Teachers in one-room schools that simultaneously instruct kindergarten through high school are a relic of educational history. Today, teachers are certified to educate students in small blocks of grades or, in the case of special education, specific levels of disability. This specialization allows the teacher to tailor a curriculum to match the needs of all of her students. Mandatory standardized tests that evaluate students and their teachers on a regular basis have also changed the role of a teacher. The best way to outline the job description of a teacher is to do so differentiating between the students they teach.
Preschool teachers start the process of teaching children how to learn and begin preparing them for classroom methods and expectations. While these teachers may only be required to possess an associate's degree, they are required to perform many of the same functions as a certified teacher. They plan a curriculum that teaches basic skills such as letters and numbers. They organize activities that are designed to help students make an application of what they have learned while still keeping their attention. They plan the schedule for their students to include instructional time, physical activities, a meal and often a nap or rest time. They also begin the process of teaching parents how to be a partner in their child's education by meeting with them regularly.
Elementary school teachers instruct children from kindergarten until fifth grade although some schools define the category differently. Elementary school teachers teach all types of core subject matter from math to language arts to science to the same group of pupils. They work with administrators to plan a daily schedule that includes core instruction, lunch and recess. They transport their students to and from every special class such as music or physical education. Assigning and grading papers and performing interactive classroom lectures are common for an elementary school teacher. These professionals must also work with students to prepare for standardized tests in both subject matter and testing practice. Teachers must communicate with parents about grades and how to improve their children's education in elementary school, as these years are the building blocks for later grades.
Certified middle school teachers, while still teaching subject matter applicable in standardized testing, begin the process of branching out beyond the core reading, writing and arithmetic courses into subjects like health, government and home economics. Most middle school teachers are specialists in a core subject, teaching it through the entire school day while the students change teachers hourly to complete their schedules. These educators design a curriculum that prepares students for their high school years by teaching them the entry-level subject matter of algebra, various sciences and communication arts. They work with the students on time management and organizational skills, which are helpful in high school and beyond. Often middle school teachers work with their school counselors in helping their students with interpersonal relationships, as well. These teachers typically work closely with parents to communicate progress and expectations.
High school teachers teach one or more classes within a specific subject, working as a team with other teachers to meet state standards and prepare students for standardized tests and for college. These positions are more focused on teaching subject matter than providing an educational foundation like elementary or middle school teachers do. They design a curriculum that teaches students to work individually or as part of a group to present solutions to problems in their subject. They design homework to supplement what is taught in the classroom. They teach the students to evaluate their own work and that of their peers.
Post-secondary teachers teach in a college or university setting, working with administrators to draft a curriculum. They design and produce a syllabus that sets class and grade expectations such as listing testing schedules, outlining required projects and explaining attendance policies. They work with students in a single classroom subject that may or may not be part of the student's major field of study. They lecture, provide opportunities to learn outside of the class and plan and administer tests. The also keep regular office hours so the students may visit with them or call for help when class is not in session.
Special education teachers are broadly grouped to include instructors of students with learning disabilities and physical or emotional disabilities. These instructors are critical in providing a fair education for all students regardless of limitations as required by national law. They assist the school administration in complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. They are required to teach subject matter in a suitable way considering the needs and limitations of the students. They work closely with administrators and parents to design an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that shows progress and areas of potential improvement. They also attend to the physical needs of the students while they teach, while assisting administration in finding opportunities for the students to attend standard classrooms when possible.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Teacher
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: High School Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Preschool Teachers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Special Education Teachers
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