There are a number of problems unique to science teachers which can pose challenges to even the best teachers. Here are some of the main ones.
1. Safety Issues
Lab work is an important part of a chemistry course, but it can involve coming into contact with dangerous chemicals. In addition, objects such as Bunsen burners or a gas supply can cause hazardous conditions if they are not supervised carefully to make sure they are turned off.
Students don’t always follow instructions, and some can be foolish or even malicious. They might be careless about wearing protective equipment and in handling their experiments.
Science teachers need to be aware of what everyone is doing during the lab lesson. However, this is not always possible if students start asking them questions.
2. Dealing with Sensitive Topics
Certain topics related to science can be considered sensitive and get parents up in arms. For example, some states only wish to teach creationism. In biology, lessons to do with the human reproductive system and discussions of birth control can get teachers into trouble.
Whenever a teacher starts at a new school, they need to investigate what the school district policy is concerning the way they teach topics such as evolution, cloning, stem cell research, and so on.
3. Not Being Able to Go Deeply
The science curriculum is so driven by taking exams, and the coverage of so many topics, that it is difficult for science teachers to do more than scratch the surface. There is little time for in-depth studies.
4. The Amount of Time Required for Preparation and Administration
The majority of science teachers would just like to teach. Unfortunately, there is a lot of preparation and set-up time for lab work, and clean-up time afterwards. There is also a lot of lesson planning and grading of assignments which can’t be done in class. Science teaching is more hands-on than other subjects, and therefore many science teachers come in early and work quite late to get it all done.
5. Times and Timetabling
Each school has its own length of lessons, and it is not always easy for students to complete all their lab work within 45 minutes, for example. Science teachers need to plan ahead carefully, and may not be able to do certain experiments because they will take too long.
In terms of timetabling, most science teachers would love a double period to give them a greater chance of getting everything done, but are at the mercy of senior staff.
6. Budget Constraints
Basic lab equipment can be quite expensive. Then there are the ongoing costs of maintaining inventory as students use up supplies and/or damage items during their lab work. Ambitious new teachers often feel the pinch as they come from college and have to face the reality of life in a primary or secondary school.
7. Aged Facilities
Because of budget constraints, many schools can’t afford up-to-date equipment. Many rooms are makeshift and configured in such a way that there might not be enough room for all students in the class.
8. Missed Lab Work
Absent students can pose particular problems because in most cases, it isn’t possible to set experiments up individually to complete the work.
This means the science teacher will have to come up with reading, research or other alternatives to help them make up the work. This means still more lesson planning and grading.
One solution might be to film the labs and make them available on YouTube, but this also takes time and the student will still have to complete written work related to the missed lab.
Science is a key subject and the best schools will understand the challenges facing science teachers and do their best to address them.