Peek Behind the Curtains: What It’s Really Like to Be a Teacher Today

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

Despite the fact that nearly all Americans have attended school themselves, send their children to school, or know at least one teacher, the vast majority of the general public doesn’t really understand what’s it like to be a public school teacher today. 

What challenges are public school teachers facing? What resources do they have to cope with these challenges? What do today’s teacher’s wish people knew about their profession or day-to-day lives?

Recently, Pew conducted a study on What’s It’s Like to Be a Teacher in America Today, and the results were eye-opening.

We knew teaching isn’t easy, but we didn’t know it was this bad.


How Teachers Feel About Their Jobs

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Think teaching is a fun job where you play with (or simply babysit) children all day long before having the summers off? Think again.

Teaching is stressful, and many teachers are struggling to cope.

While 56% of teachers report that their job is extremely fulfilling, it doesn’t come without its challenges.

According to the Pew study,

  • 77% of teachers say their job is frequently stressful.
  • 68% of teachers say their job is overwhelming.
  • 70% of teachers say their school is understaffed.
  • 52% of teachers say they would not advise a young person to become a teacher


1. Lingering Effects of the Pandemic

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Why is teaching so stressful? Currently, one of the biggest challenges teachers face is the lingering aftermath of the recent pandemic.

According to the Pew study, “About eight-in-ten teachers (among those who have been teaching for at least a year) say the lasting impact of the pandemic on students’ behavior, academic performance and emotional well-being has been very or somewhat negative.”

Many students missed out on critical instruction or didn’t fully understand the lessons due to the world challenges at the time, causing them to fall further and further behind.

Now, teachers are struggling to help these students learn the new material when they never mastered the old material.


2. Student Mental Health Issues

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Whether more people are struggling with depression and anxiety in the past or we’re finally getting people the help they’ve always needed, there’s no question that teachers are now responsible for helping students with more than just their academics. 

According to Pew research, “a majority of teachers (58%) say they have to address behavioral issues in their classroom every day. About three-in-ten teachers (28%) say they have to help students with mental health challenges daily.”

While most teachers are caring individuals who want to help their students however they can, many teachers do not have adequate training, time, or pay to deal with these additional demands.


3. Problems with Student Behavior

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Additionally, not all students are struggling quietly internally. Some students externalize their struggles with disruptive and disrespectful behavior that can make it incredibly difficult for students to do their jobs.

The study also found:

  • 47% of teachers say students showing little or no interest in learning is a major problem in their classroom.
  • 33% say students being distracted by their cellphones is a major problem.
  • 21% say students getting up and walking around when they’re not supposed to is a major problem.
  • 21% say students being disrespectful toward them is a major problem.

While the majority of schools do have policies surrounding the use of cellphones in class, 30% of teachers find these policies difficult to enforce.


4. Violence Toward Teachers

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As if being a teacher weren’t challenging enough, many teachers have to deal with verbal or even physical abuse from their students — and there’s very little they can do to stop it.

According to Pew, “Most teachers (68%) say they have experienced verbal abuse from their students, such as being yelled at or verbally threatened. About one-in-five (21%) say this happens at least a few times a month.”

“Physical violence is far less common, but about one-in-ten teachers (9%) say a student is physically violent toward them at least a few times a month. Four-in-ten say this has ever happened to them.”

While there are occupations where physical violence is a known and expected hazard, teaching should not be one of them.


5. Lack of Parental Support

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While elementary school teachers may see students for more hours each day than their own parents do, this doesn’t mean that teachers have a greater degree of influence. Teachers need parents to show their support and help during the hours the students aren’t at school.

However, the majority of teachers report that “parents are doing too little when it comes to holding their children accountable if they misbehave in school, helping them with their schoolwork and ensuring their attendance.”

There’s only so much teachers can do if parents are continually undermining them and actively teaching their students not listen or get their work done.


6. Lack of Administrative Support

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Parents aren’t the only ones leaving teachers to struggle on their own, either. Administrators often fail to give teachers the resources and support they need to complete their jobs successfully.

Sometimes, this is a lack of emotional support or resources. Other times, administrators refuse (or are unable) to deal with problem students, leaving teachers to try to fix issues on their own.

According to Pew,

“About two-thirds of teachers (66%) say that the current discipline practices at their school are very or somewhat mild. Only 2% say the discipline practices at their school are very or somewhat harsh, while 31% say they are neither harsh nor mild. Most teachers (67%) say teachers themselves don’t have enough influence in determining discipline practices at their school.”


7. Overwhelming Workload

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Having a job that offers summers off might seem appealing… until you realize how overwhelming and all-consuming a teacher’s schedule can be throughout the school year. There’s simply too much to do in too little time.

According to Pew, “Most teachers (84%) say there’s not enough time during their regular work hours to do tasks like grading, lesson planning, paperwork and answering work emails.”

It isn’t merely the usual academic tasks that take a toll, however. These days, many teachers are expected to go above and beyond and complete extra responsibilities — often for little to no extra pay.

“Many also point to having to spend time helping students outside the classroom, performing non-teaching duties like lunch duty, and covering other teachers’ classrooms as at least minor reasons they don’t have enough time to get all their work done.”


8. Low Teacher Pay

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Speaking of pay, teachers are often paid like babysitters while being expected to teach, guide, and problem solve like experts in multiple fields. As a result, the majority of teachers are unhappy with their meager salaries.

According to Pew, “only 15% [of teachers] are extremely or very satisfied with their pay, while 51% are not too or not at all satisfied.”

According to, the average elementary school teacher salary is only $52,101 per year. 

Not only is this often not enough to live on (especially if the teacher has a large family or long commute), but this number doesn’t factor in the number of times when teachers are expected to pay for their own (or their students’) materials out of pocket.


9. Teacher Shortages

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In light of all of these challenges, it’s no surprise that the nation is facing serious teacher shortages. Current teachers are leaving the profession and new teachers are opting out of the classroom before they even begin their careers.

Teaching simply isn’t worth the stress and challenges — especially for such low pay.

According to Pew, “Among teachers who don’t plan to retire or stop working this year, 29% say it’s at least somewhat likely they will look for a new job in the 2023-24 school year. Within that group, 40% say they would look for a job outside of education, 29% say they’d seek a non-teaching job in education, and only 18% say they’d look for a teaching job at another public K-12 school.”

As a result “Seven-in-ten public K-12 teachers say their school is understaffed, with 15% saying it’s very understaffed and 55% saying it’s somewhat understaffed.”


10. Political Battles Over Curriculum

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Finally, many teachers are incredibly frustrated with the legislation being handed down by politicians who have no classroom experience. 

Teachers used to be able to plan creative lessons designed to meet their students’ unique needs, challenge, and interests.

Now, thanks to standardization, many teachers find themselves “teaching to the test” — not because they want to, but because they feel they have to. Their salaries and funding can depend on it.


Major Challenges Students are Facing

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Teachers aren’t the only ones facing serious challenges within the field of education these days.

Students are struggling as well. 

According to the same Pew study, the biggest issues facing students these days include:

  • Poverty: 53% of students
  • Chronic Absenteeism: 49% of students
  • Anxiety and Depression: 48% of students

Bullying can also pose a major problem with 20% of teachers reporting bullying as a significant issue within their schools.


Things are Only Getting Worse

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Unfortunately, despite a growing knowledge of these challenges, the situation is only getting worse.

According to Pew,

“A large majority of teachers (82%) say the overall state of public K-12 education has gotten worse in the past five years…”

“And very few are optimistic about the next five years: Only 20% of teachers say public K-12 education will be a lot or somewhat better five years from now. A narrow majority (53%) say it will be worse.”

Something has to change… but what?


Many Teachers Planning to Switch Careers

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For many teachers, the worsening state of education has them opting out of education altogether.

“About three-in-ten teachers (29%) say it’s at least somewhat likely they’ll look for a new job, with 11% saying it is extremely or very likely they’ll do this,” according to Pew. “Among teachers who say they may look for a new job, 40% say they’re most likely to seek a job outside education.”

It isn’t that teachers don’t love the act of teaching… but all the challenges make teaching no longer worth the stress.


What Teachers Wish People Knew

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In a separate study, Pew asked educators, “If there’s one thing you’d want the public to know about teachers, what would it be?”

In light of the recent findings, their responses are both sad and telling.

  • 51% want people to know: Teaching is a hard job.
  • 22% want people to know: Teachers care about their students.
  • 17% want people to know: Teachers are undervalued and disrespected.
  • 15% want people to know: Teachers are underpaid.
  • 9% want people to know: Teachers need support and resources from government and administrators.
  • 8% want people to know: Teachers need more support from parents.


Homeschool vs Public School vs Private School: Which is Right for Your Family?

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As a parent, should you send your children to public school, private school, or homeschool them yourself?

Each option has its own pros and cons, so there’s no one option that’s right for every family.

Homeschool vs Public School vs Private School (Pros and Cons)


10 Common “Christian” Practices that Aren’t Actually Biblical

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If your search history is anything like mine, you can’t spend more than 15 minutes online without inevitably stumbling onto an article or comment section declaring exactly what Christians should or should not do.

Unfortunately, many of the so-called “Christian” behaviors we see online aren’t actually biblical at all.

Here are 10 all-too-common behaviors that give Christianity a bad name.

10 Common “Christian” Practices that Aren’t Actually Biblical

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Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author and founder of Equipping Godly Women and Monetize My Ministry. She’s also a Christian speaker, podcaster, and conference host. Her work has been featured on numerous TV, radio, and online ministries, including CBN, MSN, Christianity Today, Evangelical Alliance, Patheos, Crosswalk, and more.

Brittany Ann Equipping Godly Women

About the author

Brittany Ann is an ECPA bestselling author of “Fall in Love with God’s Word” and “Follow God’s Will” and the founder of, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping busy Christian moms find practical ways to go "all in" in faith and family. Her work has been featured on CBN, The Christian Post, Crosswalk, and more.

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