Being a high school teacher can be fun, mentally stimulating and personally rewarding, especially if you have the opportunity to work with committed students. However, this career also involves a variety of challenges related to the availability of resources, student motivation and assessment standards.
School performance on standardized tests is often used to make funding decisions, putting pressure on teachers to focus only on teaching test content and helping students understand how to succeed on the standardized test formats. This can distract them from their preferred teaching methods and the curriculum the school has designed for the class. Richard Steinberg noted in a 2008 "American Physical Society" article that the learning environment where kids were taught to repetitively absorb information and recite it on a test, showed no long-term concern for the knowledge. This teach-to-test mentality can actually train students to ignore creative thinking and learning opportunities in the classroom.
Education from kindergarten through high school is a series of building blocks. At the high school level, teachers in all course areas rely on the elementary and middle schools to prepare students for the rigors of high school. However, this doesn't always happen. A July 2012 "Education News" article noted that students in math were more commonly taking remedial classes and couldn't keep up with curriculum expectations. In some cases, high school teachers are stuck with classrooms of unprepared students not capable of understanding and learning required material. This can make teaching frustrating and preparation time-consuming.
School district budgets are often tight, especially in lower-income areas. High schools that already struggle to get students excited often have a difficult time turning the tide because of budget constraints. For example, February 2013 studies reported by "Pew Research Center" on the use of technology in classrooms noted that only 37 percent of high school teachers in designated "low income" schools used tablet computers in class, while 56 percent in "high income" schools used them. Similar issues were noted by teachers regarding availability of other technology and resources.
Large Class Sizes
Large class sizes pose several challenges for teachers in some high schools. Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen GJ Lewis noted that this negatively impacts student learning. A 2011 to 2012 study by the union found that 76 percent of students in classes of 15 or fewer early in high school graduated on time, while students in classes of 24 only graduated on time 64 percent of time. In smaller classes, teachers have the ability to give students more one-on-one attention and offer more regular feedback on their performance.