We all remember our favorite teachers–and our least favorite. For better or worse, teachers have a profound and lasting influence on their students. If you’ve thought about becoming a teacher, you need to think beyond the basic requirements of the job, to how you can become one of the outstanding teachers who will be remembered positively by year after year of students.
Naturally this all starts with education, and then becomes a matter of how you apply that education.
How to Become a School Teacher: Educational Requirements
If you want to become a school teacher, one of the first choices you should make is between elementary and secondary school teaching, because the educational requirements differ.
In either case, three common elements are likely to be:
A bachelor’s degree. Elementary school teachers are more likely to major in education itself, while secondary school teachers tend to major in the subject they intend to teach and supplement that with a teaching preparation program. Courses specific to education include topics such as classroom methods, teaching philosophies, child psychology, and basic computer literacy. Some states may require that you ultimately complete a master’s degree as well.
A student-teaching internship. While not universally required, a student-teaching internship is frequently part of a degree program in education. This hands-on experience will not only enrich your appreciation of your studies in education, but it will also give you an early indication of whether this career path is really for you.
State licensure/certification. This is required for public school teachers in all 50 states. The exact qualifications vary from state to state, and frequently are specific to different grade levels.
Benefits of Becoming a Teacher
The following are some of the tangible benefits of becoming a teacher:
Median teacher salaries are clearly above the national median. There are also opportunities to earn additional income by taking on added responsibilities, such as administration or coaching, and/or by working during the summer.
Job growth is expected to be solid. Overall, employment growth in education is expected to be similar to the overall national rate, with elementary education projected to enjoy the strongest growth.
Plentiful jobs. Education is one of the largest occupations in the country, with jobs found in just about every community.
Job security. While no job is completely isolated from economic changes, teaching is much less cyclical than many occupations, and less vulnerable to outsourcing.
Those are some of the more tangible benefits to teaching. The intangible benefits come from the difference you can make, and this starts with your commitment to becoming an outstanding teacher.
12 Attributes of Effective Teachers
Excellent teachers employ a variety of different approaches, but the following are 12 attributes of effective teachers:
1. Competence. A good teacher commands respect by being a master of his or her subject.
2. Authority. Teachers must be clearly in control of the classroom, and not afraid to use appropriate discipline to retain order.
3. Energy. Students quickly tune out an unenthusiastic teacher. Effective teachers must have the energy to cope with the demands of the job, and a dynamic enough personality to cultivate an enthusiasm for learning.
4. Clarity. Would-be teachers should work on communication skills, especially how to get complex ideas across succinctly and accessibly.
5. Preparation. Starting out, some teachers are staggered by the workload, but with good preparation it becomes more manageable with time.
6. Open-mindedness. Teachers can encourage intellectual curiosity by being willing to listen to and present points of view other than their own.
7. Currency. While some subjects don’t change much from year to year, teachers must stay current in their fields and keep their teaching material fresh.
8. Respectful in answering questions. Often, students will get more out of the answers to questions than out of prepared materials.
9. Uses emphasis. Repetition breeds retention, so teachers should preview and summarize each day’s material.
10. Engaged. Knowing the material is not enough; a teacher must be able to relate to students as individuals. This need not mean being a friend to your students, but it does mean being accessible enough to show you care about whether each one of them succeeds or fails.
11. Receptive. To ensure effectiveness, teachers should be open to, and actively seek, feedback which indicates how well they are getting the message across.
12. Provides feedback. Besides being receptive to feedback themselves, teachers should give their students individualized feedback designed to show them how they can improve.
Becoming a teacher can be a path to a stable career with a good income. On top of that, it can also be an opportunity to be remembered as a positive influence for many years to come.