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I want to become an elementary school teacher, any pointers for high school through college?

Okay, we had a four-year planning period for high school and I was wondering what other steps would be good to take for the future. Our school has a teaching and education academy, along with internship in senior year if we stick with that career path, but I feel like when I get there, I might want to try to do more. Any pointers or tips from anyone? #teaching #elementary-education


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MONIQUE’s Answer

Here's another recommendation to gain first hand experience working in the classroom once you've finished high school; try becoming a Paraprofessional. Working as a paraprofessional is one of the closest hands on experience you can gain without being a teacher. As mentioned by Nancy W. Campbell, students are multifaceted and this opportunity would be a valuable experience to gain the knowledge needed in understanding the role of a teacher through direct observation. During my years of teaching, I worked with many paraprofessionals and they witnessed first hand the in's and out's of being a teacher and what was required of a teacher. Also, many of the paraprofessionals that I worked with were attending college to become a teacher.
This might be an option for you. Look into your state's requirements in becoming a paraprofessional. I hope this recommendation helps you! Good Luck!


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NANCY W’s Answer

Stephanie provided some great pointers, particularly in terms of getting exposure to working with students all along your journey through high school and college. I would add that, as you go through those experiences, take stock of your mindset as you interact with students. You will need to understand that students are multi-faceted and bring many layers to the educational experience. Teaching is never just teaching; you have to be willing to be part counselor, part parent as well as teacher, because you will have to "teach though" all of the filters through which your student receive what you are teaching. Your mental preparation is just as - if not more - important as your academic preparation. Teaching is interactive and ongoing. Think of how you feel when you have a great teacher in front of you and work toward that to guide you. Good luck!


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Stephanie’s Answer

Wonderful question! I always wanted to teach, but it was during a high school program that I decided on the path I would take in education. You have lots of choices - I chose special education with a double major in elementary ed too. During high school, I worked as a camp counselor in the summer to get used to a structured program with children. I also volunteered in places where children were served. Take advantage of your high school program, and use your summers and school breaks to work with children in a variety of ways. Maybe volunteer during the holidays to pass out gifts to needy children. The more exposure you have, the better you will understand yourself and how you might best contribute. Good luck!


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Rachel’s Answer

It's helpful to take higher-level classes in Sociology, Psychology, and Human Development. Definitely take at least two or more 2000+ level courses in these subjects. You will learn about society and how it functions in a way that may be harmful to our student and how to combat social constructions and become more aware of them. This will make you a better teacher in the long run and having and understanding of sociology as a whole will make you a better person, help you understand your students and connect with them. Studying psychology and human development will help you learn about the way people learn (and therefore you will learn how to best teach your students). Depending on the phase of life adolescents and children are in, they learn differently, and their brain works differently as well. It is essential to have an understanding of this prior to becoming an educator. It will also help you to connect with students, parents, and families. Human Development and Family Studies will also allow you to become more culturally aware of students and families that come from different backgrounds; this will allow you to unlearn implicit biases and recognize them in yourself and others (and therefore, grow from them). Overall, these three fields of study are absolutely essential when pursuing teaching. Taking the time to take 2 or more classes in each of these subjects will help you become the best teacher you can possibly be. Other than these, the more obvious answer is take as many classes as possible in the subject-area you want to teach AND take education courses.



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Elaine’s Answer

I don't have much to add to the three comments you already received. They gave ou very good ideas on working with children in different venues to see if that is what you want to do. Children are our future and it is just wonderful to be able to work with the, in any capacity where you could help them move,forward in their life to be successful and happy.


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Rachel’s Answer

It really depends what type of teacher you would like to be. However the main pathways are generally the same and the options vary but go along the same lines.


  1. You need to graduate high school.
  2. You need to attend a college/university and earn a four- year B.A. degree. You will want to get a bachelors degree in the subject-matter that you want to teach, this makes certification in your state and subject-area feasible. You may opt to minor or double-major in education. You do not need to have a bachelors in education to be a teacher. I would suggest getting a bachelors degree in the subject you would like to teach. (for example: I am an English teacher, I majored in English literature and now have a bachelors in English).
  3. Once you graduate college with your bachelors degree you have a few options:

A. Go directly to Graduate school and obtain your masters in the area of teaching/education you want to teach (ie. Masters of Education, Masters of Teaching, Masters of Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Secondary English, Masters of Teaching in Elementary, Masters of Special Education etc.). You may also opt to get a masters degree in the subject-are you wish to teach. However, while in graduate school you must obtain a masters degree in some variation of teaching/education. So you will have either a MAT (Masters of Teaching) or MED (Masters of Education). Most graduate schools have one of the two programs and offer a variation depending on the subject (ie. Masters of Teaching in Secondary English or Masters of Education in Secondary English). This option is ussually a fifth year pathway that allows you to student teach at a school while earning your masters degree.

B. You can apply to an Alternative Route to Certification (if you state has options/offers this). This would look like a program like TeachForAmerica, AmeriCorps TutorCorps, or other Teacher Residency Programs (ie. KIPP Teaching Fellows, MATCH Schools, or charter schools that offer Teacher Resident positions. Look up the options in your state or the options available if state is not a boundary for you. During the year or two-year commitment of these programs you would typically also have classes or being earning a masters degree. This option is for teachers who want to start working directly after they graduate college. Some programs lead to Certification in your state and others lead to BOTH Certification and a Masters Degree. The ARC programs lead to 90 day certifications, which then lead to Initial Educator Certification OR Resident Teacher Certification (ALL are pathways to FULL certification in your state).


  1. Regardless of which route you take you will need to take the certification exams in your state. MOST states, including CT (which is the information I know because it is my state) require the PRAXIS exams. You will need to research certification requirements within your own state for more information. However, while you are earning your masters (or after you have earned your bachelors) you will want to also prepare for and take the PRAXIS Core (which can be waived if your SAT/ACT scores are high enough) and the PRAXIS II which cannot be waived and MUST be passed for certification.
  2. Once you have obtained your Bachelors degree AND Masters degree AND Passed your state certification exams AND done some form of students teaching (whether that is during college or in a residency program) you can then:
  3. Go to your state board of education website and complete your certification information.
  4. Then, you can APPLY as a LEAD teacher in the area you are certified.

MOST pathways take 4-6 years. You will be able to start your first year of teaching as a lead teacher generally in year 5 or 6.

This professional recommends the following next steps:

  • Earn a bachelors degree in the subject area you would like to teach in AND or a bachelors in Education.
  • Decide if you want to do a teaching Residency program like Teach For America or if you would like to go straight to graduate school to earn your masters degree.
  • Apply to Graduate schools and Teaching Residency programs. During your senior year of college.
  • Begin your first year of grad school or teaching residency.
  • Earn your Masters degree in Education or Teaching, in the area you would like to teach in.



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