As a child, there are few role models in life who have more influence than a teacher, and it’s common for children to aspire to teach one day. If that dream has stuck with you, you’ve likely already discovered that becoming a teacher is a far more complex path than you might have imagined. The laws governing teacher requirements differ from state to state, even in areas like what kinds of degrees are required and how long it’ll take to become fully licensed. Still, there are some basic courses which are needed across pretty much every teacher’s educational degree programs in the country, so you can start to prepare before embarking on this quest to enjoy a rewarding career.
To become a teacher, the first step is almost always to enroll in a Bachelor’s of Education program. These programs will not only ensure that you know the material you’ll be teaching, but also cover coursework that provides critical insight into how to go about teaching. Aspiring teachers will also need to decide exactly what age group of students they’d like to teach, as this can shape how the programs approach teaching; elementary education, for example, requires knowledge of a wide variety of topics, and will deal with handling the needs of small children. Secondary education concentrations are designed for those working with middle school or high school aged students, who are a bit more self sufficient, and typically focuses on a single area of instruction, such as math or literature, which will be that teacher’s specialty.
One of the main areas of coursework for either specialty is what’s referred to as “pedagogy,” the common theory and practice of learning. Educational psychology, for example, deals with the mental processes of how children learn, and how teachers can structure their lessons to best fit a child’s learning style. Classroom management helps teachers learn how to keep students behaving through positive reinforcement, as well as providing teachers with information on common behavioral problems and their targets. Assessments of learning looks at the different approaches to grading and assessing assignments, when to best use which strategies, and how to give students critical feedback that they can learn from. Progressing through these courses will leave an aspiring teacher with the skills they’ll need in classroom environments on a daily basis.
Coursework also focuses on what a teacher will be teaching to their students, to ensure that they’re able to offer the most accurate and correct information possible. They typically have titles like “teaching math for elementary students” or similar, and provide teachers with an in-depth look at how to explain the topics on a conceptually achievable level for children. These courses mix teaching strategies and pedagogy with the subject matter, offering different approaches that might help explain to students who are having difficulties. The final set of courses in nearly all programs is the practical experience courses, which are sometimes known as teaching interns or student teachers. After getting special permissions to work with children in a public school district, an aspiring teacher will finally be allowed to start putting what they’ve learned into practice, under the mentorship of an experienced teacher in a real classroom. Student teachers will work with students directly, put together their own lesson plans, and grade papers for the first time.
Every state might have different requirements, however, completion of the student teaching period is critical to receiving your license.
While the exact names of these courses will vary between universities, these concepts form the core of an undergraduate teaching degree. Your path to becoming a teacher won’t end once you’ve earned your bachelor’s, however; states will also require you to pass licensing exams and background checks, and some states even ask that new teachers start working on a master’s degree after being licensed. Still, completing a Bachelor’s in Education is a major stepping stone, and one of the longest and most difficult. An aspiring teacher who can persevere through their college degree is well on their way to finally achieving that