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What Type of Teacher Should I Be?

There are three levels of education - elementary (K-5), middle (6-8), and high school (9-12). While there are slight variations in the grouping of grades, for the most part these are the three options from which future educators can choose. Let's look at the benefits and drawbacks of each level.

Elementary (K-5)

Elementary school teachers are with the same group of students throughout the school year. It is possible to know each student very well and develop personalized learning plans to help each one succeed. Your students will be with you most of the day, except for the times when they leave for specials like music, art, and physical education.

You will teach all the core subjects - reading, mathematics, social studies, and science. While the concepts you are teaching will be very easy, the actual process of teaching the concepts is the challenge of educating such young minds.

Those who gravitate toward elementary school have a strong love for very young children. If you're the type of person who has always had a knack with small children, this is the level for you. It takes a certain parental quality to be a good elementary school teacher, as in essence, you are their surrogate parent while they are with you.

Middle School (6-8)

Middle school teachers generally teach one or two related subjects. For example, you may teach English and Remedial Reading or World History and Geography. You will have between five and seven classes and keep the same students for the entire school year.

Some middle schools have a six or seven period day with short classes. In this setup, you would teach five or six classes. Other middle schools have block schedule with four period days. On a block schedule, your classes are much longer but you only see three classes a day on alternating days.

Those who prefer middle school have an understanding for the awkward tween years. These can be the most difficult years in a student's life as they are going through puberty and struggling to create an identity for themselves. Middle school teachers need a heaping dose of both patience and humor and the best middle school teachers are able to connect with these tweens at their level and prepare them for high school.

High School (9-12)

High school teachers usually teach one or two grade levels in the same subject. For example, you may teach sophomore Biology and a senior elective in Zoology. In high school there is also more division between the academic tracks: regular, Honors, and Advanced Placement.

High schools generally have 6-7 period days or block schedule with 4 classes per day. On block schedule, you may have a 4x4 block or A/B block. In a 4x4 block, you would see four classes every day for approximately 90 minutes each. In these classes, generally a year's worth of material is covered in one semester. In an A/B block, you have four classes on A day and four different classes on B day. The days alternate so you'll see each class two or three times a week. On an A/B block schedule, you will have the same students all year.

Teachers who prefer high school love teenagers. They're like children but also like young adults and it's a fine line to walk to get the balance right. These are some of the most exciting times in a student's life as they begin to get an idea of what career they'd like to pursue and what college they'd like to attend. Teachers at this level can really touch lives and help students achieve their dreams in a tangible way.

How to Choose?

In your student teaching, you will be able to observe and possibly teach in multiple levels. Go with your gut as far as which age group you are most comfortable working with. Some of the best high school teachers in the world would make horrible elementary school teachers and vice versa. Know where your strengths and preferences lie and follow that to the type of school that will be the best fit for you.


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