The Road to Becoming a Teacher

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Shayne McCormick
Mr. Katz
Senior Project Research Paper
January 8, 2002

The Road to Becoming a Teacher
Teachers bear the heavy responsibility of molding the minds of our nation's most precious resource, its children. The road to becoming a teacher is a long one, involving post-high school education, people skills, and a desire to change lives. These traits, when accompanied by experience and good techniques, form the foundation for an effective, life-altering educator.

Before anything else, teachers must have a desire to impact the lives of their students (Education). Some teachers teach because they want to help children learn and grow and would like to make a contribution to society. Others have an intellectual fascination with a certain subject (such as math or history), have been inspired by one of their own teachers, or feel they have a sense of commitment to their country (Recruit). One thing is certain, teachers that go into the profession for selfish reasons will find it hard to commit to their career. The salary for a teacher is not likely to make a person rich, so their motives must be based on helping improve the minds of future generations (Kizlik).

If there is a desire to be a teacher, it must also be coupled with education, training, and preparation. To serve as a public school educator, one must have obtained at least a bachelor's degree, completed an approved teacher education program, and be licensed (School Teachers). These qualifications are universal for all fifty States and the District of Columbia. Instructors may be licensed to teach the early childhood grades (usually nursery school through grade 3); the elementary grades (grades 1 through 6 or 8); the middle grades (grades 5 through 8); a secondary education subject area (usually grades 7 through 12); or a special subject, such as reading or music (usually grades K through 12) (School Teachers).

The requirements for licensing differ from state to state. However, it is a necessity to complete an approved teacher-training program with a prescribed number of subject and education credits as well as practiced teaching, supervised by an official. In addition, nearly all States demand applicants for teacher licensure to be tested for competency in basic skills such as reading, math, teaching, and subject matter proficiency (School Teachers). Most states use a standardized version of this test, known as the PRAXIS exam (Recruit).

It is recommended that prospective teachers take 24 to 36 credits in an area of specialization and 18 to 24 credits in teaching courses (Princeton). Teachers also must be able to communicate, inspire trust and confidence, motivate, and understand the educational and emotional needs of their students (School Teachers). Potential educators are advised to gain skills in communications, organization, and time management (Princeton).

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accredits more than 500 teacher education programs in the United States. In most cases, four-year colleges require students to wait until their sophomore year before applying for admission to teacher education programs. The traditional education programs for kindergarten and elementary teachers include courses in mathematics, physical science, social science, music, art, and literature, as well as prescribed professional education courses such as philosophy of education, psychology of learning, and teaching methods. Hopeful secondary school teachers have two options. They may either major in the subject they plan to teach while also taking education courses, or major in education while taking their subject courses (School Teachers).

In addition to traditional licensure, some states offer what is called "Emergency Licensure". These licenses bypass state licensing requirements. They are usually granted to individuals who teach in high-need subject areas, such as mathematics, science, special education, or bilingual education,...
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