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How do I decide which grade to teach?

#primary-education #secondary-education I'm a senior, and have decided that I want to become an educator with a masters in teaching. I've worked with children from 5 to 70, and enjoy teaching them equally. That, in fact, is my dilemma. I don't know what, and who, I want to teach. I know it will elementary, middle, or high school. I work with the different ages of kids well, and enjoy them all. I work very well with young kids, but I also take a particular pleasure in science (Especially biology), comparative politics, and US history. However, you often don't get to teach these subjects in depth at the elementary, and in some cases middle school levels. I would like to figure out sooner than later, because if I take the middle/high school route, I can do more STEM related classes that qualify me for greater scholarships.

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Meridyth’s Answer

Hi Christina,

Congratulations on deciding to become a teacher! It is a noble profession. I came from similar situation as you in which I had experience with children from 5 years old to 18 years old. I really liked working with children and instilling my knowledge. The first important thing to know is that you don't necessarily need to make this decision before you enter college. You can take your time considering your options. In your first year of college, you'll be taking general courses that everyone in all majors will need to take. Even after, you can always change your mind.


To make a decision on which age children to teach, there are few questions to ask yourself.. First and foremost, your passion. Where does your passion lay? Are you passionate about a specific subject and want to share your knowledge? Or are you passionate about teaching students and laying the foundation for later learning?


Elementary school children are just learning new skills like reading, writing and math. These are formative years in which the students will listen and follow directions given. Middle school and high school students have foundational knowledge and will be building upon it in specific subjects. These students are in the process of discovering who they will be as adults and will come with different challenges. Can you present yourself as an authority figure and be able to discipline students who are either younger or older?


I come from two parents who were educators. My mom was a teacher on the elementary level and retired as a principal. My father was a teacher the middle school level and retired as a guidance counselor. I was inspired by them to be an educator as I was going into college. I also was influenced by a young US History teacher I had during my senior year. I love US History and took all of the honors classes I could. My passion at the time was to work with older students because I thought I can have the most impact in influencing them. History was always the subject that everyone liked the least. I had aspirations of making it enjoyable for my students. I chose to teach US History on the secondary level. However, before I landed a permanent position out of college (which can take time), I was substituting on all levels to get a wide range of experience.


To help further your decision, I would suggest continuing to get experience in all educational settings. When you are in college, you'll need to complete hours in all different educational settings before student teaching in your senior year. You can also look into becoming a substitute teacher on the days that you don't have classes. In most states, you'll need to complete a certain amount of college credit to become substitute teacher.


In addition, you may want wait to get your Masters degree. Experience will help you decide on your next steps. You may discover that you want to pursue other interests whether educational or not. In my case, I left the world of education and joined the corporate world. I have worked in corporate training in different capacities. I still have my passion for education but I am using it in a different way. I obtained my Masters in Training and Developmentafter being in the workforce for almost two decades.


Whatever your decision is, it will the be the right one for you. There is no right or wrong here. Good luck on all of your future endeavors!





Meridyth recommends the following next steps:

Continue getting a variety of educational experiences in different settings.
Thank you comment icon Thank you very much for your response! I really appreciate it! I think I've decided on working with high school students since I particularly would like to teach AP courses. Christina
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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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