Professional Dilemma in Education: Challenges Affecting Teachers


By Grace Freds



  1. Introduction
  2. Home
    1. Families
      1. Family Culture
      2. Technology in the household
      3. Families with single parents
    2. Parents:
      1. Parent Literacy/Education
      2. Parents and Discipline
  3. School
    1. Teachers
      1. Too many job descriptions
      2. Class Size
      3. Paper work/Long Hours/Time Constraint
      4. Lack of Supplies
      5. Lack of Administrative Support
    2. Children
      1. Increasing attitude problem of learners
      2. Inclusive Setting
    3. Parent Involvement
      1. Lack of Parent cooperation/participation
      2. Communicating with ESL parents
  4. Research Questionnaire/Data
  5. Recommendations
  6. Conclusion



Teaching is a profession. It is an activity in which someone engages for a living. Those in the teaching profession are called teachers, and because they impart knowledge and skills, Webster’s Basic English Dictionary (1994) refers to teaching as "the duties or profession of a teacher" (p.506). A teacher is an individual whose job description is to educate children, adults and people in general. Handling human beings is always a very difficult task. The reason being that people have minds of their own. They make decisions regarding themselves whether good or bad. Teachers, in the process of executing their jobs, meet with a lot of obstacles or bottlenecks that could make many teachers want to change their profession or still answer teacher but not be effective in it.

Are teachers needed? Categorically, teachers are needed and they are very important in our society. The school system presently has lots of openings for teachers due to increasing number of immigrant children and indigenes that are entering school age. Migration from one school district to another also fuels demand for teachers.

Is the teaching profession without challenges? There is no profession in life that is without bottlenecks. Teachers have several of them, as their major job description is to educate human beings whose minds are not robotic. Every teacher acknowledges that there are lots of challenges that teachers face daily. Let us consider some of them.



Home, like the Macmillan for children dictionary (2001) states, "is a place where a person lives" (p.218). It is a person’s family’s household. There are the parents, children, and other relatives that make up the home. This group of people who are related and are living together is called family.

How does family constitute a problem to teachers? First of all, family consists of people who are related and who live together. A family has its own culture and other life styles that affect both teachers and students performances at school.

Family Culture. Children in the school are from families of diverse cultures. A first grade teacher, Mrs. Hooks (May 4, 2004) said, "there is a down side to working with children with different family backgrounds" (Hodge Road). What exactly is she referring to? She is talking about the different elements of culture. These are race, ethnicity, gender, religious, language, food, music, beliefs, dressing and other aspects of culture that influence the development and personalities of children. These pose a huge problem for teachers, as the children behave and react differently. Teachers are obligated to know and respect that. North Carolina Standards and Indicators (March 7, 2002) states under Diversity Standards "teachers understand how students cognitive, physical, socio-cultural, linguistic, emotional and moral development influence learning" (p.2-2). Teachers have to make efforts to understand different individuals’ belief systems that affect their behaviors.

Technology in the household. Computers, television sets and video games are very good instruments that can aid learning. It seems that these equipments have, instead, become enemies of education. In many homes, it is a constant interference with learning. Children prefer to flip the channels, play their video games and stay in front of the computer monitor screens all day. These have become such a pattern that children often do never learn. They often do not have the desire to read, do their homework and other things that are academic in nature. These technological equipments thereby become a distraction. Using these things very regularly means that the children are losing the opportunity to do something more valuable. Excessive television watching, for instance, hurts a youngster’s school achievements. Sleeping, exercising, reading, playing and talking with parents are more valuable than watching television hour to hour or dwelling on their video games. Again, there are other students that do not have access to computers at home, and so most internet-based assignments will not be done. According to The Children Partnership (2004, May), "California school children in high poverty schools have significantly less computer access at school than their counterparts nationally" (online).

Families with single parents. In the last few years, the number of single parents households has increased greatly. This could be attributed to an increase in divorces, whereby such parents are forced to raise their children alone, relying on family members’ and friends’ support. These single parents experience a high rate of psychological distress, daily economic, family and health frustrations. These have a lot of negative impact on the emotional development of the children. In schools, therefore, teachers are faced with the dilemma of having to deal with that, and finding ways to help the children with their concerns in order for them to effectively learn in school. Johnson, Dupuis, Musial, Hall and Gollnick (2002) further explained that eighty-five percent of unmarried teenage mothers are from low-income families.


This is a living thing that has produced offspring. In context, this paper is referring to a father or mother in case of single families, or mother and father in the case of a nuclear family. In what way do parents constitute a problem to teachers?

Parents-Literacy/Education. Many parents are not aware of the developmental stages in their children. They are not educated well enough to know how to make learning easy for them. Parents that are not inclined to literacy will not be moved to help their children in the learning process. They will be far removed from the knowledge posited by Cynthia C. Jones Shoemaker (2002) that "some parent involvement or outreach efforts, however, do provide activities and materials, often combined together in a book or packet, for parents" (p.231). If they are not literate, they will not know to participate in this kind of activity. Parental education is first and it goes hand in hand to be able to try out ideas and materials with their children. As parents learn more about their children, such as how they develop and think, they often become more interested in being active and involved with their children. Not being educated is a big problem for teachers as their students go home with work and would not do it. Since such parents do not know what to do, they cannot help their children.

Parent and Discipline. Discipline, according to Webster’s Basic English Dictionary, (1994) is a "strict training that corrects or strengthens habits and ways of acting that are gotten through practice" (p.145). The act of disobedience of children does not develop over night. It grows to fullness after a period of time if it is not controlled. By the time children are in school, they become out of control. Seven of the teachers from my survey said, "dealing with students who are very disruptive and are disrespectful both to teachers and to students is the hardest job to do. You will be forced to stop teaching and attend to them" (Hodge Road). The writer has also witnessed similar incidents, and testifies that it is not an ideal thing to witness.

Discipline is number one challenge to teachers. Prayer and use of cane have been removed and are replaced by disrespect for the teacher by students. Parents on the other hand are very supportive of the children. In a discussion with one of the teachers at the same school, Mrs. Terrell (May 4, 2004) said, regarding two students that was not in school, "I am happy because they are not in school today. They are the spearhead of nasty attitudes in the classroom. When you take proper measures to correct them, their mother becomes very offensive" (Hodge Road). This is the reason some students are ready to fight or sue teachers that they think are in their way. Some even tell teachers "You can’t tell me what to do because you’re not my mother". So teachers try hard to set class rules and to enforce them. Students go home and fall back into the environment of "Do as you like… No restrictions". A Special Education teacher for Pre-Kindergarten, Mrs. Turner (May 4, 2004) said, "the most challenging thing to me is trying hard to enforce rightful attitudes in children that are not being enforced at their homes. The children come back the next day worse as ever" (Rolesville Elementary). This makes it very difficult for teachers in the classrooms.


This is a loose term for a place that is designed for teaching and learning to take place. In the school there are teachers and learners who are the children. In the school also, there are parents of the children being taught. There are also different special programs apart from core subjects, which are English, Math, Science, Social Studies, et cetera, that are being taught in order to accommodate other children with special needs. Diane Ravitch’s "The Problem of Educational Reform" in Sandovnik, Cookson and Semel (2001) revealed that "idealistic reformers, eager to improve the schools and to extend their promise to all children, sought the appropriate lever of change" (p.97). That lever was (and still is) education and training.


Teachers are those who teach, guide, instruct, train, direct minds and lives of human beings causing them to gain knowledge or skill? Teachers pass information or skills so that others may learn. They use different methods to achieve the above. No matter the method each teacher applies, the teaching has to be done in a formal or orderly manner. In the process of performing their duties, they are faced with different problems.

Too many job descriptions. It is amazing that the job description of a classroom teacher goes beyond just educating the children. A Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Tracey Sprangley (May 4, 2004) said, "I must be the mom, dad, doctor, therapist extra for children; they come with lots of baggage, and the teacher is expected to ‘fix’ their problems" (Hodge Road). Teachers are held accountable for children regardless of their socio-economic status. Many children face challenges at home such as hunger, no sleep, cold, and other family issues, and yet are expected to learn at a normal pace in the school. So they are sent to school regardless of the problem. Parents and society look up to teachers to magically make their children with needs to concentrate and absorb all that is being taught in the classroom.

Class Size. Mrs. Teres, Mrs. Waltson, Mrs Bugnar stated "large class size is number one on my list. Trying to meet the needs of twenty-five children on all different levels daily is very challenging. With the large number of children per class (twenty-five), it is hard to meet the needs of each child individually. Class size is growing while the number of teachers is decreasing" (Rolesville Elementary). There is a growing lack of support for teachers yet the demand to have children on grade level continues to grow causing more stress and work for teachers. With the growing number of English as a Second Language Students (ESL), more ESL teachers are needed.

Paper Work/Long Hours/Time Constraint. Teachers have so much paper work to do. Keeping up with the grading of students’ works, recording them, profiling them, keeping record of every child’s behavioral charts and at the same time studying and writing their lesson plans every day. Invariably, teachers do lesson plans, prepare materials for teaching, teach, assess students, do paper work on grading, profiling and behavior assessment. All these led to working long hours because of not having enough time during the school period. A fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Council (May 5, 2004) wrote, "I always have so much to grade and so little time to grade them" (Hodge Road). Another teacher, Mrs. Sprangley added, "the paper work for students is out of control!" (Hodge Road).

Lack of Supplies. As many students as teachers have in their classrooms in addition to other problems already identified, supply of materials is another area that is a challenge to teachers. A Parent (May 4, 2004) stated, "It really bothers me the amount of personal money spent by teachers for basic supplies" (Hodge Road).

Lack of Administrative Support. Teachers indicated that school administration is not helping them to deal with challenging students. They often spend their hard earned money on instructional materials without being reimbursed.


Increasing Attitude Problem of Learners. Teachers in today’s schools meet face to face with increasing attitude problems of the students in general. These problems are seen in their lack of respect for teachers. It seems that gone are the days when teachers are respected by parents, students and society as a whole. These days, students talk to teachers carelessly. They are not interested in following directions in the classroom. They are bold enough to tell teachers that they will sue or shoot them. Some of them come to class with guns. Some even gun down teachers and students alike, which we all have witnessed through the media. Moreover, the society encouraged this behavior in children, as their image about teachers is negative. Teachers experience criticisms such as "those that can’t teach". Whatever is wrong in the society tends to be blamed on the teachers and school programs. Teachers authority is questioned by parents and society, which challenges the teacher’s right to discipline students even the unruly ones. According to Johnson, Dupuis, Musial, Hall and Gollnick (2002), "whatever the personal philosophy of the teacher, he or she must address the wishes of the district when establishing classroom management schemes" (p.445). This way, discipline will be well-rounded, and all functionaries concerned would be on the same sheet of music.

Oftentimes, society determines a person’s behavior in everything. Especially when it is an environment that provides everything an individual needs and wants. Students’ problems are probably related to the "good life" quality of a society that tends to have everything it needs. Most students have economically secured homes. Some are provided with an overabundance of goods and services, and are not held accountable for responsible activities in the home. These affect how the students act in the classrooms, which in turn make teachers to battle between maintaining work ethic, orderliness in the class and performing their jobs anyhow.

Inclusive Setting. The task of trying to meet the needs of special needs students in their science classroom, for example, involves making sure that all students (general/special education) learn the content outlined by the Virginia standards of learning. The standards "set reasonable targets and expectations for what both teachers should teach and what students need to learn. According to Virginia Standard of Learning (1995), "the targets/expectations are in four core subjects including science. All students regardless of ability will need to know the same material in order to pass and graduate" (Online). According to Kathy Spar (2004, May), "It is a challenge to meet the diversity of needs that students with special needs bring to the inclusive classroom" (Online). Mrs. Fox (April 28, 2004) said, "It is very challenging to have to face the ups and downs of each special need child’s behavior on a daily basis, making sure that each keeps his mind stimulated with some kind of work task" (Hodge Road). They meet these challenging needs through special strategies. The strategy was to prioritize materials in order of importance, teach vocabulary that may be difficult for students, paraphrase passages, provide study guides, graphics and organizers or provide audio taped text.

Time constraints have worked against evaluating and meeting the students’ special needs day after day. Anne, a fourth grade teacher, from this source was asked how she found time to attend to both her general education students and the special education students. She answered by explaining the configuration of her class. Her "general education classroom is composed of four gifted education students, one special education student, one autistic student and even students who speak English as their second language" (Online). She emphasized time constraint, especially regarding working with the inclusive classroom, and said "meeting everyone’s needs is a difficult task to accomplish because of students’ diverse abilities in the classroom." Her experience has helped her teach more efficiently and that she often "pulls" students during silent activities or during specials for individual attention. "The down side of this," she explained, "was that it took away from her teacher’s preparation time".

To meet the challenges she uses "peer tutors, group activities and projects that allow the student to demonstrate what they know in many different ways (writing, drawing, acting speaking, music, etc.) Teachers are faced with many issues concerning special needs students and the science curriculum. Incorporating students with special needs into the general science classroom is very challenging but these strategies can still help teachers to effectively and successfully overcome the obstacles as mentioned above by Anne.

Parent Involvement

This deals with how parents show interest and concerns in helping teachers educate their children.

Lack of Parent Cooperation/Participation. Parent involvement produces a lasting retention of skills in their children. The extent to which parents participate in the education of their children reflects on their academic and cognitive development. Therefore, when quality cooperation from parents is not manifest, the reinforcement the children need for daily school activities becomes missing. Participation of parents is in different ways such as helping the children in reading, homework, and continuation with students on discipline and academics from the point teachers stopped during the day. Sadonvik, Cookson and Semel (2001) states "although generally persuaded that parental involvement was positive for educational growth, some teachers, particularly in the upper-middle-class school, were ambivalent about some types of parental involvement in schooling" (p.481).

Children need all the support they can get from mother and father. However, some parents are very busy due probably to their work schedules, or lack of parents’ sense of self-mastery and control over their own lives. Sometimes the chores in the family become too cumbersome that parents spare no minute of their own. This is seen in the way some parents drop off their children at schools as if they are dropping off cars at the car wash place. They pick them up when the day is over. That is all. They sometimes seem not to realize that to have a good student involves their participation in the ‘washing’ too. Sometimes, parents send their children to school unprepared. For example, no bath, dirty cloths on, no baby food, diapers, wipes, no instruction regarding their behaviors before coming to school. Some do not continue at home from where the teachers stop. While at home, some parents do not engage the children in some activities that would help them get the understanding of being self-dependent down the road of life. These jeopardize the efforts already invested n the children by the teachers during school sessions.

Many children begin school with little or no skills. I mean very raw, with no knowledge to build a new one on. Again, they are sent forth to school with no materials for learning. What am I saying? They are sent to school on empty stomach and nothing to write with. This is very frustrating. As a matter of fact, parents’ involvement in their children’s education should not only be from school age, but rather from birth. This is because family is the first educational institution right from childbirth to maturity. It is a very important thing for parents to interact with their children’s schools. There is the saying that at one time many schools regarded parents as nuisance and many parents regarded schools as forbidden places in which they should have no legitimate interest. They did that with an attitude of "…the teachers are the experts. Therefore, let the experts do it". The schools encouraged it. Now in our present world, today, there is the understanding that parents play a major role in the education of their children. So there is the need to build stronger parent-child interaction in the early years of a child’s life. They are not only to help in their later school achievement, but also for other reasons. When this is in place, teachers’ frustrations of not being able to bring about the results they want from the children in their classrooms will be wiped out.

Communicating With ESL Parents. Many children in America today, from birth to five years old, come from families that use a language other than English at home. Many parents who do not speak English fluently are reluctant to visit schools because of their limited English skills. The reasons for not meeting with teachers are not that they do not care about their children and their education. This is simply because many teachers do not understand the language and culture of the parents. Oftentimes, such parents are embarrassed and misunderstood by school officials. Sometimes, such parents cannot attend school conferences because they are working and do not have time off. They also may have little children that cannot be home alone while they attend school events. Now, how can the teachers communicate with the parents who speak and understand only one language different from English? Even if the teachers were to visit them at their homes, communication would be limited and possibly mistranslated and misinterpreted by somebody else, probably with a different and unexpected negative result. Right now, almost all schools in Wake County have bilingual teachers and aides who help to bridge the language differences but still other parents are at a disadvantage because these teachers do not know all the languages listed above. That is a big problem. According to Cynthia C. Jones Shoemaker (2000), "speech or language impairments are communication disorders" (of course not excluding language of origin with problems like) "stuttering, impaired articulation, or voice impairment" (p.306). This further complicates language barriers in the classroom.

Research Questionnaire

  1. What are the challenges that you face daily as a teacher?
  2. What steps are you taking to meet these challenges?
  3. What solutions do you recommend for the identified problems?

Forty people were given the survey questions. Twenty-eight of them responded with one or more challenges.


Special Need Children

Children Discipline

Not Enough Time

Large Class Size

Paper Work

Lack of Supplies

Long Hours

Lack of Admin Support









Too Much Job

Language Barrier

Health Problem of Kids

Lack of Parents Involvement

Absenteeism and Tardiness











From the above data, it was discovered that the teachers’ greatest challenges in schools are children’s disrespectful and disruptive attitudes. The next greatest is the special need children of different levels. The third greatest is the large class size that makes it very difficult to control the children and their tiny voices.


Looking at the result of the data collection, three major group of people are solely involved. They are teachers, parents and school administrators. These have to work hand in hand for the benefit of the children and our society in general. There has to be constant communication between teachers and parents and also teachers and the administrator. Teachers have the responsibility of letting their voices to be heard. They have to always inform parents and administration about the identified problems. Teachers should be able to suggest ways to eliminate the problems and also execute them. Parents and administrators on the other hand should be supportive of every little positive efforts that the teachers put on the student. Parents should not come fussing at teachers when their children were the ones at fault. There has to be parents conference where parents are shown their children’s progress in all the subject areas taught in schools.

As for the class size, it is encouraging to note that the administrators are building more schools, and are doing the necessary reassignment of students. From the next school year, teachers are likely to begin to have lower class sizes. Administrators also are likely to have to allow teachers to adjust the curriculum of the special needs children. Because they interact with them daily and are in the best position to know exactly what is good for the children. The administrators should be flexible and not rigid in their curriculum for schools.


The challenges that teachers face are better seen than described In order to deal a blow on the challenges, the focus must shift to the families. A popular saying states that charity begins at home. Parents must be made to know that they have primary responsibility to raise their children. They must be reminded that the teachers have children of their own that they too are raising.

The cornerstone of the solution is discipline in the family. Parents must take ownership, put their feet down and show the child the way to the future. Parents should speak kindly about teachers in the teachers’ absence. This way, when the child goes to school next time, the teacher will look respectable in the sight of the student.

Feeding, warm/proper dressing, attitudinal issues of the students must be handled by their parents. A school principal, Mr. Fisher (April 14, 2004) said, "I have great respect for parents that advocate for their children" (Wilburn Elementary). Child advocacy includes to discipline the child, and not to run after the teacher or the principal because the children were disciplined by the school authorities for misbehaving. On the other hand, both parents and administrators should be able to appreciate teachers and give them promotions, some incentives to appreciate their efforts.


Children Partnership, The (2002, May). Technology Policy (8 paragraphs)

        (Online source). Available:

Fisher, Mr. (April 14, 2004). Children Advocacy. Wilburn Elementary School.


Fox, Mrs. (April 28, 2004). Special Needs Children in the Classroom. Hodge

        Road Elementary School. Interview.

Ginn, Mary E. (1976) Articulation Disorders. Columbia, South Carolina.

        Speech Handicapped Office of Programs for the Handicapped.

Hooks, M. (May 4, 2004) Children with different backgrounds. Hodge Road

        Elementary School. Interview.

Johnson, James A. et al (2002). Introduction to the Foundations of

        American Education. 12th edition. London. Allyn and Bacon Publishers.

Jones Shoemaker, Cynthia C. (2000). Leadership and Management of

        Programs for Young Children. 2nd edition. Columbus, Ohio.

        Merrill (Prentice Hall)

Macmillan for children dictionary (2001). New York. MacMillan Publishers.

        Reynolds, Sally L. (2004). Information about Poe Magnet School and

Montessori Education. Raleigh, North Carolina. Poe Magnet School Publications.

Sadovnic, Alan R. et al. (2001). Exploring Education. Boston. Allyn and

        Bacon Publishers.

Seefeldt, Carol and Galper, Alice (1998) Continuing Issues in Early Childhool

        Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall.

Simon and Schuster Macmillan Dictionary for Children. (2001). New York.

        Simon & Schuster Books.

Spar, Turanchik, Karrenbauer, Cohen (2004 May) Serving up success for

        students in the inclusive classroom (12 paragraphs) Integrated

        Technology Services. (Online Source). Available:

Teachers Informal Support Group (April 28, 2004). Classroom challenges.

Hodge Road Elementary School. Group Discussion.

        Turner, M. (May 28, 2004). Classroom Discipline. Hodge Road Elementary

        School. Interview.

Webster’s Basic English Dictionary. (1994). Springfield, MA. Merriam-Webster,

        Inc., Publishers



Home Page