a state-of-the-art education.

Schools around the United States have adopted multiple models of classroom integration to make up for incongruencies in funding systems. One of the most common examples is “floating teachers”, where students remain in the same room as teachers rotate in accordance with subject expertise. While this system maximizes space and fosters rapport between students, it often leaves teachers scrambling to maintain order with their materials and can quickly lead to teacher burnout.

For humans to be comfortable, it is crucial to feel directive over our space. Walking into school on a Monday morning and having a room to place your things, decompress, and prepare for the day ahead not only positively contributes to teacher mental health, but it also helps prepare for the unpredictably that ensues when 20+ humans share a space together.

Classroom Resources

Finding time to lesson plan can often be laborious, but since many teachers understand this shared struggle, there are numerous online resources to pull completed lesson plans, find engaging ways to encourage students to participate with subject matter, as well as equip your classroom with supplies to make it through the year. While these resources are plentiful, teachers are often financially burdened with wanting to diversify curriculum by adding their own tasteful flare.

For example, if a teacher wants to use a certain book to teach a unit, but it is not a book that school has in stock, they will often have to fundraise or use their own money to provide enough copies to their class.

The integration of technology can be a useful stimulus to keep students engaged but is costly and often out of scope for many districts as it requires extensive training and is ever changing. As such, many educators rely on the resources provided to them by their districts, but the need to outsource often overwhelms their financial, mental, and physical equilibrium.

Classroom Management

One of the most demanding tasks of being a teacher is keeping your classroom on track. Curriculum is mandated from the top and handed down for implementation without much training. Ultimately, educational instruction is at the forefront of teaching, but what happens when the classroom becomes dysregulated, and your attention has to shift to student behavior?

Students come into the classroom each day as an extension of their lived experience, or to say, they enter the classroom with a backpack carrying their emotional health, their physical health, and their mental health. As such, there is an unprecedented level of unpredictability that follows each student through the door and as a teacher, many aren’t sure what the day will bring.

Students emulate the experiential rainbow, encapsulating everything from depression, anxiety, physical abuse, addiction, learning disorders, and previous encounters with the criminal justice system. It is already difficult enough teaching a diverse room of students, but often behavioral episodes convolute the delivery of pertinent material. In reaction, there are multiple models of behavioral intervention ranging from social emotional learning (SEL) to crisis intervention plans and individualized education plans (IEPs), but few teachers are properly trained or equipped to deliver these interventions in the classroom.

Parent-Teacher Communication

In modern education systems there is a natural disconnect between teachers and parents, partly due to the demand to retain jobs for familial stability. As such, a substantial part of childhood development is passively extricated to teachers.

In education there is a Latin reference known as “in loco parentis” or “in place of parents”, in which teachers assume some function of parental roles in the classroom. This can be an area of contention as some parents may find difficulty in relinquishing delegation of influence for their child.

Week to week, teachers may find themselves enveloped with antagonistic emails from parents regarding their child’s performance, behavior, or demeanor. In some cases, parents are involved with the school through volunteering and these discords can be addressed with ease. In other cases, parents have little understanding of their children’s composure in the classroom and can assume a stance of defensiveness calling for the teacher to do better.

The bottom line when addressing parent-teacher communication relies on the amount of support the teacher is given, and whether or not they can find balance managing matters on their own versus knowing when to involve the school administration.

The bottom line

Teachers occupy an arduous niche of the workforce which is often looked upon with deftness. Each day, teachers wake up, commute to school, and rely on their lesson plans to equip kids with an education that will stipulate their qualification for the workforce. Aside from their occupational requirements, teachers are constrained by the institutional norms delegated by their chosen institution. This encapsulates everything from pay scales, curriculum, classroom orientation and resource availability to classroom management, student behavior, parent-teacher relationships, and teacher mental health.

While much of what has been discussed in this article exposes inevitabilities of teaching, it is crucial to equip yourself with a toolbox of resources to be able to show up for your students and yourself without dreading the morning bell. Whether you spend time exploring teacher forums, participating in workshops, finding moments for breathwork or to stretch, or placing yourself in a district with an emphasis on work-life balance, you can rest assured that teachers across the country are treading the waters of delivering quality education in a chaotic world.