Elementary School Teacher Career Info

An elementary school teacher teaches grades one through six, with students of ages six to eleven. Though many elementary teacher jobs are for generalists, there are opportunities to specialize, sometimes increasing the elementary teacher's salary.

Basic Tasks

As an elementary school teacher, your day begins before the students arrive, as you tidy the classroom, prepare handouts and organize assignments for the day. Once the students arrive, you will be responsible for taking attendance and assigning any duties to the students for the day. During the day, you will teach several different subjects to the students, unless a specialist is responsible for instruction in that class.

At the end of the day, you will stay after the students have left, marking assignments or tests, preparing for upcoming lessons and cleaning the classroom. You will also have administrative tasks, such as reviewing your classroom budget or supply needs. Sometimes, you will review curriculum supplements or educational software to determine if it is useful for your classroom.

Occasionally, you will be responsible for supervising the students while they are at recess or during the lunch hour. Some evenings you will stay late to work with student groups or clubs, if your school has any, or attending any special events hosted by the school for the parents. Preparing for and attending parent teacher nights will also be one of your responsibilities.

Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for elementary school teachers is $49,000 per year, which varies based on the state where you teach. For example, elementary school teachers in Rhode Island make an average of $66,000 per year, while elementary school teachers in North Dakota make an average of $42,000 per year.

Types of Elementary School Teacher Jobs

Many elementary school teachers are generalists, which means they are expected to teach the state-recognized curriculum for many different subjects. They are also trained in educational psychology and child development.

Some elementary school teachers can specialize. You can become a reading specialist, which means you will work to increase and improve literacy in the students at your school. If you speak a language other than English, usually Spanish, you can work in a bilingual school, conducting your classes in English as well as in another language. You can also specialize as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher and assist the students who are learning the subject matter in the school, while simultaneously teaching them English.

You can also become a special education teacher, working with students who have cognitive, behavioral or physical disabilities, usually called "exceptionalities" by education professionals. These students may be integrated into a regular class or will receive instruction in their own classroom. As a special education teacher, you will usually manage the classroom and instruction with the assistance of teacher's aides.

Advancement

Most opportunities for advancement will require an elementary school teacher to complete a graduate degree. If you want to become a principal or an assistant principal, you will usually have to complete a graduate degree in education or in education administration. Some elementary school teachers will become teacher librarians, which means you will need to complete a certificate program or obtain a graduate degree in library studies. Other teachers will decide to become school counselors, which will require a graduate degree in education psychology.

Some elementary school teachers will pursue work in health care or human services, by becoming a speech language pathologist or a social worker. Both of these professions will require a graduate degree in their respective fields.