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Why Teaching is so HARD


As my husband and I were walking the trails of Asheville this weekend for our anniversary, we started to talk about our careers. We discussed how many jobs are harder than perceived and our schools need to do a better job of ensuring students see the value of all sorts of work, not just careers requiring a college degree. I happened to mention that many people feel teaching is super easy and if everything else fails, AT LEAST they could do that, right? My husband agreed that the phrase “those who can, do; those who can’t, teach” is an unrealistic and inaccurate statement.

I thought I’d write a post about that. But, as much as I want to rant and rave about that catch phrase, I’d rather spend my energy educating others on the truth. So, here goes… my TOP reasons for why teaching is so hard:

  • Content Knowledge– It’s not a secret that educators have to know their stuff. If you are going to teach someone something, you better know what it is you’re teaching- in and out. Teachers are smart people, but if that knowledge is only in their head, it does nothing to help those they are teaching. Being able to convey knowledge in an easy to understand way is challenging. Plus, if you teach at the elementary level, you have numerous subjects in which to develop expertise- quite a daunting task.
  • Ongoing Learning– Experts can get outdated in the information that they know if they do not keep current with research and trends. Professional development sessions are important to attend in order to remain up-to-date with what is going on in the field. Numerous meetings are mandatory and scheduled as on-the-job training by the district and/or state. Educators are encouraged to go above and beyond these requirements to gain effectiveness in the classroom, such as attend conferences, read educational books, connect and collaborate with educators outside their physical area, etc. Keeping current in an every-changing field can be exhausting.
  • Changing Initiatives– Sometimes unexpected changes occur, meaning MORE ongoing learning.  Program materials and approaches are adopted by school districts and states, requiring more professional development on top of what was already scheduled and required. These initiatives can change year to year and sometimes in the middle of a year. Learning new techniques is challenging, but learning new programs and approaches in a short amount of time is an uphill climb.
  • Relatability– Once all the content knowledge and initiatives are learned, educators have to know how to break those down into easy to understand terms. This means teachers need to familiarize themselves with children- what do they think and talk about, how do they relate to one another, what is their biggest concern or fear, etc.? Relatability means someone empathizes with children of all ages, maturity levels, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, academic levels, etc. That skill is not learned overnight and developing connections with kids takes time.
  • School Engagement– It is important that teachers are not just knowledgeable, but also actively involved at their schools. Merely clocking in and out daily is frowned upon. Teachers are required to perform daily duties (supervision on the bus lot, in the cafeteria or hallway, at recess etc.) and participate in specific committees throughout the year (school newsletter, community engagement, technology integration, etc.).  The degree to how a teacher engages in such duties is reflected on their performance evaluation, regardless of what other commitments they have outside of school.
  • Multi-tasking- As if its not obvious yet, teachers have to multi-task on and off stage. When they are teaching, they are conveying content to numerous students of varying needs and intellectual levels. During this time, they often are locating and passing out materials, collecting data as students learn live, and fielding never-ending questions from students. In addition, there often are frequent interruptions from guests, the intercom, outside noises, etc. to distract even the most experienced teachers.
  • Time Management– Multi-tasking is a great way to ensure all tasks are completed in the required time allotted. With that said, a school day is extremely scheduled- down to the minute. Adhering to the time constraints ensure students learn the required material, but it takes extreme discipline to keep on track while being pulled in numerous directions.
  • Paperwork- 80% of the job is off stage. Paperwork takes up most of that time. It is important to have a paper trail as a teacher, whether its tracking student data or logging parent communication details. However, the most important paperwork is writing lesson plans and as student needs change and skills are acquired, lesson plans need to be revised. The process of writing, revising, re-writing… repeat is endless.
  • Lack of resources- Many schools and school districts lack additional funding to provide teachers with teaching materials beyond the curriculum. To enhance lessons as well as make a classroom work efficiently, additional items are purchased by the teachers out of their own pocket. Searching for those materials takes time out of an already limited schedule and budget.
  • Differing Parent Support- Students often come from a home where both parents work. Some come from a single parent household. Some even come from homes where English is not the first language or not spoken at all. Parents have limited time to commit to the classroom or their child due to these factors. Communicating with parents and having their involvement does not come easy or often.   
  • High Profile- Students are always watching adults in their life and a teacher is no exception to that rule. Whether in the classroom or out in the community, maintaining a role model status is required. This additional responsibility can be limiting to personal choice and/or habits.

Each one of these attributes alone make a job difficult, but all of these attributes working together simultaneously make teaching HARD. But just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you give up. Educators around the world are aware of these difficulties prior to entering a classroom knowing full well they have what it takes to push through no matter what they face because the kids they serve are worth it. Educators know that they might be the only person in that child’s life who is available to pour into them in a way that creates successful life-long learners, who are full of character, and ready to take on the world to make it a better place.

And, yea, its freakin’ hard!


In your opinion, what makes teaching hard?


About the author, Gretchen

I am an educator, passionate about cultivating talent in aspiring and new teachers through practical tips and strategies. My blog, book, and podcast are geared towards empowering teachers to enter the profession and stay there due to the advice and encouragement I provide. We have a real need in our nation for strong leaders in classrooms, and I believe its my calling and duty to coach teachers to achieve and maintain best teaching practices in order to drive the growth and success of our students in and outside the classroom.