You may remember an elementary school teacher who made a difference in your life. Now you want to see little faces light up when you share your passion for learning. A career in education requires specific skills, degrees and certifications. In this article, we’ll tell you how to get started and answer some of your questions about teaching.
What Does an Elementary School Teacher Do?
Teaching elementary school requires empathy, patience and stamina. A good teacher needs to create a welcoming environment, observe student performance, and maintain an orderly classroom. The job description includes these responsibilities:
- Preparing and executing lesson plans
- Enforcing rules and regulations
- Evaluating student performance
- Identifying student strengths and weaknesses
- Working with parents and school leaders
- Communicating with the principal and vice-principal
- Following state guidelines for curriculum and testing
- Preparing students for standardized testing
- Addressing discipline and performance issues with individual students
- Modeling good manners and interpersonal skills
- Providing an inclusive environment
- Supervising students outside the classroom
- Including STEM-related activities in lesson plans
Teaching requires the ability to communicate and work with students who have diverse backgrounds and learning styles. The job can be both stressful and rewarding. Common challenges include mandated testing, crowded classrooms, and supply deficits.
What Is an Elementary School Teacher’s Work Schedule?
Elementary teachers work in private or public schools. Some also work in charter schools, independent organizations that get government funding but are not a part of an established system. Most teachers work ten months each year, taking a two-month summer break and a short winter break. Some work through the summer, and some teach online instead of in the classroom. In districts with year-round school, teachers work for nine weeks and take a three-week break between sessions.
Elementary school teachers spend their days with students, but their duties extend far beyond the classroom. They may meet with faculty, parents and students before or after school. On weekends and evenings, they often grade papers and write lesson plans.
Many states grant tenure, or job security, to educators who successfully work in the same school for a specific number of consecutive years, but policies vary. To help new teachers cope with challenges in the classroom, some schools offer continuing education and mentoring programs.
What Kinds of Training Do Elementary School Teachers Need?
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, elementary school teachers in most private or public schools need a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Some school districts or states also require a specific major, such as math or language arts, to teach in public elementary schools.
Teacher education programs include a student-teaching program supervised by an experienced teacher. For public schools, certification in the targeted grade level is required. Private schools may not require certification, and rules vary in different states. Most, however, require these qualifications:
- A bachelor’s degree with an acceptable grade point average
- Successful completion of a student teaching program
- Acceptable score on a general teaching certification test in the subject being taught
- A satisfactory background check
All states have alternative routes to certification for people who complete a bachelor’s degree in another major. In some states, new teachers prepare for certification while teaching and working with a mentor. In others, they must get certified before being hired.
What Are the Job Outlook and Salary Predictions for Elementary Teachers?
In 2020, the median annual wage for elementary school teachers was $60,940. The top 10% earned over $100,480, and the bottom 10% earned under $40,030. For elementary school teachers in private schools, the median wage was $50,050.
From 2020 to 2030, the government expects the demand for elementary school teachers to grow 7%, creating almost 125,000 jobs. This includes replacements for those who leave the profession or retire. Statistics vary by region, and openings are affected by state and federal budgets. School enrollment, however, is expected to rise over the next decade.
What Are Other Jobs for Elementary Education Majors?
Elementary school teachers may advance to principal or vice-principal, or they may train to be counselors, librarians or education consultants. Others work as tutors or in organizations, such as museums or zoos, that involve young people. Teachers are also well-suited to become trainers in corporate settings or to write educational texts.