Instruction in this range covers from first through sixth grade, at which point many school districts separate students into middle school.
The responsibilities of elementary school teachers vary greatly from grade to grade, but generally speaking, school teachers prepare and present lessons, administer and grade tests, work with children both one-on-one and in groups or classes, and maintain classroom discipline. They evaluate and track each child’s performance and progress, and regularly meet with parents and other school staff to discuss this. In addition, teachers may take students on field trips, supervise extracurricular activities, or provide extra after-school tutoring or assistance to children with behavioral or learning difficulties.
Virtually all elementary school teaching positions share certain common requirements. A bachelor’s degree is mandatory for all teaching positions in the public school system, for example. Not all private schools require a bachelor’s degree, but it is often preferred.
Public elementary schoolteachers (first through eighth grades) must have at least a bachelor’s degree in education, early childhood development, or a similar field, and many states require that they have, or are working toward, a master’s degree as well.
All teaching positions have requirements beyond obtaining a degree. Often these include a term of practice teaching under the supervision of a certified and experienced teacher. States also require all public schoolteachers at every level obtain a teaching license, to ensure the public that every teacher has met certain standards of teaching excellence. Licenses are granted by the respective State Boards, and must be renewed annually.
Various teacher-training programs are accredited by The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. While graduation from an accredited program is not mandatory, it does make it easier for teachers to fulfill licensure requirements
Elementary, or primary, schoolteachers work with children from first through sixth grades. They usually instruct one class of children in many basic subjects, including reading, mathematics, science, and social studies. In addition to academics, they encourage and help foster social skills, confidence, values, and life skills. Teachers may also supervise playtime, lunches, field trips, and enrichment programs, such as sports, drama, and music. They meet with parents and with other teachers to discuss a child’s progress and any problems the child may have.
The basic responsibilities of elementary schoolteachers include preparing and organizing instructional and study materials in order to deliver training in a subject which is appropriate to the age and grade level being taught; adapting these materials and methods as required in order to meet diverse requirements of a specific class of students; establishing objectives, assigning and grading work; preparing, administering, and grading tests and assessments; establishing and enforcing rules of behavior in the classroom; observing and evaluating student performance; and possibly planning and conducting extracurricular activities.
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as a grade school teacher must be patient, hard working, motivating, organized, dependable, decisive, and able to cope with stress. The elementary schoolteacher must be aware of and respectful of differences in ethnicity, culture, religion, and race among students. The teacher should be passionate about teaching, have a genuine interest in the wellbeing of youngsters, and be able to communicate with students at their age and grade level as well as with parents, administrators and other teachers.
There is always a demand for elementary schoolteachers, and job openings are almost always available. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job opportunities for primary school teachers over the next decade are expected to be excellent. There were close to 1.45 million elementary school teachers in the U.S. in 2004, and more than half a million additional elementary school teachers will be a required by the year 2014. Employment opportunities will vary, however, depending on the locality and grade level.
A elementary school teacher salary will also vary widely depending on factors such as location of the school and experience of the teacher. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary for elementary school teachers in 2004, for example, was $43,660, but the range of salaries ran from a low of about $27,000 to a high of over $70,000.