9 Key Challenges of Teaching and How to Overcome Them

February 6, 2024 | By: Extramarks

Teacher Challenges

Teaching is perhaps one of the foremost professions that has a lasting impact on the world around us. It builds the society of tomorrow by nurturing the young minds of today. Each of us has at least one favourite teacher who helped shape us into the people we are. Yet, teaching is one of the toughest careers to pursue. Today the demands on teachers have increased with changes in syllabus, teaching methods and their role in a student’s life.

It is indeed very rewarding and gratifying to be able to see one’s wards do well in life, but at the same time, the effort it takes to be a good and effective teacher can go unnoticed sometimes. The classroom presents new challenges for a teacher every day, yet the perception is that the teachers have an easy time with half days and lots of holidays.

What remains invisible is the effort it takes outside of the classroom and school time to

  • Plan lessons and activities, design and grade assessments.
  • Upgrade one’s skills in keeping with new developments.
  • Devote personal attention to students who need it.
  • Be accessible to parents.
  • Learn and execute new teaching methods.
  • Lead non-academic extra-curricular activities for the students.
  • Represent the school at different forums.
  • And not least – have the students excel.

Teacher Tackling Multiple Tasks

All of this while also maintaining a work-life balance. They say in life every problem has a solution, and before you begin to feel overwhelmed, here are some pointers that can help you navigate the main challenges faced by teachers around the world.

Teacher Challenges

  1. Different Learning Needs Amongst Students

    Teachers know that every student is unique and that they all process information differently. Children will have different takeaways from the same lesson. The biggest challenge for teachers each year is to get to know the students entering their classes very quickly. What their interests are, how they learn, what motivates them, what subjects they like and what style of teaching they respond to the best. This is a lot of work at the beginning of each year, especially when the class sizes are big. Here, the use of personalised and differentiated teaching strategies with varied assignments is very effective but can also be time-consuming in an already packed, time-bound curriculum.

    Solution:

    • Invest time at the beginning of the year in getting to know your students one-on-one or in small groups. this helps build a rapport and understanding on a personal level.
    • Use diverse teaching methods like visual aids, hands-on activities, and group discussions for the same lesson to gauge what different students respond to.
    • Use assessment tools to understand their current knowledge and use frequent informal assessments to get a sense of their progress.
    • Connect regularly with other teachers covering different subjects for the same grade and students. Together you can understand how the students are responding to different subjects and methods. What skills they are showing improvement on and where more work is required. This collective knowledge can help ease the burden on all teachers.
    • Use technology for effective time management and to assess, keep track and plan lessons. Be open to change and use minor tweaks to be more effective.

    Time invested early on to gain these insights into the student learning styles and challenges can save a lot of time throughout the year for lesson and assessment planning. This is as much a learning period for the teachers as it is for the students.

  2. Lack of Effective Communication

    This is a key challenge for teachers in primary and junior classes. Younger students are unaware of when and how to seek help. They have trouble articulating their issues and sometimes can even disrupt teaching and instruction. Having to work individually with students can become a big burden for teachers and affect their lesson plans and time management.

    Solution:

    • Use the first few classes as introductory sessions where you set out ways that students can seek help eg: Raise their hands, wait for their turn to speak.
    • Plan some interactive sessions as examples and point out ways and places of seeking help. This will also help students understand what is expected of them.
    • Build an early rapport and trust with children, making them feel seen and secure in the classroom environment.
    • For junior and middle school, multiple communication channels such as classroom apps, emails etc. can be used for clarity and to let the students know what is expected. Technology and Smart Edtech can be very helpful in setting up timelines, reminders, interesting projects and assessments.
  3. Time Management

    Time management can feel like a double-edged sword. Without efficient time management, managing heavy workloads will always seem like an impossible task for teachers, on the other hand, no amount of time management can solve the burden of excessive work. Time management needs to be tackled both at the personal level by teachers as well as on an organisational level by the institute. With the increased responsibilities of teachers today, from classroom instructions, assessments and grading, to field trips, skill upgradation, keeping knowledge current, differentiated teaching strategies and administrative work; teachers have little or no time. Without mindful and effective time management this can easily lead to burnout for the teachers, and affect the quality of education for the institute.

    Solution:

    • Prioritising, using time allocation tools and setting clear timelines for tasks at hand can help organise the workflow for teachers. Set aside time slots for student interaction, grading assignments and skill updation.
    • Using technology for lesson planning, class projects and assessment can save time.
    • Using organisational work management softwares can keep track of the time burden of lesson-related activities vs administrative tasks.
    • Setting aside time for breaks and personal hobbies. Having clear boundaries for time spent working outside of school hours can help teachers maintain a healthy work-life balance.
    • Do not hesitate to reach out to the school administration or support groups when in need of help. Managing and ensuring teacher well-being is important.
  4. Improving Learning Outcomes

    If there is one thing that is seen as the sole responsibility of the teachers, regardless of the support they get, it is the quality of learning among the students and their performance in assessments. There is constant pressure on the teachers both from parents as well as the institution to improve the class results. While teachers are expected to deliver on this, a lot of times they do not have the right support for it.

    Solution:

    • Introduce interactive and student-centred learning approaches, where appropriate, to motivate and engage students.
    • Upgrade your skills with the latest teaching methods and strategies to assist in more efficient lesson delivery.
    • Spend structured feedback time with students to give them one-on-one guidance to improve their weaker areas.
    • Establish a personal rapport with the students to keep them motivated and understand their unique challenges.
    • Use technology to help students get additional practice in their concepts and refine their problem-solving skills.

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  5. Changing Educational Trends

    Changing educational trends have three aspects. One, what is relevant education and how it is imparted keeps changing with time. Two, what is considered a better or more efficient teaching strategy for a subject or a concept. And three, what role does technology play in the classroom.

    Each of these three parameters requires the teachers to constantly work on remaining relevant. It can almost feel like before you’ve caught up with the last thing, a new one arrives. Keeping up with the trends is a tightrope walk between being current and being in a state of flux.

    Institutes have a key role here as they have more decision-making power in two out of the three aspects.

    Solution:
    On the personal front

    • Keep updated on the latest happenings in the sector. Join industry forums to know of the developments and methods under trial early on.
    • Update your skillset with relevant new courses.
    • Try some of the new methods in your lesson design to have first-hand feedback.
    • Initiate a local group for teachers who can meet and discuss case studies or their experiences for everyone’s benefit.
    On the institutional front

    • Frequent training camps for teachers to keep updated with evolving technology can help create a streamlined workflow for them.
    • Regular interactions with training teams for technology solutions that the institute is subscribed to.
    • Signing up teachers for industry forum seminars is a great way for them to understand trends for the coming times, which they can then share with their colleagues.
    • Funding and allowing time for teachers to pursue newer skills.
  6. Parental Support

    Every teacher deals with this double challenge at some point or another. Parental support is a broad spectrum. Sometimes parents tend to be on one extreme or another. On occasions, they can be overprotective and micro-manage. At other times they might not be as involved as required and let the teachers take on the total responsibility. Both parents and teachers have the shared responsibility for a child’s well-being as guardians and as mentors. Timely parental support and appropriate involvement go a long way in raising well-rounded individuals.

    Solution:

    • Build a balanced and healthy relationship with parents early in the year. Communicate clearly and sensitively the support you might need from them throughout the year.
    • Create a community where you share your desired goals for the students, both academic as well as life skills.
    • Set aside time to engage one-on-one with the parents to understand their concerns and share yours.
    • Discuss with parents how you can collaborate regularly in the interest of all-round development and specific insights on their ward.
    • Set and share a schedule on how frequently you connect to share updates and get inputs. Use multiple communication tools such as meetings, emails, messages and notes.
    • Share ways in which you can be contacted in case of an emergency and define situations that qualify as emergencies.
    • Set clear boundaries of personal time and response period in non-urgent situations.

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  7. Performance Pressure from School Administrators

    Outside of teaching and student development responsibilities, teachers today have a lot added to their work profiles. Teaching responsibilities include instructional design, lesson planning, project supervision, field trips, parent interaction, assessment setting and grading, and personal attention to students. In addition to this teachers have to set aside time for professional training and growth. However, recently, administrative responsibilities like assisting in admission cycles, curriculum development, organising school social events and managerial duties for events such as alum meetings, fairs and exhibitions, as well as annual functions, have become part of the responsibilities of teaching staff.

    Teachers are evaluated on their performance across all these parameters. This might cause them to feel overburdened and over-extended. Having no time for self-care or personal life, this built-up anxiety and instability from growing competition can also lead to burnout.

    Solution:
    On personal level

    • The first step is to get organised, prioritise tasks, and use time management tools. Have clarity on the importance and time allocated for each parameter.
    • Establish clear communication with the administration on realistic goals and time allocation.
    • Seek resources and support wherever needed to meet expectations effectively.
    • Lean on colleagues and build a support network. Sometimes life can get in the way despite meticulous planning and time management. Ask for help when needed.
    • Be reasonable, polite, firm and assertive about personal time without built-up anxiety.
    • Utilise Smart Edtech to save time on tasks such as record-keeping, assessment design and grading with tools.

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    On Organisational level

    • Institutes should invest in organisational software and technological tools for efficient resource planning, time allocation, record keeping and time management. This can help maintain a healthy balance of roles and responsibilities without overburdening the staff.
    • Foster a positive working environment by holding space and allowing for free communication without the fear of negative impact.
    • Encourage and be open to feedback. School management often needs to come across as authoritative owing to the sector and their role in society, but even then a healthy relationship of give and take delivers better results.
  8. Student Behaviour and Classroom Management

    Children go through a lot of changes as they grow up to become young adults. They are dealing with numerous things both externally and internally for the first time. Sometimes this can make them act out since they don’t understand what they are dealing with. Maintaining classroom discipline and avoiding disruptions can become challenging in such situations.

    On the other hand, children can gang up amongst themselves and take to troubling one another. Such instances account for peer bullying and need to be stopped before they can cause any harm. All this makes disciplining students essential but a little tricky. Not only does it break the flow of the class, but is also time-consuming and can be emotionally draining for the teacher.

    Often, due to their good rapport with students, and the lack of other support mechanisms, teachers became the ones students confide in. While this can be very endearing, it also places an extra burden on the teacher to ensure the emotional well-being of the student.

    Solution:

    • Establish clear boundaries on conduct in the classroom and work out in advance how you might handle some of the common discipline issues that arise, in keeping with the school policies.
    • Be consistent with what you expect in the classroom.
    • Use positive reinforcement to create a cooperative and respectful classroom culture. Punishment does little to change bad behaviour.
    • Be flexible and sensitive to the emotional state of the students, sometimes a little laxity might be needed and other times a sterner course of action.
    • Set up a support group with a counsellor for dealing with potentially troublesome cases. This can help in recognising patterns early on. Do not hesitate to involve parents to address behaviours that might later become more challenging.
    • Always work on providing students with a fair, safe and inclusive environment in the classroom.
  9. Packed curriculum with no room for creativity

    Teachers are not alone in feeling overburdened with all that needs to be accomplished in a single school year. Students also struggle with an extremely packed curriculum and pressure to perform. With a chock-a-block schedule to follow and cover all topics from the syllabus, the teachers have to run a tight ship.

    Even though they are aware that each student learns differently teachers find it difficult to squeeze in innovative ways to teach and assess the concepts.

    Solution:

    • Use instructional design and teaching strategies to break down the curriculum. Using a combination of traditional and innovative teaching methods can ease the burden. Some topics will work better for example with instruction style teaching and others with student-entered projects.
    • Get students to do work outside of the classroom by assigning meaningful and engaging homework. With clear instructions and support, students can learn a lot with self-directed work.
    • Use project work interestingly to foster curiosity and independent thinking in the students. Collaborative projects and real-world situations teach students important values and key life skills beyond academics.
    • Use insights gained at the beginning of the year with experimentation in teaching and assessment methods. The initial insights help make small but key changes in the lesson plans to suit the needs of different students in the class.

To Conclude:

Teachers have a depth of insights into student learning and behaviour with their first-hand experience of dealing with so many individuals each year. They are also subject matter experts from having taught the syllabus over time. However, they find themselves at sea with evolving trends and increasing workloads. It can help to know:

  1. Technology is your ally, use it to your advantage.
  2. Upgrade your skills and knowledge frequently.
  3. Be open to learning on the job.
  4. Be confident in your skills.
  5. Be vocal about your needs.
  6. Set your boundaries.

With changing times and technology, every single sector in the world is witnessing large changes. Teaching is no different. From being a generalised expertise, teaching is now transforming into a specialist’s job. It is a time of great learning and greater opportunities. Today teachers need to be not just good leaders but also efficient managers.

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Last Updated on June 13, 2024

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