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Career Story: Classroom Teacher In An Elementary School

Classroom Teacher In An Elementary School

Job Title: Elementary Education Teacher

Type of Company: I work as an elementary school teacher in a suburb of Boston.

Education: BS, Clarkson University (Potsdam, MA) •• M.Ed., Lesley University (Boston)

Previous Experience: This is a change in careers for me. I was working as an instructional aide in an elementary school while getting my Masters in Education.

Job Tasks: I am a classroom teacher in an upper elementary grade. Here, I am responsible for teaching a variety of subjects that are defined by the state Department of Education. Each subject has a curriculum that we're expected to be taught. For instance, in mathematics, I am responsible for teaching the students to divide, learn about geometry, graphing, etc. I don't only teach math, though; I teach a lot of different subjects: social studies, reading, writing, mathematics, science, spelling, grammar, vocabulary. And I have to complete a plan book, identifying lessons that I will incorporate into my week, in order to demonstrate that I will be able to teach all given subjects/topics by the end of the school year.

All students do not learn in the same way. Along with a Special Education teacher, I may need to make modifications that meet a particular students learning plan. I am expected to diversify my lessons to included all learners. I am also responsible for meeting with parents for conferences twice a year, and completing report cards three times a year.

A typical day might be to post a schedule of subjects, review the schedule, review homework from the night before. Then, I will have a group of students for reading, where we work on reading skills and comprehension. The students will break for a snack and recess. When returning, they might have 45 minutes of math, followed by a 45 minute science block. They might eat lunch, and have recess. On occasion, I have to stay outside with the students. When they come back in, they might have a 45 minute block of social studies. Each day there is a "special" -- a kind of wild card: art, or music, or gym, or health, or library/media. That becomes my prep time: a time, too, when I may meet with other teachers in my grade level, or the adjustment counselor to talk about a student, or meet with a parent, or write notes home. I might also be copying homework sheets, or making modifications to my plans for the week.

The trickiest part of the day has to be the students' behavior. It is imperative to establish a set of rules for conduct early in the school year, so all students know what the expectations are in the class and in the school.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the students themselves. In the upper elementary grades, the students have a little more independence, but they are still kids. Most students aim to please you, and you get to know each and every one of them as an individual learner, and what they bring to the classroom. I do get attached to seeing them!

The most difficult parts of the job are the things that you cannot control. Some students (though not many) bring many difficulties from home, where they little or no support. It can be very frustrating when meeting with a parent who's not doing his part to make sure that his child is given the best opportunity to learn.

Job Tips:
1. Early on, get yourself into a classroom. It was most helpful to me, as I was studying, to get experience in a classroom as an aide. You want to be sure that this is the right job for you.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I think one of the things that has helped me in the past few years has been the effort to communicate with both the students, fellow staff members, and parents. I have been fortunate not to have had parent conflicts, and I attribute that to keeping the lines of communication open, dropping an occasional note, or making a phone call home, and letting the parents know what we're working on in the classroom. I communicate with the students, and it helps to build a rapport. I find that they work harder for me. And, since we switch students for some subjects, communicating with other teachers is important too.

3. Teach as a team. Share good lessons with peers, and ask advice from peers.

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