Elementary school teachers are responsible for assisting children with educational and emotional development in the beginning of their academic years. Most individuals working in a teacher career as an elementary school teacher instruct one class of children in several subjects. In some cases, two or more teachers team up to cover a class. Some elementary school teachers teach one special subject (usually music, art, reading, science, arithmetic, or physical education) to a number of different classes at different times. A small but growing number of teachers instruct multilevel classrooms, with students at several different learning levels.
Elementary school teachers exist at both public and private schools. In addition to academic skills, elementary school teachers also teach social and motor skills. They need to prepare course objectives and outlines in accordance with the curriculum guidelines or requirements of the state and/or the school. Instruction includes lectures, demonstrations, and audiovisual teaching aids.
Elementary school teachers are required to prepare, administer, and correct tests, and then record the results. They assign lessons, correct papers, and hear oral presentations. They establish rules of conduct and maintain order in the classroom and on the playground. They counsel pupils when problems arise and discuss academic and behavioral issues with parents. They might coordinate field trips.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the starting salary for an elementary school teacher is in the $30,000 range but can rise to over $50,000 with 20 years of experience. Salaries are higher for teachers with continuing education or a master’s degree.
Elementary teachers enjoy long holiday breaks and summers off. They consequently can work an average of 600 hours (or about 30 percent) less per year for a full-time job than the average worker in the United States.
To become an elementary teacher, you should start working with young children as soon as possible by volunteering at a local elementary school or with nearby youth groups. Contact the local United Way, school district, or parks and recreation department.
Requirements for the career include a bachelor’s degree. The degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in education, though most states require a specified number of education credits to teach in a public school. Some states also require teachers to earn a master’s degree within a certain amount of time after starting to teach.
Supervised student teaching and certification also are required. Licensure is granted by the State Board of Education to individuals who have passed all education requirements and passed a competency test in reading, writing, and teaching skills. To distinguish yourself as an elementary school teacher, consider acquiring a specialty (e.g., reading or bilingual education).
Elementary school teachers are charged with molding young students at an impressionable age. They need to create a class environment that encourages learning and personal growth. They need to motivate their students and establish effective rapport with them. And they need to be knowledgeable about not just one, but about the wide variety of subjects they teach.