Other than a parent, there is no one who plays a more important role in the intellectual and social development of children during their formative years than a teacher. There is hardly a more challenging occupation or a more rewarding one. Teachers are charged with the responsibility and challenge of providing the environment and the tools for students to develop into responsible adults. In doing this, they need to communicate, motivate, inspire, and educate; often encountering a variety of challenges along the way. Armed with the knowledge of the job and the various requirements one needs to fulfill to get there, an aspiring teacher can get started on the way to a long and successful career.
Teachers typically use classroom instruction to impart knowledge to students and to help them learn and apply concepts in subjects such as science, mathematics, history, or English. Along the way, there are a wide variety of duties a teacher will need to be responsible for carrying out. To name just a very few, they must prepare and assign lessons; develop, administer, and grade tests; assess their students' performance and potential; regularly meet with parents and school staff; and maintain classroom discipline. In addition to regular classroom activities, teachers are also responsible for supervising extracurricular activities, accompanying students on field trips, assisting students with college or career choices, identifying students with physical or mental problems and referring them to the proper authorities, providing oversight to study halls and/or lunchrooms, and participating in education conferences and workshops.
Teachers exist at both the public and private school level. Most pre-school, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers are assigned one class and they teach a variety of subjects to this class. Most middle school and high school teachers, on the other hand, focus on one subject (e.g., English, science, math, or history) and teach this subject to different classes at different times during the school day. Teachers at this higher level will also be inclined help students delve more deeply into subjects and to expose them to more facets of the subject material.
Teaching can be a rewarding profession but is often frustrating as well. Motivated students who develop new skills and show an appreciation of knowledge and learning can provide a great deal of satisfaction to their teachers. On the other hand, frustration can set in when teachers are forced to deal with unmotivated or disrespectful students, or even worse, with unruly or violent ones. Large class sizes, heavy workloads, unreasonable parents, and lack of control over many situations are other factors that contribute to teacher frustration. As a general rule, teachers in private schools generally enjoy smaller class sizes and more control over the curriculum and performance standards. Private school students sometimes tend to be more motivated, due to the fact that the schools can be selective in their admissions processes. The individual work environment for a teacher is highly dependent upon factors such as school location, management policies, educational benchmarks, etc. A typical teacher will work more than 40 hours a week, if school duties performed outside the classroom are factored in.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual wages for preschool teachers in 2010 was $25,700. In the same year, elementary school teachers made $51,380 in median annual earnings, middle school teachers earned $51,960, and secondary school teachers earned $53,230. An important point to keep in mind when looking at these figures is that school teachers enjoy summers off and long holiday breaks. Consequently, their work-year averages over 600 hours (or about 30%) less than the average worker in the United States. As a result, many teachers earn extra money during the summer by doing other jobs.
Teachers have a very important job and a very challenging one. They must be able to communicate with students, motivate them, and earn their trust. In addition, they must possess enough knowledge and teaching skill in one or more subjects to be looked upon as "experts" by their students. Individuals who are truly motivated to take on the challenge of becoming a teacher and know not only what to expect in the job but also the steps they will need to take to become one are well-poised for future success in an exciting career.
Resources for Teachers