Middle school teachers provide children with more in-depth education of the subjects introduced in elementary school. They typically teach a specific subject such as biology, mathematics or history. Some middle school teachers may focus on art, music and physical education. Career and technical education teachers teach academic and technical content to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to enter an occupation.
A Day in the Life of a Middle School Teacher
Middle school teachers usually teach rotating classes, spending less time with each student than do elementary school teachers. On a typical day, a middle school teacher:
- Creates lesson plans
- Prepares students for national and state tests and assessments
- Chooses instructional materials and resources
- Motivates students to learn
- Grades homework
- Designs tests
- Monitors and manages student behavior
- Exposes students to potential careers
- Assists students as individuals and in groups
- Adapts lessons to different levels of learning ability
- May participate in making decisions regarding textbooks, budgets, teaching methods and curriculum design
Many middle school teachers have a diverse student population in their classes. Some teachers work in modern school settings, while others work in older schools that lack modern amenities. Teachers employed in private schools typically have smaller class sizes and are given more power to create their curriculum and establish performance standards. When combining classroom teaching and work performed outside of the classroom, some teachers work more than 40 hours a week. Most middle school teachers work a 10-month school year and have a two-month summer vacation.
Individuals who pursue a middle school teaching career may find it rewarding to watch students gain new skills and knowledge, but dealing with unruly students and preparing them to perform well on standardized tests in core subjects may be stressful as well.
Important Characteristics for Middle School Teachers
Effective middle school teachers share some key characteristics. They communicate well with students, parents, administrators and other teachers. They engage students in learning and present difficult concepts in ways students can understand, adapting lessons to students' varying abilities. They are patient when working with students of different abilities and backgrounds, especially those who struggle academically. Middle school teachers need stamina to keep up with students physically, mentally and emotionally.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Middle School Teacher
Middle school teacher education requirements and certification can be met in a variety of ways. The typical two-step path, and variations, are as follows:
1) Earn a bachelor's degree in education or in the subject you plan to teach. An education degree usually provides courses in topics such as:
- Psychology of learning
- Philosophy of education
- Teaching methods
- Using computers and other learning technologies.
Many states require middle school teachers to major in a content area, such as math or science. Graduating from an accredited program is not required but may make it easier to meet licensure requirements. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education provide accreditation for middle school teacher education programs.
2) Complete a student-teaching internship. This is usually part of the credential program and is completed after earning a bachelor's degree in a middle school teacher education programs.
Those who aspire to become middle school vocational teachers have slightly different education and training requirements which vary by state and by subject. Typically, they need a bachelor's degree and at least three years of work experience in their specialty. Some specialties require a license or certification.
3) Become licensed to teach. Every state requires public school teachers to be licensed. (Most private schools do not require a license.) Some states license vocational teachers that do not have a degree if they have knowledge, skills and experience in the subject.
- Most states offer alternative licensure programs for teachers that have earned a bachelor's degree in the subject they will teach but have not taken the necessary education courses required for a regular license. Some alternative certification programs allow candidates to begin teaching immediately under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
In most states, teacher certification or licensure also requires passing a background check.
4) Engage in continuing education programs. Some states require teachers to complete a master's degree after receiving their certification and obtaining a job. And, in order to maintain licensure, teachers must typically complete a certain number of hours of continuing education. These courses can also be described as professional development classes or programs.
- Middle School Teachers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
- Summary Report for Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education; https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-2022.00, accessed December 2017