Top 5 Worst Parts of Teaching

Last week I covered the great things about teaching. In the interest of fairness and because some of the things that aren’t ideal can be changed this week we look at the negatives. Putting them out into the open could start the process of fixing some of them, so read them in that spirit. Its a job, there will be bad things about it.

In addition, I have only ever worked in traditional public schools, so I’m not sure if all of these are universal.

1. Not Being Allowed to Be a Person


The thing that most surprised me as I became a teacher was the idea that I could not use the bathroom as I pleased anymore. That was over.

This was my first foray into the world of surpassing basic human functions, reactions and behaviors.

You suppress everything. Astonishment, fear, anger, annoyance, disappointment, if it is an emotion that doesn’t conform to “pleasant” or “professional” it must be purged.

I assume for some people this part is less hard, but for me, being a teacher means being a completely different human being everyday of my life, which is super exhausting.

On top of that, you don’t have breaks. You have a “prep”… sometimes, however, that is still work time. You have a half an hour to eat lunch (when you’re lucky). You are on all of the time. There is really no taking a few minutes to collect yourself, or to check emails in your office. Your whole day is stand and deliver. Humans need not apply to such conditions.

2. An Insane Workload with SO FEW Resources


Teachers are often the front line of watching after students needs, some that can be met by the school, others that can’t. Either way, we try to find a way to meet them.

Almost every teacher I know, sponsors a club or coaches a sport. They have after school and before school study sessions with students. They come in well before contract hours and leave well after. They plan with other teachers on the weekends and during “breaks”. They work themselves ragged, and yet somehow there is always work to take home anyway.

The education of students has been changing for some time. The time of worksheets, copied a month ahead of time and handed out after a few minutes of instruction are largely gone. This is great, but it also poses challenges.

In every school I have taught, there have been pushes for increased use of technology, because that is the future. Sadly, educational technology does not meet the standards of the future.

Poorly maintained networks, run by less experienced technicians mean these computers will be buggy AT BEST most of the time. You are continuously trying to write innovative lessons and lesson plans, that will be executed with difficulty, if at all.

The grading likewise has changed, and is more rigorous and demanding. The time to complete the grading has not changed, if anything it has grown smaller.

The scope of the job seems to keep growing but the time and support never seems to do so as well.

3. Top-Down Management


Working in a school is not a collaborative endeavor for the most part. There is a principal, who reports to a superintendent who reports to the school board. You ordinarily have a lead teacher or department chair who you report to and/or an assistant principal.

Why are we doing this or that? The answer is because someone, somewhere, higher up than you, said so. There is no recourse, your input and expertise are not important. Why? Because when you grow up and become an administrator one day you can make decisions as you please, as well.

There’s no HR department either. Complaints go the people evaluating you, so they must be made strategically.

As the rest of the world is seeing the benefits of working in collaborative groups towards common goals, we remain stuck in the factory model of management. We still have to worry about “beating” other schools numbers, or the scores of other teachers, even if our own students are nothing like the ones we are being compared with.

Its disempowering and frustrating.

4. Paperwork. OMG PAPERWORK.


As a special education teacher I have more paperwork than my non-special education peers but that by no means should imply that the amount of paperwork in a school is not soul-crushing.

Everything must be documented. Every parent phone call, every student appointment, every conversation you have with anyone during the school day about anything can likely be documented.

There are referral forms for everything. There are passes for every motion that a student makes. There are form to request just about anything. Everything comes in duplicate for you to “keep for your records”. My records currently take up 4 files in an industrial filing cabinet.

Every warning given to a student needs documenting. Every intervention tried is tracked, and its efficacy written down.

Some schools even ask that written lesson plans be submitted on the form of their choosing every week.

Its a wonder that we have time to teach at all.

In addition to all the regular teacher tracking that I do I have bonus special education teacher paperwork.

IEPs are long. METs are long. Amendments need to be done. Modifications need writing. transportation needs setting up. Behavior plans are written and rewritten every 6 weeks. Everything has an acronym and a form.

The paperwork is unlimited, and time is not.

5. Trying to Please Everyone… And Failing


If I were to compare teaching to business, I would say the students are the customers. So, make them happy right!? Not so fast.

Their parents also have strong opinions of how you should be teaching their child.

Oh, and the school district has some input on that too!

Oh, and the state legislature!

Oh wait, and the federal government!

Did we mention community groups? Church groups? Pretty much every human you have ever met or will ever meet?

Being a teacher means that at any given time, you have to select the group of people you most want to make happy. If you pick students you risk irritating a good number of people. If you pick one or more other groups, you may have unhappy students.

You can please some of the people some of the time, but you CAN’T please all of the people all of the time. When it comes to working in a school you can bet your bottom dollar you will hear from the unhappy parties.

I think there’s a meme for this…



So there you are! Not the worst stuff in the world, but there are certainly draw backs to teaching.

Of course of some of this is avoidable with some proper self-care and boundaries. Some of it may be situational too. Next week we’ll look at finding the place for you to ply your craft and hopefully minimize these less than optimal parts of teaching.


Happy (enough) teaching everyone!



I co own a design and production studio, Humming Moose Studios having just decided to follow a long time dream of having at least one peaceful moment a week. I was an 11 year special education teacher who has worked in every grade level in three states. I have a masters degree in special education from Loyola Marymount University.

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