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The path of most educators' careers begin with a familiar story. This story is often one involving a particularly kindhearted or helpful teacher who gave their students the tools and lessons needed to flourish. The best teachers inspire students, fill them with hope and confidence, and get them excited about learning. Unfortunately, most have had a bad teacher as well. As students, most folks only remember these extremes and never come to understand what made their worst teachers so awful. It can be an incredibly demanding job and it is so easy to slip into bad habits that negatively affect students as well as the institution one teaches in. Strict curriculum guidelines, budgetary issues, and challenging students are just a few examples of the myriad issues teachers deal with, in and out of the classroom. The result can be burnout, which can lead to serious lasting effects. 

Setbacks for Students

When students have class with a bad teacher, it is incredibly easy for them to lose confidence in their ability to learn the subject. Some students may simply lack interest in the topic because the teacher has checked out or is less effective at demonstrating lessons in a way students understand. In some cases though, students may begin to believe that the failure is caused by their own lack of intelligence or talent. Research shows that ineffective instructors could disproportionately effect students who are already performing poorly. According to researchers at University of Tennessee highly effective teachers impact low performing students first. The effects of both good and bad teachers proved to be additive and cumulative, with effects being measurable two years after the initial study, regardless of the quality of instruction they received later. The researchers also found that students begin the academic year at relatively the same level can end with vastly different results based on their teacher's effectiveness.

This lingering effect could potentially put a student off a subject for the rest of their career, and even later into life. It is not uncommon to meet grown adults who truly believe that they are incapable of math, science, reading difficult texts, or creating art. It begs the question; what if they'd had a teacher who could give them the extra time and care they needed to push them forward?

Ultimately, these results are probably not surprising. Educators see this every day in their classrooms. Whether an instructor sees their own pupils failing because of their own issues, or they are trying to catch up students who have had bad teachers in the past, the outcomes are visible. Suffering students are, of course, the most important and devastating problem caused by bad instruction, but there are several other issues that arise from it.

Funding, Curriculum Restrictions and the Dreaded AYP

In today's educational system, funding is sadly a chief concern for many educators. Because standardized testing is a key part of a school's eligibility for grants and other special funding opportunities scores can become very important. Failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress standards can cut funding, introduce stricter standards for teachers, and eventually layoffs or restructuring. This demand can be very stressful for both students and teachers. Even when a teacher's curriculum seems fantastic, if they are unable to brings the enthusiasm and passion students need they might find that their scores suffer. As demonstrated earlier, uninspired and under confident students just do not perform as well because they believe that they are incapable or they don't care.

Even worse, once a trend of bad scores has started, it can be difficult for a school to turn the prognosis around in a single year. A 2009 study of two states and three cities did not find statistically significant evidence of improvement from schools that had been identified as needing improvement the year prior. Additionally, the study found that in two cities schools that did not make AYP improved, but not consistently. Although this case study does not necessarily represent schools that cannot make AYP nationally, it is a very troubling prospect for educators and administrators.

Staff Morale

Teaching involves giving a lot of oneself to the students. As such, a great teacher really cares about the progress of students both academically and emotionally. Students who have been handed a disadvantage from a previous teacher need a lot more help than students who have had great teachers in the past. This extra need from certain students can make class time more difficult for everyone involved. 

If teachers know that some students have had a challenging time with another teacher, it can also make the relationship between teachers more tense. No one wants to unjustly criticize a coworker, but occasionally it is very difficult to answer a simple question of "how is your class?" if the person asking has set your students back. The situation is difficult to navigate and giving feedback on a peer's teaching methods can result in a lot of tension and resentment.

Compounding the problem, if a teacher is visibly frustrated or at odds with their peers students might lose respect for instructors. Keeping control of a classroom and making sure that students are interested in a given topic becomes that much more difficult when interpersonal problems arise. Likewise, even the best teachers might find it difficult to focus on lessons when struggling with their colleagues. 

Final Thoughts

Being a teacher is an incredibly difficult job. Some educators find that the stresses of daily life combined with the high demands of the field take a serious toll on their ability to be effective in the classroom. Being a bad teacher does not necessarily mean that someone is a bad person though. Taking time to make sure that teachers are the happiest, healthiest people they can be might just be enough to turn a so-called bad teacher around. As illustrated here, ineffective and bad teaching has serious lingering effects for students, schools, and the faculty of the institutions. Giving teachers the tools they need to be great can most certainly help head those problems off at the pass.

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