The term “middle school” denotes a combination of different grade levels in different school districts. When a middle school is referred to as a “junior high school,” for instance, instruction usually includes grades seven and eight or grades seven through nine. Some school districts, however, define “middle school” as including the fifth or sixth through eighth grades.
The responsibilities and teaching techniques of middle school teachers generally include preparing and presenting lessons, administering and grading tests, working with students both one-on-one and in groups or classes, and maintaining classroom discipline. Middle school teachers, like teachers in other K-12 grades, also evaluate and track each student’s performance and progress, and regularly meet with parents and other school staff to discuss this. In addition, middle school 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.
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 school teachers at every level to have 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 certainly makes it easier for teachers to fulfill licensure requirements.
Depending on the school district, the middle school teacher might teach any grade from fifth through ninth. Middle schools often operate like high schools in the sense that instead of teaching multiple subjects to the same students, the teacher specializes in one subject and teaches this subject to different groups of students who rotate in and out of their classroom on a period schedule.
The job function and responsibilities of middle school teachers are similar to those of high school teachers, as well. The middle school teacher will most often focus on one specific subject, such as physics, chemistry, biology, or English, using lecture and presentation to provide additional depth, detail, knowledge, and instruction than was delivered in elementary school studies. Middle school teachers develop lesson plans, assign homework, administer tests, establish classroom rules, and enforce discipline. They also may supervise after-school activities, such as sports, clubs, and dances.
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as a teacher in any K-12 grade, including middle school, must be patient, hard working, motivating, organized, dependable, decisive, and able to cope with stress. Teachers of every grade 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 well being of youngsters, and be able to communicate clearly with students at the middle school age and grade level as well as with parents, administrators and other teachers.
There is always a demand for teachers, and job openings are almost always available. Currently, there is a high demand for middle school teachers, particularly in the subject areas of math and science.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, about 680,000 people held positions as middle school teachers in the U.S. in 2004, and job opportunities are expected to be excellent well into the next decade. Employment opportunities will vary, however, depending on the locality, grade level and subject taught.
A middle 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 in 2004, the average annual salary for teachers in all K-12 grades was $43,660, for example, but the range of salaries ran from a low of about $27,000 to a high of over $70,000.