College Scholarship Search College Search Career Exploration College Admissions Articles Financial Aid and Student Loan Calculators Compare Student Loans
Search:
OverviewNature of WorkKnowledge AreasSkills Utilized
Job ActivitiesAbilitiesJob ConditionsWork SatisfactionEducation/Training

Nature of the Work

Teachers play an important role in fostering the intellectual and social development of children during their formative years. The education that students acquire is key to determining the future of those students. Whether in elementary or high schools or in private or public schools, teachers provide the tools and the environment for their students to develop into responsible adults.

Teachers act as facilitators or coaches, using classroom presentations or individual instruction to help students learn and apply concepts in subjects such as science, mathematics, and English. They plan, evaluate, and assign lessons; prepare, administer, and grade tests; listen to oral presentations; and maintain classroom discipline. Teachers observe and evaluate a student's performance and potential. They are increasingly asked to use new assessment methods. For example, teachers may examine a portfolio of a student's artwork or writing in order to judge the student's overall progress. They then can provide additional assistance in areas in which the student needs help. Teachers also grade papers, prepare report cards, and meet with parents and school staff to discuss a student's academic progress or personal problems.

Many teachers use a hands-on approach that utilizes props to help children understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thinking skills. For example, they may teach the concepts of numbers or of addition and subtraction by playing board games. As the children get older, teachers use more sophisticated approaches, such as demonstrating science experiments or working with computers. They also encourage collaboration in solving problems by having students work in groups to discuss and solve the problems together. To be prepared for success later in life, students must be able to interact with others, adapt to new technology, and think through problems logically.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers play a vital role in the development of children. What children learn and experience during their early years can shape their views of themselves and the world and can affect their later success or failure in school, work, and their personal lives. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers introduce children to mathematics, language, science, and social studies. They use games, music, artwork, films, books, computers, and other tools to teach basic skills.

Kindergarten teachers use play and hands-on teaching, but academics begin to take priority in kindergarten classrooms. Letter recognition, phonics, numbers, and awareness of nature and science, introduced at the preschool level, are taught primarily in kindergarten.

Most elementary school teachers instruct one class of children in several subjects. In some schools, two or more teachers work as a team and are jointly responsible for a group of students in at least one subject. In other schools, a teacher may teach one special subject—usually music, art, reading, science, arithmetic, or physical education—to a number of classes. A small but growing number of teachers instruct multilevel classrooms, with students at several different learning levels.

Middle school teachers and secondary school teachers help students delve more deeply into subjects introduced in elementary school and expose them to more information about the world. Middle and secondary school teachers specialize in a specific subject, such as English, Spanish, mathematics, history, or biology. They also may teach subjects that are career oriented. Additional responsibilities of middle and secondary school teachers may include career guidance and job placement, as well as following up with students after graduation.

In addition to conducting classroom activities, teachers oversee study halls and homerooms, supervise extracurricular activities, and accompany students on field trips. They may identify students who have physical or mental problems and refer the students to the proper authorities. Secondary school teachers occasionally assist students in choosing courses, colleges, and careers. Teachers also participate in education conferences and workshops.

Computers play an integral role in the education teachers provide. Resources such as educational software and the Internet expose students to a vast range of experiences and promote interactive learning. Through the Internet, students can communicate with other students anywhere in the world, allowing them to share experiences and viewpoints. Students also use the Internet for individual research projects and to gather information. Computers play a role in other classroom activities as well, from solving math problems to learning English as a second language. Teachers also may use computers to record grades and perform other administrative and clerical duties. They must continually update their skills so that they can instruct and use the latest technology in the classroom.

Teachers often work with students from varied ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. With growing minority populations in most parts of the country, it is important for teachers to work effectively with a diverse student population. Accordingly, some schools offer training to help teachers enhance their awareness and understanding of different cultures. Teachers may include multicultural programming in their lesson plans, to address the needs of all students, regardless of their cultural background.

In recent years, site-based management, which allows teachers and parents to participate actively in management decisions regarding school operations, has gained popularity. In many schools, teachers are increasingly becoming involved in making decisions regarding the budget, personnel, textbooks, curriculum design, and teaching methods.

Work environment. Seeing students develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, teaching may be frustrating when one is dealing with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unruly behavior and violence in the schools. Teachers may experience stress in dealing with large classes, heavy workloads, or old schools that are run down and lack modern amenities. Accountability standards also may increase stress levels, with teachers expected to produce students who are able to exhibit a satisfactory performance on standardized tests in core subjects. Many teachers, particularly in public schools, also are frustrated by the lack of control they have over what they are required to teach.

Teachers in private schools generally enjoy smaller class sizes and more control over establishing the curriculum and setting standards for performance and discipline. Their students also tend to be more motivated, since private schools can be selective in their admissions processes.

Teachers are sometimes isolated from their colleagues because they work alone in a classroom of students. However, some schools allow teachers to work in teams and with mentors, to enhance their professional development.

Many teachers work more than 40 hours a week, including school duties performed outside the classroom. Part-time schedules are more common among kindergarten teachers. Although most school districts have gone to all-day kindergartens, some kindergarten teachers still teach two kindergarten classes a day. Most teachers work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month vacation during the summer. During the vacation break, those on the 10-month schedule may teach in summer sessions, take other jobs, travel, or pursue personal interests. Many enroll in college courses or workshops to continue their education. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks, are on vacation for 1 week, and have a 5-week midwinter break.

Most States have tenure laws that prevent public school teachers from being fired without just cause and due process. Teachers may obtain tenure after they have satisfactorily completed a probationary period of teaching, normally 3 years. Tenure does not absolutely guarantee a job, but it does provide some security.


Common Tasks

1.Instruct students individually and in groups, using various teaching methods such as lectures, discussions, and demonstrations.
2.Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students' varying needs and interests.
3.Establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects and communicate those objectives to students.
4.Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among the students for whom they are responsible.
5.Meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children's progress and to determine priorities for their children and their resource needs.
6.Prepare students for later grades by encouraging them to explore learning opportunities and to persevere with challenging tasks.
7.Prepare materials and classrooms for class activities.
8.Observe and evaluate students' performance, behavior, social development, and physical health.
9.Read books to entire classes or small groups.
10.Provide a variety of materials and resources for children to explore, manipulate, and use, both in learning activities and in imaginative play.
11.Prepare and implement remedial programs for students requiring extra help.
12.Prepare, administer, and grade tests and assignments to evaluate students' progress.
13.Enforce administration policies and rules governing students.
14.Assign and grade class work and homework.
15.Confer with parents or guardians, teachers, counselors, and administrators to resolve students' behavioral and academic problems.
16.Plan and conduct activities for a balanced program of instruction, demonstration, and work time that provides students with opportunities to observe, question, and investigate.
17.Guide and counsel students with adjustment or academic problems, or special academic interests.
18.Use computers, audio-visual aids, and other equipment and materials to supplement presentations.
19.Prepare for assigned classes and show written evidence of preparation upon request of immediate supervisors.
20.Maintain accurate and complete student records as required by laws, district policies, and administrative regulations.
21.Organize and lead activities designed to promote physical, mental, and social development, such as games, arts and crafts, music, and storytelling.
22.Instruct and monitor students in the use and care of equipment and materials to prevent injuries and damage.
23.Meet with other professionals to discuss individual students' needs and progress.
24.Prepare objectives and outlines for courses of study, following curriculum guidelines or requirements of states and schools.
25.Confer with other staff members to plan and schedule lessons promoting learning, following approved curricula.
26.Prepare reports on students and activities as required by administration.
27.Organize and label materials and display students' work.
28.Supervise, evaluate, and plan assignments for teacher assistants and volunteers.
29.Plan and supervise class projects, field trips, visits by guest speakers or other experiential activities, and guide students in learning from those activities.
30.Attend professional meetings, educational conferences, and teacher training workshops to maintain and improve professional competence.
31.Attend staff meetings and serve on committees, as required.
32.Administer standardized ability and achievement tests and interpret results to determine student strengths and areas of need.
33.Collaborate with other teachers and administrators in the development, evaluation, and revision of elementary school programs.
34.Involve parent volunteers and older students in children's activities to facilitate involvement in focused, complex play.
35.Select, store, order, issue, and inventory classroom equipment, materials, and supplies.
36.Sponsor extracurricular activities such as clubs, student organizations, and academic contests.
37.Provide disabled students with assistive devices, supportive technology, and assistance accessing facilities, such as restrooms.
38.Perform administrative duties such as assisting in school libraries, hall and cafeteria monitoring, and bus loading and unloading.

[Back to Top]