Teachers help students develop critical thinking skills, understand abstract concepts, and solve problems. They often use props, games, and other creative methods to assist students in absorbing the curriculum. Teachers encourage students to work collaboratively in groups in which they discuss and solve problems. The main motivation in changes in education is the necessity to prepare students for the workforce. This includes ensuring that students can interact with others, adapt to new technology, and approach problems in a logical manner. Teachers make sure students develop these skills.
Preschool teachers use children's play to facilitate language and vocabulary development, as well as to improve their social skills and introduce scientific and mathematical concepts to be developed later in their education. Elementary school teachers usually are responsible for teaching multiple subjects to one group of students. Some work in teams of two and are jointly responsible for a group of students. In other schools, some teachers teach only one subject, typically music, art, reading, science, arithmetic, or physical education, to a number of different classes. Middle school teachers and secondary school teachers assist students in going deeper into subjects and building on foundational knowledge to gain a more in-depth understanding of subjects. They usually specialize in one subject. Vocational education teachers train students for careers in fields such as healthcare, business, auto repair, communications, and technology.
Teachers must be able to communicate effectively with their students, engender trust and confidence in them, motivate them to achieve, and understand their varied educational and emotional needs. In addition, they need to be knowledgeable in the subject areas in which they teach. They must be aware of cultural differences and be able to adapt to those differences by using different teaching methods. They must have the ability to communicate and work cooperatively with other teachers, support staff, parents, and members of the community. And they should be creative, dependable, patient, and organized.
In 2002, school teachers earned a median annual salary of between $39,810 and $44,340. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $29,850, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $62,890. More than 50% of all teachers belong to unions that bargain with school systems on their behalf regarding wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Training and Education
In every State and in the District of Columbia, public school teachers are required to be licensed. However, this is not a requirement for teachers in private schools. Requirements for licenses vary by state, but all States require general education teachers to hold a bachelor's degree and to complete an approved teacher training program. Some States require teachers to complete their Master's within a certain amount of time after they start teaching. Teachers usually have to demonstrate their knowledge of the subjects they will be teaching. In most States, teachers are required to participate in continuing education in order to have their license renewed.
More than 550 teacher education programs in the United States are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. In most 4-year colleges, students must wait until their sophomore year to apply for teacher education programs. Secondary school teachers usually major in the subject in which they plan to teach in addition to enrolling in a teacher training program. Today, programs are required to include classes in computers and other technologies.
In 2002, school teachers held about 3.8 million jobs. About 1.5 million were elementary school teachers, 1.1 million were secondary school teachers, 602,000 were middle school teachers, 424,00 were preschool teachers, and 168,000 were kindergarten teachers.
Between 2002 and 2012, the job opportunities for school teachers will be good to excellent. A large number of teachers are expected to retire, creating plentiful job openings for new teachers. High rates of turnover in poor, urban schools will also create numerous job openings. Because of a shortage of teachers in certain locations, and in anticipation of the loss of a number of teachers to retirements, many States have implemented policies that will encourage more students to become teachers.
For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Education Degree directory.