Unrealistic Teacher Expectations

The new school year is underway. And, already, you may have made assumptions about your child’s teacher. But here is a question to consider: are we expecting too much?

D. Wright with the Murray School District polled teachers, grade K-12, and asked that very question.

· Expecting a teacher (or the school) to solve all of society’s problems.

… “Homelessness, poverty, divorce, joblessness, drugs and alcohol are societal problems which cause families to become disjointed and displaced. Students move around from one place to the next and they have a hard time in school because of all the problems they are facing at home. Yet, society expects the teacher and the school to do so much more than simply teach the content which is difficult enough with the varied skill levels and the lack of support at home. The teacher today needs to teach the content and skill but act as the police, social worker, counselor and more.” Even the total nutritional well-being of school-aged children seems to be placed at targeted at schools, when so much time is spent in many homes with poor eating habits.

· Expecting Teachers to automatically know about each of their student’s personal challenges, AND have immediate recall of all of their academic history and tracking.

… “For teachers to know each student on a close personal basis, have up-to-the-minute knowledge of each student’s grades, assignment tracking, learning styles, challenges and family situations can be overwhelming. On an elementary grade level, a teacher will have a pretty good chance of fulfilling much of this expectation, but in the secondary classrooms, it can be tough for teachers to even be able to personally acknowledge each student during a class period, let alone know at a moment’s notice where they each stand on every single assignment, and about changes in their family lives.” Large classroom enrollments challenge even the best record-keeping teachers in being able to know each student personally, especially in the secondary schools.

· Expecting teachers to schedule two different Parent/Teacher Conferences for one student because parents can’t get along for 15 minutes to sit in the conference together.

… This can extend the teacher’s conference time considerably through multiple dual-parenting demands, and also makes an additional challenge to be sure that the exact same information is provided twice. It would be better for everyone if parents could try to work together for this short space of time in their child’s academic life.

· Expecting too much from a teacher too quickly.

… Don’t react too quickly with a new teacher; give them a little time to get to know your child, set a routine and make a connection, before you ask for class changes.

· Expecting a teacher to customize class curriculum to coordinate with student family travel plans.

… Parents pulling children out for family vacations create a lot of additional work as the teacher is asked to coordinate work that the student will be missing ahead of the time when they will be preparing it for the rest of the class. Teachers comment that often parents want a student assignment make-up plan neatly organized and explained before they go with both verbal and written directions, and then many times do not even turn it in when they return. Not to mention that some struggling students are taken out for vacation during school days when they really cannot afford to miss even one day – let alone several.


These are mostly funding related, but interesting nevertheless for parents to understand the very real challenges that their children’s teachers are facing.

· Teachers continue to be asked to do more and more with less and less. Many school programs (extra-curricular, music, physical education and others) are run on budgets that are less than adequate. This can be extremely frustrating for the teacher trying to do a good job and provide a meaningful curriculum for students. Try not to be too critical if a teacher or advisor is trying to make a program or event work on little or no funding.

· Large class sizes due to district’s hands being tied from lack of insufficient funding from the state legislature. It’s unreasonable to expect any teacher to maximize learning when classrooms are overcrowded and often contain students with mental health issues that lead to extreme behaviors.

· Mandated to implement Utah Core without enough resources provided to teachers (texts, lesson plans, even actual curriculum.) New novels are required with the new core but there is no money provided to purchase the novels. It’s unreasonable to expect teachers to understand and implement new curriculum and methodology with the limited time provided for professional development.

· It’s unreasonable to expect teachers to maintain morale and be their best with kids when they have to fight for every scrap they get, whether that be materials, respect from the legislature, enough Para help, etc.

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