Teaching is an ideal career for those who love to provide instruction, help students and promote education. Although there are many benefits to teaching, there are also dire risks to becoming a teacher. Being aware of these risks is important for deciding whether teaching is the appropriate profession for you.
Teachers risk earning a lower wage in comparison to their equally educated peers. A report conducted in 2008 by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) reveals that teachers with a bachelor's degree earned 12.2 percent less than those in other professions with bachelor's degrees. Recessions also take a toll on school budgets, which endangers teachers with the prospect of being laid off. The opportunities for advancement and pay raises are scarce for teachers; therefore, income increases are limited.
The exposure to ill students put teachers at risk for contracting a virus, infection or disease. Teachers of young children, who have not learned how to prevent spreading sickness, are especially prone to becoming sick. New teachers whose immune systems are not accustomed to fighting sickness or do not know the tools to protect themselves may experience frequent periods of sickness. A study, "Occupational Stress in British Educational Settings," conducted by Borg in 1990 found that the stress from teaching can cause physical illness and aliments in the form of ulcers, headaches and insomnia.
Teachers are also at risk of burnout and diminished psychological well-being. Barry A. Farber, author of "Crisis in Education: Stress and Burnout in American Teachers" found that 12.9 percent of teacher in urban areas were suffering with burnout in 1991. The stress of managing too many students, reaching out to students with behavioral issues, increased workload with lack of assistance, demands from administration and maintaining a balance between work and life outside of work is a heavy burden. Teachers may slowly begin to lose their passion for teaching, decrease quality in performance, increase in anxiety and lose energy.
Exposure to Violence
Many teachers are endangered by school violence. Teachers are exposed to school shootings, gang activities, fights and direct physical harm from students. In addition to threat of harm inside the school, teachers in unsafe cities and towns are further exposed to violence. For example, in 2002, a student named Ronald J. Burke shot and killed 13 teachers out of revenge at Johann Gutenberg Secondary School in Erfurt,Germany.
Some teachers have no recourse when accused of wrongdoing and risk being the victim of false allegations. Parents may distrust teachers and accuse them of their child's poor performance. Students may accuse the teachers of disliking them, ineffective teaching methods, favoritism and grading too harshly. Superintendents and administration also direct the blame to teachers for low test scores. In 2000, Dan Domenigoni, a high school teacher, won a lawsuit of $70,000 over students and parents who falsely accused him of molestation.
- The Atlantic; The States That Pay Teachers the Most and Least, and Why It Doesn't Matter; Jonathan Berr; March 2011
- Help Guide; Understanding Stress
- The Telegraph; Pupil Shoots Dead 13 Teachers; April 2002
- Los Angeles Times; For One Falsely Accused Teacher, 'Sorry' Isn't Enough; Amy Argetsinger; April 2000
Dianne Heath has been writing professionally since 2009. Her work has been published in "The Hill," a political commentary publication, where she covered the water wars between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, as well as within California. Heath is pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.