What do I need to become a primary school teacher?

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Primary school teachers need a variety of educational and personal skills to successfully teach young children. An education in the concepts and philosophy of teaching is only the beginning. Primary school teachers need an excellent understanding of children and their needs.

They must communicate effectively with people of different ages and educational levels. A natural love of children and the learning process make primary school teachers enthusiastic, inventive and persistent, all excellent qualities in the field of education.


Education for primary school teachers is generally broader than that for middle and high school teachers. Instead of focusing on a specific subject of interest, primary school teachers receive education in subjects ranging from language arts and mathematics to art and music. These courses are designed specifically for education majors and are supplemented with courses focused on teaching methods, philosophy and psychology. A bachelor's degree is required to teach in most states. Most programs provide student teaching positions in which education majors experience teaching in a local state school.


Teaching in a state school anywhere in the United States requires a license, though the same may not be true of private schools. In most states, the State Board of Education offers licenses to teach at various grade levels. Requirements vary by state but always require a bachelor's degree from a teacher training program along with firsthand teaching experience in a supervised setting. Testing in basic skills is required and additional testing may be done in the area of teaching ability and skill. Alternative licensure programs exist in all states for those who wish to teach in an area in which they hold a degree, but lack education in teaching. These programs generally offer provisional licenses with additional supervision during the first one to years of teaching.


Additional national certification available to teachers throughout the U.S. offers special benefits such as higher salaries and reimbursed fees for continued education. Further education provides additional employment opportunities such as school librarian, counsellor and various administrative positions. Some school districts offer additional pay for highly trained and experienced teachers with added job duties such as overseeing and mentoring younger, inexperienced teachers.


Successful primary school teachers possess a wide variety of non-academic skills. Effective communication, motivational ability and an understanding of students' developmental, educational and social needs are necessary. Creative teachers offer additional benefits to their students through new and unique learning opportunities. Organization is vital to a primary schoolteacher's success, as is patience and tolerance. Being able to work independently while still communicating effectively with co-workers, parents and the community at large is best. Teachers with skills or experience in sports, music or art offer additional benefits to their schools if they are willing to coach a sports team or lead an after school club.


Volunteer as a mentor or tutor to gain additional experience working with children in an academic setting. Participate in programs designed to employ new teachers while providing rural and inner city areas with enthusiastic and committed teachers. Work in day care centres, after school programs or as a nanny to build your resume. The more related experience you have with children, the more attractive you are to potential employers and the better your chances of standing out from the crowd of applicants.