How to Become an Elementary School Teacher
If you've thought about becoming a teacher, one of the most important decisions you may have to make is which level of teaching suits you the best. Elementary, secondary, and post-secondary teaching all have very different characteristics and requirements, and shifting tracks once you get started would be likely to require that you go back to school. Therefore, your career path may be smoother if you choose carefully at the beginning, and focus your educational preparation accordingly.
Suppose you are interested in teaching very young children. In that case, you may want to be aware of the special characteristics that distinguish elementary school teachers, and how you would become an elementary school teacher yourself.
Distinguishing Characteristics of Elementary School Teachers
There are some characteristics that distinguish good teachers at all levels: a solid understanding of the subject matter; good communication skills, energy, creativity, leadership ability, and patience. But what are some of the particular characteristics that distinguish elementary school teachers?
In many ways, those characteristics can be defined by some of the special requirements of the job, such as:
A good base of generalist knowledge. Rather than specializing in a particular subject, elementary school teachers often teach a range of subjects to a given class or age group.
- A fundamental understanding of child psychology. Elementary school children are just learning to learn, and teachers need to be able to perceive how different children are motivated, and what factors may be inhibiting some of them.
- A basic knowledge of child development. Many learning disabilities are not spotted until a child is in elementary school, and the earlier a teacher can help identify special needs, the more can be done for the child.
- Sensitivity to non-verbal cues. Small children have often not yet learned how to express themselves clearly, so a sensitivity to non-verbal signals can be the key to communication.
- A tactful nature for dealing with parents. Parents are an especially important part of the learning experience at the elementary school level, and being able to communicate in a clear yet non-threatening way is a useful attribute.
In addition to the above broad range of skills, there are specific educational credentials needed to become an elementary school teacher.
Elementary School Teacher Education
Although requirements for elementary school teacher education vary from state to state, here are three common elements of most programs:
- A bachelor's degree. This would include both a broad background in general studies and specific education in teaching-related subjects such as classroom techniques and child psychology.
- Student-teaching experience. Education degree programs commonly include a requirement for a student-teaching internship.
- State certification. Public schools in all 50 states require teachers to be licensed, with the license often specific to the age group being taught. Private schools are less likely to require licensure.
Employment growth for teachers is expected to be about typical for the economy as a whole, but it is projected to be especially strong at the elementary school level. This occupation is less cyclical than most, so overall the job market is both promising and stable. Median income levels are above the national average.
Teaching is not an occupation for someone looking to get rich. However, for the personally enriching experience of helping children get a good start along the educational path, it can be an ideal choice.
National Compensation Survey
Teachers: Preschook, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and Secondary
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