The Life Of A Teacher And Why It's Beyond Hard (2023)

Overworked and understaffed, many of America’s teachers are at a breaking point. They need the gift of time and something even more precious: support.

Teaching the next generation has never been an easy career, but the past two years have tested the education community like nothing else in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come, as the challenges to effective education just keep piling up. “This is a great profession, and educators love what they do, but if we don’t start to treat them better widespread teacher shortages are likely,” says Dr. Lynn Gangone, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Of course, I am not an educator—just someone who gets to work with these visionary, world-changing people every day. I wanted to let teachers speak for themselves, and that’s why I was so honored when Wyoming’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Pierson, agreed to share what a regular day in her teacher life looks like. Pierson, who is about to complete her doctoral degree, serves on the State Board of Education in addition to teaching fourth grade at Cloud Peak Elementary in Johnson County School District #1.

She’s clearly an exemplary educator, but that’s just one of the ways Pierson exerts a positive influence in her students’ lives. Here’s what she wants people to know about the life of a teacher.

Why teach?

No one fully knows what they’re signing up for when they decide to become a teacher, says Pierson. “I wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember—I even played school with my dolls as a child,” she says. “I wanted to work with kids and make a difference in their lives.


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“To be frank, being an educator has changed drastically over the 17 years I have been in the profession.”

Instead of asking why educators chose their profession, Pierson says we should ask why they stay. For her, the answer is simple. “I stay, because it is the place I believe I can make the biggest difference,” she says.

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Though she’s had opportunities to leave the classroom in pursuit of other roles, Pierson doesn’t want to leave. “Students are who bring me joy. It is their ability to grow and learn on a daily basis that inspires me to continue to do what I do. Watching them try and fail and then succeed is a gift that I get to witness every day,” she says.

“I stay because of the students.”

Just a day in the life

Pierson, who co-teaches in a 50% special education, 50% regular education classroom, arrives at school between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. Before the bell rings at 8:05 a.m., Pierson meets with her partner teacher to discuss last-minute changes in order to meet all the diverse learning needs in their classroom. Sometimes she also has scheduled IEPs or staff meetings before the bell.

At 8:05 a.m., the kids arrive and it’s go time. After the students fill out their planners (a communication tool that goes home with them daily for parents to sign), some go with Pierson’s partner teacher to work on life skills while the rest use the next 10 minutes to work on typing skills. The rest of the day usually looks like this:

  • Opening
  • Math
  • Specials (PE, Music, Art, Science, Guidance, Technology)
  • Recess
  • Reading Groups
  • Whole Group Reading
  • Lunch/Recess
  • Writing
  • Recess
  • Social Studies/Science

That’s the plan on paper—but of course, effective teaching requires constant calibration. “We are constantly looking back on small assessments or measures to make sure they are mastering content and that we are truly giving students what they need,” Pierson says. “Not to mention, if I start a lesson and determine it doesn’t fit their needs, I have to be able to switch gears immediately and make a change on the spot.”

Pierson’s lunch is usually spent preparing for the rest of the day’s lessons or tomorrow’s lessons. Teachers have 20 minutes to eat, then 20 minutes to prep or head outside for recess duty, which Pierson has twice a week.

Aside from actual time spent in the classroom, Pierson also has staff meetings on Tuesdays, team meetings on Mondays, PLC meetings on Thursdays during planning and LLI (leveled literacy intervention) meetings Thursdays after school. Plus she has IEPs, parent meetings, BIT (building intervention team meetings) every other week, as well as professional development and trainings squeezed in wherever there is space.

At 3:05 p.m., the bell to leave rings and Pierson and her fellow educators get to work organizing tomorrow. “We determine how to structure the next day’s lessons based on data we collected,” she says.

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It doesn’t stop when she goes home. “Most nights I also juggle phone calls from parents as I am trying to cook dinner for my own family answering questions regarding medication change and effects on behaviors, make-up work, questions about schoolwork, problems with friends, et cetera,” says Pierson. “Most weekends I spend one day working at school to catch up.”

More than just teaching

What many people don’t realize is that teaching is just one role teachers fill in the course of a normal day. “It’s not just academics that we worry about or can only focus on,” says Pierson.

Kids spend hours with their teachers every day, and (as any parent can attest) they need much more than just academic instruction. “Demands are placed on teachers to help students solve problems with peers that occur in the classroom and at recess,” says Pierson. “Help students find a coat, because it is 0 degrees and they didn’t come to school in a coat. Listen as students recount their night when Dad didn’t come home. Feed them when they are hungry.

“We are teachers, counselors, nurses, parents, mediators, custodians, cooks, friends, safe havens, disciplinarians and ‘future citizen’ creators.”

Staffing struggles

As they juggle these many and demanding roles, most teachers in America find themselves with little to no support in the classroom. With two certified teachers, a paraprofessional and a deaf educator in the room, Pierson’s classroom is unusual in its wealth of staff. “It allows us to really hone in on the learning needs of each group of kiddos and meet them where they are at,” she says. “Not every classroom has this luxury.”

If effective teaching is hard in well-staffed classrooms like Pierson’s, imagine what it must be like when you’re the sole adult in the room—tasked with educating, managing and, somewhere in the day, attempting to inspire a roomful of children.

Pierson recalls her time as a solo teacher, where it was more difficult to make sure group work remained on task. “I had to use vital instructional time to set my classroom up for success and practice the skills they would need to be independent on work when I was not with them,” she says. “I had to creatively design lessons that would help enforce a skill, but not be too difficult that they couldn’t figure it out without more instruction.”

Even in well-staffed classrooms, the demands are still taxing teachers to the limit. “There have been a number of polls suggesting that many teachers are at their breaking point and are planning to leave the profession,” says Gangone. “It is heartbreaking.”

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Teaching for the test

Another struggle Pierson shares is the constant balance between teaching the material and teaching how to take a test. Though she strives to create lessons that allow her students to grow in problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, she admits that it’s becoming more difficult.

“As much as I fight it, as much as it hurts me to say this, we are constantly preparing students to take a test at the end of the year that tells us if they have mastered everything they need to know for fourth grade,” she says. “A test that I truly don’t believe actually represents the skills or knowledge that my students have mastered. A test that doesn’t assess their problem-solving skills, creativity, communication skills or how they work with others.”

What teachers need most

I asked Pierson about her biggest need as a teacher, one thing that would help her do her job. Her answer was instant: “I need the gift of time, or something taken off my plate.”

However, more time is just one part of the bigger picture of support. “I also need parents, legislatures, administrators, school board members and the general public to trust me to do my job,” says Pierson. “Trust that I am the expert in my field, that every decision I make is in the best interest of the students I am teaching.

“As a professional it would be nice to be trusted.”

Pierson is quick to add that she doesn’t believe evaluations of educators should be eliminated. “Reflecting on my practice is something that helps me grow and that I need in order to stay on the cutting edge of my profession,” she says. “However, when people constantly criticize, degrade or insert their agendas into education, ultimately it prevents educators from doing their jobs and it is the students who suffer.”

Instead, communities should rally around their educators. “Write things in the paper that elevate the teacher’s voice, that showcase the amazing things educators are accomplishing,” she says. “And if you hear a rumor, instead of blindly spreading it, talk to an educator and most of them will candidly answer your concerns with reasons to back up their thinking.”

Gangone agrees: “We need to speak out for ensuring that teachers have the support they need, including adequate compensation and school funding.”

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The future of teaching

The shortage of people entering the field of education predates the pandemic—which of course has only made things worse. Record numbers of teachers across the U.S. feel overworked and burned out, and every day, their students see it.

Though the life of a teacher is clearly challenging, Pierson has nothing but encouragement for young people considering education as a profession. “Do it!” she says. “I love learning more than I love teaching and, in this profession, you constantly have to keep learning. Be ready to fight for what you believe is right throughout your career.

“You will have some precious people who are counting on you.”


Why is being a teacher so hard now? ›

The stress and pressure that comes from the job have become increasingly overwhelming. Long gone are the days of just teaching content. Teachers are expected to do more with less time and less financial support. Each year something more is added to our plates, but nothing is taken away.

What are the hardest things about being a teacher? ›

  • Teachers must carry the emotional burden of having to help students going through difficulties at home. ...
  • Teachers must deal with difficult parents. ...
  • Teachers say they need to constantly teach for standardized tests. ...
  • Some teachers struggle with disconnecting after the work day is done.
Aug 27, 2019

What is the biggest challenge in your life as a teacher? ›

One of the most common and pressing classroom challenges for teachers is the fact that some students are not receiving adequate support outside of the classroom. While teachers can work with students while they're at school, students need support from their parents as well.

What are the hardest years of teaching? ›

The first year of teaching is the hardest. While being an educator is never without its struggles, the first year is by far the most challenging — pieced together with idealism, confusion, good intentions, excitement, fear, and expectations.

Why so many teachers are quitting? ›

Beyond compensation, these educators also feel overworked and undervalued. Nearly 75 percent of respondents who cite expectations as a top reason they plan to leave say they have too much work to do each day and that there aren't enough teachers to carry the workload.

Why teacher is the most stressful job? ›

Teachers work longer hours than many other positions, which often leads to burnout and stress. Some of the many contributing factors are lack of resources, work-life balance and political issues.

What frustrates teachers the most? ›

Read on for my solutions to some of the common frustrations of teaching.
  • Frustration 1: Students arriving late.
  • Frustration 2: Phones in class.
  • Frustration 3: Students speaking in L1.
  • Frustration 4: The dreaded silence.
  • Frustration 5: Mixed-ability groups.
  • Frustration 6: Being observed.
Aug 10, 2020

Why experience is the hardest kind of teacher? ›

It gives you the test first and the lesson afterward. - Oscar Wilde - iFunny.

What is the most challenging part of a teacher? ›

Lack of effective communication

As the wiser of the bunch, teachers need to build trust with their students and work on their communication skills every day. You are building an effective communication channel not only between yourself and your students but also their parents.

What qualities make a great teacher? ›

The Top 14 Qualities that Make a Good Teacher
  • Adaptability. Adaptability is a must for teachers, who need to continuously evaluate what's working for their students — and even more importantly, what isn't working. ...
  • Empathy. ...
  • Patience. ...
  • Engagement. ...
  • Active Listening. ...
  • Lifelong Learning. ...
  • Free of Bias. ...
  • Respectful Attitude.

How old are most teachers? ›

StateAverage age of teachersMedian age of teachers
United States42.441.0
63 more rows

What is the easiest teacher to become? ›

10 Easiest Subjects to Teach
  1. Math. Math is a subject that is mainly conceptual. ...
  2. Physical Education. If you're like most people, you probably dreaded having to go to gym class when you were in school. ...
  3. Art. ...
  4. Music. ...
  5. Language Arts. ...
  6. Science. ...
  7. Health. ...
  8. Spelling.

What teacher has taught the longest? ›

Longest career as a teacher

Medarda de Jesus Leon de Uzcategui (born 8 June 1899), alias La Maestra Chucha, taught in Caracas, Venezuela for 87 years from 1911 to 1998. In 1911, at the age of 12, she and her two sisters set up a school there which they named Modelo de Aplicacion.

Why teachers are quitting 2023? ›

Clip: 04/10/2023 | 17m 51s | Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts, and debates over the curriculum are adding to the pressures on America's educators. In her new book, bestselling author Alexandra Robbins followed three teachers to see how these issues are changing the way they work.

What is the burnout rate for teachers? ›

In the United States, 44% of teachers in K-12 education said they very often or always feel burned out at work, while for college or university teachers, the figure was 35%.

What does teacher burnout feel like? ›

“Signs you might be experiencing teacher burnout might include stress or feeling irritable or tired all the time. You also might be having sleep issues, like sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia from worry. You might be sad or overwhelmed when you think about teaching, or maybe you just don't enjoy it anymore.

How do you know when to quit teaching? ›

5 Warning Signs It's Time To Quit Teaching
  1. Teaching leaves you more exhausted than it leaves you energized/excited.
  2. Your personal life is suffering due to the stress of the position.
  3. You are certain that switching grades, schools, or districts will not help you.

Why are so many teachers depressed? ›

high job demands. lack of resources or support from school districts. stress from juggling teaching and other responsibilities.

Do teachers have mental health issues? ›

More than a quarter of teachers and principals reported experiencing symptoms of depression as of January 2022, according to a survey from the RAND Corporation .

What scares teachers the most? ›

So, let's take a look at some current prospective teacher fears.
  • Classroom Management. One common new teacher fear is whether a new teacher is prepared to handle a classroom. ...
  • Teacher Shortages. ...
  • Salaries. ...
  • Health and Safety Issues. ...
  • Student Debt. ...
  • Teacher Fears Are Real, but Not Unusual.
Oct 1, 2021

What percent of teachers are unhappy? ›

Meanwhile, teachers have made it plain that they are unhappy. Seventy-four percent of respondents in the American Federation of Teachers' June survey of nearly 2,400 members were dissatisfied with the job, up from 41 percent in 2020, and 40 percent said they'd probably leave the profession in the next two years.

Why is the teacher burnout rate so high? ›

A low salary, a lack of respect from parents and a lack of a work-life balance also were high on the list. The survey found that 1 in 5 teachers say they will likely leave the profession in the next three years, including 1 in 7 who say they will definitely leave.

What are the Big Five personality traits of teachers? ›

They are Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN).

What are three of your weaknesses as a teacher? ›

An incomplete understanding of a specific skill, such as calculus or inorganic chemistry (as long as it is not one for which you are interviewing) Lack of or too much spontaneity. Fear of public speaking. Lack of work-life balance.

What are the weak qualities of a teacher? ›

  • Lack of Classroom Management. A lack of classroom management is probably the single biggest downfall of a bad teacher. ...
  • Lack of Content Knowledge. ...
  • Lack of Organizational Skills. ...
  • Lack of Professionalism. ...
  • Poor Judgment. ...
  • Poor People Skills. ...
  • Lack of Commitment.
Jul 1, 2021

What motivates teachers to work harder? ›

Many factors affect a teacher's motivation to work. These include money, professional development, progression and promotion opportunities, workplace environment, and sense of autonomy.

Is being a teacher one of the hardest jobs? ›

Teaching, as anyone who does it will tell you, is a grueling, demanding, and unforgiving profession. Teachers work long hours for low pay, grading papers at night and planning lessons on weekends.

Are more experienced teachers better? ›

As teachers gain experience, their students not only learn more, as measured by standardized tests, they are also more likely to do better on other measures of success, such as school attendance.

What are challenging behaviors for teachers? ›

Challenging behaviors are any behaviors that impact the learning process. They might include refusing to work, arguing, calling out, refusing to put the phone away, or not following instructions.

What is most important for a teacher? ›

Dedication. One of the most important parts of teaching is having dedication. Teachers not only listen, but also coach and mentor their students. They are able to help shape academic goals and are dedicated to getting their students to achieve them.

Who is a teacher in simple words? ›

A teacher, also called a schoolteacher or formally an educator, is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence, or virtue, via the practice of teaching. Pedagogy, subject knowledge; competence in teaching the subject, in curriculum, in learner assessment; psychology; planning; leadership.

What age do most teachers retire? ›

This means that someone who enters teaching before age 25 with a bachelor's and accumulates 30 or more years of service can usually retire sometime between age 55 and 60. In most states teachers are eligible for retirement without penalty once they turn 60 even with less than 30 years of service.

Should I become a teacher at 40? ›

Wherever you are in your journey to becoming a teacher, don't let your age be a factor. Students and schools need all kinds of teachers. Your experience will most likely be an asset: part of what makes your teaching and your classroom uniquely valuable to your school community. In short, it's never too late to teach!

What is the retirement age for teachers in the US? ›

Age 65 with five or more years of service credit, or. Any combination of age and service totaling 80 with at least five years of service credit.

What grade is the hardest to teach? ›

Standardized Testing May Cause Grades 3 and Up to Be the Hardest Elementary Grades to Teach. Many educators argue that the hardest elementary grade to teach is one with standardized testing pressures.

What subject is the hardest to teach? ›

Calculus. There are a number of math courses or sub-sciences of math that probably deserve some recognition here. Calculus heads the group though as one of the toughest to teach and also learn.

Which teachers are most in demand? ›

Which teaching subject is most in demand? While specific needs vary by institution, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are subjects that are always in high demand.

How long do teachers usually teach? ›

But, we found that 60.5% of teachers taught in K-12 schools longer than two years and more than one third (35.5%) taught for more than four years. After five years, 27.8% were still in teaching.

What is the hottest teacher in the world? ›

Oksana Neveselaya

She has become the newest web sensation after a video shot by one of her students went viral. This pretty woman, from Minsk, Belarus, has become an overnight celebrity who is currently being hailed as the 'World's Hottest Maths Teacher' by her fans.

Are teachers lifelong learners? ›

A teacher has to try acquiring knowledge in his life to be able to disseminate it in the best of the possible ways to his students. For a Teacher, to quote Albert Einstein, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Hence, it is imperative for any good teacher to be lifelong learner.

How many teachers quit in the first 5 years? ›

New teachers are leaving their jobs within 5 years of teaching in percentages as high as 30%. 8% of US teachers are quitting their careers, while only 3% to 4% of teachers in other countries are quitting. A report showed that 29% of teachers quit their job due to personal and lifestyle reasons.

Why teachers are so burnt out? ›

With long hours and a heavy workload, it's easy to fall prey to teacher burnout. Without proper support, teachers are in danger of being overworked and not taking care of their own mental and physical health needs.

Why are teachers declining? ›

Here are just a few of the longstanding problems plaguing American education: a generalized decline in literacy; the faltering international performance of American students; an inability to recruit enough qualified college graduates into the teaching profession; a lack of trained and able substitutes to fill teacher ...

Are teachers quitting in droves? ›

A 2022 study conducted by the Education Weekly Research Center found that just 12 percent of teachers nationally are very satisfied with their jobs, and a study from the National Education Association found that 55 percent of teachers are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.

What is the average career length of a teacher? ›

Years of teaching experience and grade level taughtTotalRural
Average number of years14.215.3
Years of teaching experience
34 more rows

What percent of teachers get fired? ›

Echoing these arguments is Century Foundation senior fellow Rick Kahlenberg who recently wrote in an article for the “American Educator” — a magazine published by the AFT — that “2.1 percent of American public school teachers, including tenured teachers, were fired for cause.” This is based on data from the National ...

What stresses teachers out the most? ›

A low salary, a lack of respect from parents and a lack of a work-life balance also were high on the list.

Why do teachers lose their passion to teach? ›

Studies point to a number of factors that can lead to teacher burnout, including lack of support, student behavior problems, lack of adequate training for the demands of the job, and plain old boredom. I would also add the inability to find work/life balance.

What state needs teachers the most? ›

Southern states are seeing the highest amounts of raw teacher vacancies, with Florida coming out on top at 3,911. Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia each have over 3,000 vacancies. Mississippi saw the highest teacher-to-student vacancy rate in the 2021-22 school year.

Why no one is going into teaching? ›

On one hand, it's possible fewer people went into teaching because they didn't like the transition to virtual learning or didn't feel comfortable in schools. But it's also possible more people entered teaching thanks to states' temporarily waiving or permanently reducing their licensure requirements. We don't know yet.

Do teachers get bored of teaching? ›

When Teachers Get Bored. If you've been teaching for more than just a few years, you're likely to run into some boredom sooner or later, especially if you've been teaching the same subject, grade level, and lessons.

What should I do after I quit teaching? ›

31 Jobs for Teachers Who Want To Leave the Classroom but Not Education
  1. Educational Policy Expert. ...
  2. Curriculum Writer/Creator. ...
  3. Coach/Mentor. ...
  4. Educational Technology Consultant. ...
  5. Online Educator. ...
  6. Community Director. ...
  7. School Counselor. ...
  8. Corporate Trainer.
Dec 6, 2022

Is it worth it to be a teacher today? ›

One of the best things about being a teacher is that you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on students' lives. You can help them learn and grow, both academically and personally. Seeing students succeed — whether in the classroom or in life — is one of the most gratifying experiences a teacher can have.


1. Zach Bryan - Something In The Orange
(Zach Bryan)
2. The psychology of self-motivation | Scott Geller | TEDxVirginiaTech
(TEDx Talks)
3. Life is the Teacher (If You Are Ready to Learn!)
(Life Beyond Personality)
4. Teaching in the US vs. the rest of the world
5. Things You Do Wrong Every Day
6. The Pacifier - Vin Diesel vs Bullying Teacher Scene (1080p)


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