What Kind of Teacher Should I Be? 5 Questions to Consider
by Heather Maietta
Deciding to become a teacher means that your professional journey will improve the lives and education of your students. You might be asking yourself, what kind of teacher should I be? Will you teach a single subject grade level full-time in a traditional classroom setting? Will you pursue a specialty?
If you’re currently making that decision, here are the questions to answer before you land the perfect job:
1. Which teaching certification should I earn?
Teaching is a diverse field with many options. Consider your strengths and interests early to home in on your future focus. Ask yourself:
- Do I want to work with elementary or high school students?
- What subject should I teach (or will I be happy instructing across multiple subjects)?
- Should I focus on a population of students, like special needs or gifted and talented?
- Do I want a traditional teaching job in a school setting, or would I rather teach adults?
The certification requirements vary from state to state. Research the requirements for your preferred geographical location prior to choosing a certification path.
2. What grade should I teach?
Academic grade levels require different teaching certifications, skills and interests. Below is a list of different types of teachers:
Preschool teachers typically earn an early childhood education degree and enjoy working with young children in interactive, creative environments. They might work in a public school or a private institution. Being a preschool teacher allows for flexibility and the chance to work with the same students for multiple years. The ideal candidate for a preschool setting should be service-oriented, a strong communicator, and have active listening and problem-solving skills. Although there is curriculum design involved at this level, the subject matter is less prescribed.
- Elementary school
In kindergarten through fifth grade, students learn basic academic, social and other formative life skills. Teachers who work in a primary school setting hold an elementary education degree, and typically have less control over their lessons. These teachers have a wide breadth of content knowledge, as they often teach all subjects. Students in this age group are often enthusiastic and eager to learn. Because the students typically stay in one classroom all day, teachers can form lasting relationships with their students.
- Middle school and high school
At the middle and high school level, teachers typically hold a secondary education degree and are considered specialists or experts in one or two subject matter areas. Throughout a school day, students in multiple grades rotate through coursework levels within the teachers’ subject expertise. Secondary-level educators also play a critical social and emotional role in the lives of students.
When you’re applying to teaching jobs, in addition to noting your certifications, point out other experiences you have working with children. On your teaching resume, include experiences as a coach, camp counselor or substitute teacher. Here are even more tips to make your educator resume stand out. Career changers can use a well-written cover letter to explain why they made the switch to teaching and how their past experiences can help them in the classroom.
3. Should I consider a teaching specialty?
If you’re considering teaching elementary or middle/high school, you might also want to think about whether you’ll focus on a specialty. Specialties can include subjects like social studies, English or music. Others might become reading specialists, speech therapists or experts at working with gifted and talented students. (Check out a list of teaching specialties at All Education Schools.) Some might consider teaching special education.
Your area of teaching expertise can make you an appealing candidate, so highlight these qualifications in your cover letter and on your resume. Visit our Resume Formats page to learn how to pick the best resume format based on your experience.
4. Should I become an instructor at the college level?
Whether full- or part-time, instructing at the post-secondary level, community college or four-year institution level is an attractive option for many educators. As an instructor and subject matter expert with a great deal of flexibility over the curriculum and instruction, you’ll teach anywhere from a few students to a few hundred.
Depending on your role, your additional responsibilities above and beyond teaching will vary from university service to research to committee work. The level of education required for a post-secondary teaching role can vary from a master’s degree at some two-year and junior colleges to doctoral degree at the majority of four-year institutions.
5. Is teaching continuing education a good fit for me?
Many adults pursue formal instruction to remain current in their career, train for a new role or complete a degree. The rise in distance-learning programs and online learning opportunities has made continuing education more popular than ever. There is always a high demand for the types of teachers who offer continuing education to adults interested in pursuing further instruction.
In-person courses are generally taught nights and weekends to accommodate working adults, while online courses can be completed anytime from anywhere. The range of course offerings is broad to appeal to a diverse group of learners. For more information on how to become a continuing education teacher, visit Teacher Certification Degrees.
Creating your teacher application
As you prepare for a career in teaching, you’ll need a resume that shows you have the experiences and skills to be successful in the classroom. Use our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Templates for step-by-step guidance in creating application materials that show off your strengths. Whether you’re applying to a role in elementary, middle or high school, you should also consider creating a teaching portfolio. Your portfolio is an easy way to organize your essential documents (like certifications and letters of recommendation) for job interviews. You’ll be able to show the administration that you’re the best candidate for the position and that you take your role seriously.