What Education Does an Elementary Teacher Need?

Once the decision has been made to dedicate one’s life to teaching and mentoring young people, college students need to understand exactly what education and training is required to obtain licensure. Although teaching requirements can vary a from state to state, and even between public and private schools, many of the general necessities are the same. By understanding what is required, one can prevent the headache and stress of finding out down the road that the qualifications have not been met.

Both state and governmental regulations affect teaching requirements. Programs like “No Child Left Behind” dictate the education and training necessary to receive licensure. Although some autonomy still remains within the state or individual school system, broad guidelines have been established across the board. A child in inner-city Los Angeles should receive the same educational opportunities as one in upstate Maine. Regulations have been put in place in an attempt to homogenize education and give every young person the same opportunity to succeed.

There are several consistent requirements for becoming an elementary teacher. The first is a bachelor’s degree. Because elementary school teachers are required to instruct on a variety of topics, an Elementary Education bachelor’s degree covers all of the basic subjects, including Math, History, Science, and Language Arts. Elementary school teachers have often been referred to as an educational jack-of-all-trades. In addition to these core classes, there are several classes that are considered essential components of the teacher education curriculum.

Although some schools may offer variations of these classes, most programs consider these topics among the most indispensable:

Mandatory Classes Within an Elementary Teacher Education Program:

  • Early Childhood Education & Development

    – The learning that occurs between kindergarten and third grade is widely considered some of the most important in a child’s education. Elementary school teachers need to be aware of how young people develop emotionally and intellectually, as well as physically. In addition, a child’s character development is also a crucial component of this time period. Understanding how all these factors affect learning is an important part of elementary school teaching.

  • Educational Psychology

    – As with a child’s overall education and development, psychological issues play an integral part in a child’s education. Teachers need to understand the myriad of forces that affect learning, including home life, social interactions, and psychological or emotional difficulties. Teachers are not expected to be therapists or psychologists, but a rudimentary understand of psychology is required to identify and then deal with potential issues.

  • Teaching Principles

    – The great thing about teaching is that there have been thousands of teachers that have paved a trail for new teachers to follow. That experience has provided students with the ability to learn a variety of principles that will help shape their teaching performance. Although each classroom will have its individual personality and culture, a variety of methods have been proven effective in the majority of situations. Understanding the various principles at play, including classroom ethics, is an important part of a teacher’s development.

  • Classroom Diversity

    – As the nation becomes more and more diverse, classroom diversity is going to affect more classrooms. Ultimately, this diversity gives students a broader understanding of the world around them and a greater appreciation for differences. Teachers, however, need to understand how this diversity affects classroom learning and interactions. Cultural norms and traditions often play a huge part in the learning process.

  • Student Assessment

    – Assessing students and then learning from those assessments is a vital component of teaching. All young people learn and develop at a different rate. As a result, it is important to understand how assessments can impact your teaching style for the benefit of student learning. Assessment is more than just parent/teacher conferences. The value of real assessment, the kind that speaks to individual levels of learning, cannot be understated.

Advanced Educational Opportunities:

Each year, thousands of students graduate with bachelor’s degrees in teaching. Finding ways to stand apart from the crowd will be extremely important in securing the best possible teaching position. Often, special certificates and/or endorsements can be accomplished at the same time as the bachelor’s degree. These certificates can give fresh graduates marketable skills that push them to the top of the pile. These certificates can be in a variety of areas, including:

  • Traditional classroom subjects such as math, social studies, science, or language arts
  • Special Education
  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • Educational Administration

In addition, students may choose to continue their education and obtain a master’s degree. These advanced degrees not only increase a teacher’s marketability, they also put applicants in a position for increased salaries and benefit packages. Master’s degrees are typically obtained in any of the following program categories:

  • Elementary Education
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • Curriculum & Instruction
  • Educational Administration

Any of these degrees or certificates can bring a teacher to the next level. Not only will he/she have a vastly increased knowledge base, the marketability that student brings to his/her job search is tremendous.

Learning is a fluid and ongoing process; one with no end. Although obtaining a teaching license is the ultimate goal of undergraduate education, that doesn’t mean it is the end. As the world continues to change, learning styles will adapt and new teaching strategies will have to be employed. Continuing education is a vital component of a teacher’s success and advancement; whether in the form of an additional degree or certification, or simply participation in ongoing classes and seminars. There is no such thing as a teacher with too much knowledge; learning knows no bounds.

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