The Pros and Cons of Being an Elementary School Teacher
Updated March 30, 2023
People who enjoy working with children and adapting to unique challenges may consider a career as an elementary school teacher. Teaching in elementary schools can differ from teaching older grade levels, as these educators face unique challenges and rewards working with younger students. Learning about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching at this grade level can help you decide if this career is right for you. In this article, we discuss this teaching role and share some of the common pros and cons of being an elementary teacher.
What is an elementary school teacher?
An elementary school teacher is an educator who teaches younger children in schools. They typically work in classrooms between kindergarten through sixth grade, depending on the location. Different from older grades where students may have teachers for each subject, elementary school teachers often help students learn various subjects while in their classrooms. Some common duties of an elementary school teacher include:
Writing and editing lesson plans
Determining classroom rules
Maintaining order in the classroom
Collaborating with other teachers on school-wide events and projects
Participating in school meetings
Updating parents on students' grades and progress
Resolving classroom conflicts
Preparing students for standardized tests
Grading homework, tests and assignments
Taking professional development workshops
Pros of being an elementary school teacher
There are several advantages to becoming an elementary school teacher, including:
Impact on children
One of the main reasons people might choose to become elementary school teachers is to influence children at a young age. You might remember a teacher in those early grades who helped you learn how to read or build your confidence, and you may want to give that same attention to children. As much of what students learn in elementary school is foundational to their success in later grades and in the world, taking an impactful job like this can keep you motivated and help you feel fulfilled.
Related: FAQ: What Grade Should I Teach?
Students might be more engaged with the learning materials and activities in elementary school. Though other students, noises and unexpected events might distract them, these children can have more motivation and curiosity. You might design creative lessons and activities that can inspire them to stay engaged while learning about new subjects.
Generous vacation days
Most elementary schools operate for nine to 10 months out of the year, where teachers and students have summers off. This can be important for people seeking careers where they can spend time at home, especially those with children, as they're likely to have a similar schedule. There are many holidays throughout the year as well, allowing teachers to have free time to spend with their families or travel.
After teaching for a few years, some districts might offer tenured positions and union benefits. This can lead to job security as you might receive certain protections from your union representatives. Even if you're yet to earn a tenured position, teachers are often in demand in almost all locations across the country, so there are many opportunities you might pursue.
As an elementary school teacher, you have many learning opportunities. Young students often have unique and positive perceptions of the world that can teach you how to view things differently. Also, working with children can help prepare you for parenthood if you hope to have your own children one day.
Besides learning from your students, you often learn from your peers and supervisors as well. Most elementary schools require their teachers to complete a certain amount of hours for professional development each year so they can learn about new teaching techniques, the latest classroom technology and classroom management strategies.
Cons of being an elementary school teacher
As with most jobs, there might be some disadvantages to becoming a teacher in an elementary school:
As an elementary school teacher, you experience many unique personalities and behaviors among children. This means working with students who may be at different levels of development because of learning abilities, cultures and challenges at home. Though students might have more motivation with learning, you might need to adjust your teaching methods to ensure each student receives individual support while reaching classroom learning goals.
Though people might think teachers work shorter hours than the standard workday, they often work additional hours at home. For elementary school teachers, this can involve grading or creating lesson plans in the afternoons or evenings while outside of the classroom. Sometimes, you may attend conferences or other professional development opportunities on weekends or after school to meet their district requirements.
Managing parent expectations can vary for each student. You often have to communicate updates on a student's behavior, academic performance and overall abilities and share how parents can help improve these areas. Since it might be challenging to enforce additional help and guidance at home, if there is still room for improvement after initial conversations, parents may assume you're responsible.
Range of subjects
Rather than focusing on one specific subject, elementary school teachers often teach a variety like math, reading, writing and history. You might specialize in one of these areas, which means you'll need to learn the foundations of the others and how to teach them effectively. With a basic knowledge of each of these, you may still face challenges if there are changes to the curriculum or students have questions you might need to answer.
Some of your activities depend on your school receiving funding. Many districts may experience budget cuts, which could limit the resources you have to do your job effectively. Depending on your teaching methods, you might spend some of your own money on funding different projects for the children.
Tips for becoming an elementary school teacher
Here are some tips you can consider if you hope to pursue this career:
Earn an education. Most elementary school districts require at least a bachelor's degree in education or a related field and a local teaching certification. Earning a master's degree can help you develop your knowledge and earn more money in these roles.
Develop your skills. Elementary school teachers often have specific skills like patience, collaboration and student engagement. Practicing these can help you create an effective learning environment for your young students.
Have fun. As these teachers work with younger students, having fun in the classroom can be crucial in their learning process. Consider activities and assignments designed around the interests of your students that can challenge them to learn new things.
Be open. You can expect to continuously learn in this role with different students each year and developing teaching methods. Being receptive to changes, feedback and learning can ensure you develop with your classes over time.
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