Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.
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Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically do the following:
- Create lesson plans to teach students subjects, such as reading, science, and math
- Teach students how to interact with others
- Observe students evaluate their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses
- Instruct an entire class or smaller groups of students
- Grade students’ assignments
- Communicate with parents or guardians about their child’s progress
- Work with students individually to help them overcome specific learning challenges
- Prepare students for standardized tests required by the state
- Develop and enforce classroom rules to teach children proper behavior
- Supervise children outside of the classroom—for example, during lunchtime or recess
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers help students learn and apply important concepts. Many teachers use a hands-on approach to help students understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical-thinking skills. For example, they may demonstrate how to do a science experiment and then have the students conduct the experiment themselves. They may have students work together to solve problems.
The elementary school typically goes from first through fifth or sixth grades. However, in some schools, the elementary school continues through eighth grade.
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically instruct students in several subjects throughout the day. Teachers may escort students to assemblies, recess, or classes taught by other teachers, such as art or music. While students are away from the classroom, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.
In some schools, teachers may work on subject specialization teams in which they teach one or two specific subjects, typically either English and social studies or math and science. Generally, students spend half their time with one teacher and half their time with the other.
There are kindergarten and elementary school teachers who specialize in subjects such as art, music, or physical education.
Some schools employ English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) teachers who work exclusively with students learning the English language. These teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English language skills and to help them with class assignments.
Students with learning disabilities or emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Kindergarten and elementary teachers work with special education teachers to adapt lesson plans to these students’ needs and monitor the students’ progress. In some cases, kindergarten and elementary school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers.
Some teachers use technology in their classrooms as teaching aide. They must be comfortable with using and learning new technology. Teachers also may maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students in higher grades, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or expand on a lesson taught in class.
Communication skills. Teachers need to discuss students’ needs with parents and administrators. They also need to be able to communicate the subject content to students in a manner in they will understand.
Patience. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must respond with patience when students struggle with material. Working with students of different abilities and backgrounds can be difficult.
Physical stamina. Working with kindergarten- and elementary-age students can be tiring. Teachers need to be able to physically, mentally, and emotionally keep up with the students.
Resourcefulness. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers must be able to get students engaged in learning. They also should be prepared to adapt their lessons to meet students’ needs.
- Elementary and secondary schools; local
- Elementary and secondary schools; private
Public kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically need a bachelor's degree in elementary education. Private schools typically have the same requirement. In some states, public schools also require these teachers to major in a content area, such as mathematics.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in another subject can still become elementary education teachers. They must complete a teacher education program to obtain certification to teach. Requirements vary by state.
In teacher education programs, future teachers learn how to present information to young students and how to work with young students of varying abilities and backgrounds. Programs typically include a student-teaching program, in which they work with a mentor teacher and get experience teaching students in a classroom setting. For information about teacher preparation programs in your state, visit Teach.org.
Some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree after receiving their teaching certification and obtaining a job.