5 Biggest Obstacles English Teachers Face & How to Overcome Them!
Teaching English is tough.
It is so tough that often we default to what we know best…reading books and then writing essays.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way!
In this article you’ll learn five obstacles English teachers face and more importantly…how to overcome them.
Before I get started I just want to let you know about an awesome FREE opportunity for you this summer to go more in depth about these obstacles, it’s The Workshop Teacher School!
When you sign up you’ll get access to my freebie library and begin building connections to other like-minded teachers!
1. Getting started with Workshop
Most teachers know about workshop. They’ve heard of it or thought, maybe I’ll try that way of teaching…someday. But, then never actually get started for one reason or another.
Here’s the truth about workshop though…it’s a very simple system and you don’t really need much to get started! I recommend trying it out at least once a week to start.
How to Overcome
Here are the bare minimum things you need to get started:
Mini lessons to cover a three week time frame (units should only be about this long)
Charts for students to refer to when they don’t know what to write, are finished early and need access to what you taught during your mini lessons
A way to publish students’ writing
2. FItting Everything In
Here’s my opinion about this obstacle…you don’t have to fit everything in, so stop trying to.
If you fit everything in, you and your students would end up feeling a whole lot of overwhelm. You’re probably thinking…what about the standards!?!
My answer to that is…teaching standards is not the same as fitting everything in.
Of course you should be referring to the standards to make sure that you are covering what you need to within a school year. But, I find that when I refer to standards, a multitude of standards can be applied to one lesson (and often I don’t even realize it until I go back and look at the standards).
How to Overcome
Instead of trying to “fit everything in”, try prioritizing what’s most important to you. You can do this by writing down the top things you want students to get out of being a part of your class and focus on those instead. Hang this list of priorities up so that you and all your students can see it and keep it in mind always. This can be freeing and release a lot of tension that you have about trying to fit everything in.
The last thing teachers need is more tension and stress! So let it go today.
3. Student Motivation
It is frustrating when you are excited about reading and writing and your students aren’t. It is especially frustrating when you go to great lengths to make a lesson or unit fun and students just aren’t into it.
It happens to the best of us, including me!
Here’s the truth…kids, especially teenagers, are going through a lot of hormonal changes and may be going through things we can’t even imagine, outside of our classrooms.
It is unlikely you are going to excite and motivate every kid.
But, you know what? Your efforts will motivate some.
You can’t motivate everyone though, so quit killing yourself trying to! Just do the best you can with these strategies…
How to Overcome
Here are some of the ways that I try to motivate my readers and writers, but no promises about these tactics working on every kid (remember they are hormonal kids!).
Tell stories as often as you can
Let students tell stories as often as possible too
Use references to pop culture
Use video and other technology
Let students choose books, writing topics, partners and groups
Have fun by incorporating your students’ passions and yours, into what you do
This is probably one of the biggest obstacles that English teachers face and the solution is simple…quit collecting student work and grading so much!
It is much more powerful when students can grade themselves and you can give feedback while students work. Below are some resources for how to cut your grading time down by a lot!
How to Overcome
Here are some great articles that will help you stop grading so much!
What do I teach and how do I plan for it? How do I stop living day to day or week to week?
After twelve years of teaching I can honestly say, that living day to day and week to week is part of the job and at this point it’s what I love most about teaching.
Teachers are masters of winging it because our students are human and so are we.
Planning for every little thing or planning super far into the future is tiring and stressful so you should stop it. Instead keep things simple.
How to Overcome
I plan my year by writing the titles of each of my units within a Google Doc along with tentative dates. These dates and plans almost always change.
Planning for Writing…
When it’s time to teach a unit I use student pre-assessments to guide what I will teach within the unit. While skimming pre-assessments I list skills students are lacking. These are my mini lessons. On the day of the mini lesson I model the skill with mentor texts, by writing in front of students or with a video. It’s that simple.
My planning is student centered and that requires flexibility!
Planning for Reading…
When it’s time to teach a reading unit I use observations of student reading behavior, their discussions, as well as their written responses to books they’re reading. All of these observations guide my reading units. I list skills students are lacking in these areas. These become my mini lessons. On the day of mini lessons I model the skills by reading and speaking about what I read in front of students, with fish bowl discussions and videos.
Often our biggest challenges and obstacles are in our head. I find that by simplifying things and being kind to myself and my students life becomes a lot easier. I hope this article has inspired you. If it has, make sure to share it with a colleague and head over to amandawritenow.com. to sign up for Workshop Teacher School!
About The Author
Amanda Werner is a full time middle school English teacher in the Bay Area. She has been teaching for eleven years and still feels like a novice. Every year is a unique and exciting challenge to inspire a new group of students to become avid readers and writers. Amanda reads educational literature voraciously and writes about the teaching of reading and writing on her website amandawritenow.com. Amanda received her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Humanities at Western Washington University. In her free time, Amanda loves being outdoors with her husband and daughter.