A teacher, commonly referred to as a schoolteacher or educator, is a person who helps students gain knowledge, competence, and more in a school setting. Teachers play a very important role as they impart knowledge onto students while inspiring and guiding them toward a better future.
Teachers cover all sorts of topics and help students in and outside of the classroom. If you have the desire to help future generations learn and grow, then this guide on how to become a teacher is right for you.
What Is a Teacher?
A teacher is an educator. They typically specialize in a single topic. For example, being a math or history teacher. Teachers work for public or private schools, and also provide tutoring services.
Educators who teach from Pre-K to 12th grade are primarily referred to as teachers. This should not be confused with professors, who teach at the university level.
What Does a Teacher Do?
A teacher has many responsibilities, both inside and outside of a classroom. Depending on the school, teachers must instruct dozens of students per class, and teach several classes throughout the day.
In addition to classroom duties, teachers must also work with faculty, staff, and administrators.
A teacher is responsible for educating students in a multitude of ways. This means assigning homework, grading tests, and tracking the progress of each student.
Creating Lesson Plans
Outside of the classroom, teachers must create lesson plans. Lesson plans are daily guides for what students need to learn and how the lesson is taught. These plans are required to be submitted to the administration and meet curriculum guidelines.
Prepare Students for Standardized Testing
Throughout the year, many students must take standardized testing exams. These exams evaluate the school’s overall effectiveness when it comes to educating. Teachers must prepare students for standardized tests and make sure they know all of the topics covered in the exam.
Preparing students for standardized tests is very important as test scores may have an impact on a teacher’s employment, the school’s funding, and other aspects of education.
Monitoring Students’ Progress
The responsibility of every educator is to monitor their students’ progress. It’s not uncommon for students to lag in their studies. There could be any number of reasons for a student to have difficulties in class, from trouble at home to bullying. Teachers must be vigilant and help ensure that the school is a safe environment for students to grow, learn, and express themselves.
Essential Teacher Skills
Enthusiasm and Leadership
Teachers must be able to lead lessons in the classroom and command the attention of their class. You need strong leadership skills so students feel they can trust you to guide them in the right direction. Enthusiasm allows you to teach in a way that keeps students interested and shows them that what they’re learning is worth being invested in.
Teachers have multiple duties. They must grade exams, follow the curriculum, keep an eye on their students, and still teach. These duties require strong multitasking skills and the ability to switch your focus from one task to another quickly when needed.
There may be times in a classroom when something unexpected happens. This can be anything from a student not feeling well to the class not being able to follow a lesson. Strong adaptability skills are necessary as you may have to change things at a moment’s notice or adjust your lesson to better suit the needs of your students.
Teachers must have strong communication skills. They have to interact with students, colleagues, parents, and administrators and effectively communicate with them at all times. Teachers have to convey information effectively while acknowledging the different viewpoints and priorities of others.
Teachers need to be creative to keep students engaged in lessons and interested at all times. This skill is particularly important in early grade levels where students tend to have lower attention levels. Teachers must come up with unique and creative ways to involve students in lessons.
Teacher Salaries and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual wage for a high school teacher is $61,660. The lowest ten percent earned $40,540 and the highest ten percent earned over $99,660. Some of the factors that affect a teacher’s salary include specialty, level of educator, location, years of experience, school community, and whether the school is public or private.
The job outlook for teachers varies based on the grade level. The overall job growth for kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers is only three percent, which is slower than the average of all careers. The job growth for high school teachers is only slightly higher at four percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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How Long Does it Take to Become a Teacher?
It typically takes between four and five years to become a teacher. The primary requirement of becoming a teacher is a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree programs are designed to be completed within four years. Some bachelor’s degree programs are accelerated, which means you can complete them in a shorter period of time.
After you’ve graduated and earned your degree, you may be required to have your teacher certification. Certification may take time for you to earn as you must have experience within the classroom to qualify for it. Several degree programs make the classroom experience a requirement for graduation so that teachers are qualified for certification.
How to Become a Teacher: A Step by Step Guide
Teaching is a rewarding career, but it takes a lot of patience and hard work to become a teacher. Below is a guide on the step-by-step process on how you can become a teacher.
Step 1: Decide the Type of Teacher You Want to Be
There are several types of teachers at various levels and they cover different subjects. Choosing what type of teacher to become is an important first step as it helps determine the grade level you teach, the subject, and the degree programs you’ll take.
Step 2: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree
Most teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree before they can be certified to teach at a school. After you’ve chosen the type of teacher you wish to be, choose a degree program that fits with the subject you’d like to teach.
For example, if you want to become an English teacher then a Bachelor’s Degree in English would be best. If you want to become a history teacher, you can earn a degree in history. You can also earn a degree in education and minor or major in the subject you’d like to teach.
Step 3: Gain Teaching Experience
After you’ve earned your degree, you need to get experience as a teacher. This is crucial since you cannot get your teaching certification with classroom experience.
Most teachers participate in supervised classroom teaching for several hours so they can get their license. This also gives you stronger insight on what it is like to be a teacher and you may even find the grade level you’d prefer to teach as well.
Step 4: Earn Your Teaching License or Certification
The next step is to earn your certification. Generally, earning your teaching license or certification means having a relevant bachelor’s degree, completing a state- or district-approved teacher program, passing required exams, and submitting your application for a state teaching license.
The US Department of Education has resources for each state on how you can get your teaching certification.
Step 5: Start Applying to Schools
After you’ve earned your certification, it’s time to start applying to schools. Choose the school you’d like to work in. Think about the district, the school’s reputation, whether it’s private or public, and more. Finding the right school is important for your success as an educator.
Should You Become a Teacher?
Being a teacher is one of the most rewarding career paths for those that love to educate, inspire, and help people learn and grow. It takes a great deal of patience and you don’t always receive the level of gratitude you should, but there is no other career like it.
It is more than just a job, it’s an opportunity to lead an entire generation of individuals towards a better future. If that is something you’re passionate about, you should become a teacher.
FAQs About Becoming a Teacher
Most teacher certification programs require you to have a bachelor’s degree. While some teachers do pursue higher degrees throughout their careers, a bachelor’s is the minimum requirement.
Becoming a teacher, of any level, takes four to five years. The time it takes to become a teacher largely depends on your education level and classroom experience.
High school teachers make around $50,000 per year. While people do acknowledge that teacher salaries aren’t very high, some teachers make over $90,000 a year. Teacher salaries depend on various factors, such as location and experience.
Teaching isn’t for everyone. If you want to find out if this is the career path for you, consider becoming a teaching assistant to get introduced to the profession.
Substitute teachers don’t have the same educational requirements. You can become a substitute teacher with a high school diploma or GED. Some schools require you to have a bachelor’s degree. Contact the school system you wish to work for to find out its requirements.