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After your English BA: Do you Want to Teach?

The Winding Road Toward A Career In Education

By Susan Good, Retired Educator. Website. Email. 

So you want to be a teacher? That’s an inspiring career choice that gives you a chance to shape the experiences of tomorrow’s leaders today. But there is so much more to becoming an educator than earning your degree. From getting your license to choosing where and what to teach — you have decisions to make along the way. This essay will light you on your path toward a teaching career.

Types of Teacher

When you think of being a teacher, often, standing behind a desk speaking to a group of 10-year-olds is the first thing that comes to mind. The truth is that there are many types of teacher, including:

  • Preschool. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a preschool teacher educates children that have yet to enter kindergarten. They are typically employed in child care centers, either in the public or private sector, and may work year-round.
  • Elementary school. An elementary school teacher works from kindergarten through (in most areas) fifth or sixth grade. They are responsible for teaching a variety of subjects, including English and literature, math, science, and social studies. Elementary school teachers work with administration and parents to help identify individual children’s needs while also catering to a diverse student body.
  • Middle and high school. Middle and high school teachers work with adolescents and teenagers. They may teach advanced topics. Many also sponsor extracurricular activities, such as Beta club, or coach athletic groups within their home school.
  • Special education. A special education teacher works with students outside of the typical learner. They may focus on children with extreme learning disabilities or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, gifted students. Special education puts teachers in a position to work with social workers, psychologists, and other professionals.
  • ELL. An ELL (English Language Learner) teacher works with those who do not speak English as their primary means of communication. They assist in and outside the classroom, helping learners master the English language so that they may be more confident and productive in school.

Educational Requirements and Credentials

Your educational requirements will vary depending on where you live and what type of teacher you’d like to become. A preschool teacher, for example, may only be required to hold a high school diploma, associate’s degree, or early childhood development certificate. A high school science teacher will likely be expected to have a bachelor’s or master’s in that discipline.

Earning a master’s degree in education, which you can do online if you are still working, can help you earn more, no matter what field you choose. You may also elect to complete specialized training to help you cater to a specific demographic. Professional development through the Ron Clark Academy is an example. Many teachers choose this as a way to learn fun teaching methods to reach students across all spectrums of social economic situations.

You’ll also need to obtain credentials based on the type of teacher you want to become. In California, elementary school teachers need a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, high school educators require a Single Subject Teaching Credential (for example, a crediential in teaching English!), and special education teachers must have an Education Specialist Instruction Credential. UC Merced’s Extension School now proudly offers its own teaching credential program, which you can learn about here.

Licensing

Licensing requirements vary from state to state. However, you will most likely be required to complete a skills assessment and submit your fingerprints for a criminal background check.

Special Opportunities: Teaching English Abroad

Something else to consider if you’d like to become an educator is that you will have opportunities to teach outside of a standard classroom setting. Many teachers find that taking their skills overseas is an enriching and rewarding experience. Visiting international lands not only grants you the freedom to broaden your mind, but it also allows you to share your teaching gifts with students that need your knowledge. Programs like the JET program in Japan pay recent graduates to teach English to non-native speakers.

Go Overseas explains that you may be required to hold an advanced degree and certification to teach English. Keep in mind here that if you do plan to travel abroad as an educator, you may be required to cover your travel expenses.

Personality Traits of A Great Educator

Patience is obviously a virtue, but there are many other personality traits that make for a fantastic teacher. Indeed explains that these include being an effective goal setter, being flexible, and having a life-long love of learning.

Teachers must also be excellent communicators with an aptitude to speak to their students both verbally and with cues. For example, a teacher may need to remind one student to remain quiet with little more than a glance while they work on individual reading tasks with another.

Teachers must also maintain an open dialogue with parents from all walks of life — sometimes in unpleasant circumstances. Remember, as a teacher you not only talk to your students but must also host parent/teacher conferences where you may have to bring up bad behavior or poor classroom performance.

Is Teaching Right For You?

Ultimately, the decision to become a teacher is a personal one, and it requires a deep dive into your preferred lifestyle. Teachers often struggle to find work/life balance, despite having a seemingly “perfect” schedule. More often than not, teachers at all levels spend much of their personal time creating lesson plans and planning (and executing) relevant classroom transformations to further excite and engage eager learners.

Compensation is another consideration. In California, educators command an annual salary at a median of $65,500, though nationwide the average is closer to $40,000; California has some of the highest pay rates for teachers in the country.

Despite the hurdles, teaching is a noble profession that can help you shape the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders. And if you can find work/life balance, you’ll have summers off and may be able to travel the world, sharing your passion for education. When you are called to educate, you can expect to receive so much more than a paycheck. The bright smiles and shapeable minds of your students are a priceless gift that few other professionals receive.

For more than 15 years, UC Merced has been the area’s go-to research university. UC Merced is a strategic investment in the quality of education available throughout the Central Valley and Yosemite National Park area. Look into admissions today.