Everyone has had at least one teacher who impacted their life for the better. They may have created a last-minute extra credit opportunity, gave you fantastic assignments other than the standard group project, or even just asked about your day every class period. Regardless, teachers push us to strive both in academics and in life by being more than just educators. Keep reading to see what you should do to fulfill your dream of becoming a high school teacher.
Find out how to become a high school teacher to impact students like Mr. Feeny.
What does a high school teacher really do?
A fantastic teacher can become a mentor and even a friend. Every year, high school teachers…
- Create lesson plans and assignments
- Educate students on a specific subject (that you enjoy!)
- Create and grade exams
- Serve as a mentor and sponsor for extracurricular activities
- Work with other teachers to ensure the curriculum is the same
- Prepare students for higher education and beyond
What does it take to become a high school teacher?
You can’t give an education without receiving one. To become a high school teacher you can major in almost anything in college. Typically teachers receive their bachelor’s degree in the subject area they teach. For example, if someone wants to teach World History, Human Geography or American Government could major in history or political science. Others receive a bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies or education.
The curriculum includes student teaching, so you receive training in a classroom serving as an assistant before you graduate. A master’s degree is not required but can provide benefits in certain states such as a pay raise, a stipend or the opportunity to become an administrator.
Once you graduate with a teaching degree, you still need to get certified. Certification varies by state and subject area but typically consists of 2-3 exams. This includes a general knowledge test, a test specific to the grade level and subject you wish to teach. Some universities offer a teaching minor that guarantees certification upon graduation. You must occasionally recertify and the frequency again depends on the state. For example, the state of Florida requires a certain amount of professional development hours in certain criteria every five years.
There are teaching internships available for students passionate about social justice and education, like Teach For America, a non-profit organization similar to the Peace Corps. The corps members have a two-year commitment to teaching and are placed in 52 regions across the country in schools with a high inequality and disparity level.
What Should I Know about becoming a high school teacher?
How Much Do Teachers Get Paid?
Entering the teaching profession requires a passion for education. The average starting salary for a high school teacher nationwide begins at about $39,000. Over time the median salary rises to about $58,000. The five highest-paying states for high school are Alaska, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California. In order to recruit teachers and become more competitive, some states have raised their salaries to around $80,000.
HOW MUCH WILL I BE EXPECTED TO WORK?
In addition to working for about seven hours a day Monday through Friday, expect to work about one to two hours outside of the classroom a week to grade and create assignments.
What Is The Work Environment Like?
The work environment of a high school teacher never ceases to bore. You’ll interact with hundreds of students and faculty members throughout the day. “My favorite part of the classroom environment is creating a culture of learning through personal relationships,” Navarre High School teacher Suzanne Wilcox said. “[When we know more] about each other, we learn a lot. And the more we know each other, the more comfortable we are admitting when we don’t know or when we want to know. We can ask the big questions and consider them without fear of judgment.”
Making sure that you create an open environment ensures students feel comfortable. Since you constantly teach the same thing every year and you teach a standardized curriculum, teaching could begin to feel confining. Individualizing your classwork opens the class up to more discussion.
What do I need to know about the future of high school teaching?
Due to the relatively low pay, some experienced teachers are leaving that field. That means there are opportunities for newer teachers to fill these spots and begin their careers. New teachers may receive additional benefits upon joining the field like increased pay for the first three years they teach.
Technology is also changing the classroom. Students today don’t know what it’s like to grow up without a cellphone, so teachers should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of increased technology use. It can enhance the classroom like using virtual reality to explore historical locations or reviewing for a test using Kahoot. But don’t forget to remind students that you learn in the classroom and update your Snapchat story at home.
Skills You Need to Become a High School Teacher
It should go without saying: You need to get along well with teenagers. This seems self-explanatory, but a willingness to embrace students at all times, even when they make mistakes and become frustrated. If they don’t understand a topic, meet them halfway and see how they view the subject. They might understand the topic but overanalyze it, and you can show them that.
A level of professionalism always needs to occur in the classroom, but students connect with their teachers when they see their personality. Be unapologetic with your teaching style and be willing to answer the tough questions students pose about real life.
The three most common learning styles are visual, auditory and hands-on learning. Almost all students learn best by utilizing a combination of these three. Understanding how students learn best ensures that your students really get to learn the material. You don’t have to individualize to every student but meeting them halfway and accommodating in general ways could provide support to your students.
OTHER IMPORTANT RELEVANT SKILLS to ensure success in the classroom:
- Adaptability in the classroom
- Understanding the content that you teach your students
- Caring about your student
“I have always wanted to be a teacher, since I was very young. My mother went back to school and got her education degree when I was in the fifth grade,” Navarre High School AP Psychology teacher Suzanne Wilcox said. “I can think of nothing more rewarding and satisfying than learning something new, and I wanted to be a vessel of learning, and not just to teach a subject but a lifelong love of learning.”
“One of my favorite things about being a high school teacher is the difference I feel I have made in students’ lives,” Navarre High School French teacher Lisa Nall said. “It may have absolutely nothing to do with French, but I can let them know they have value and are deeply cared about.”
“I enjoy interacting with students through the subject I teach,” Navarre High School biology teacher Lauris Joyner said. “I love seeing their faces when they get it and reach understanding and knowledge.”