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Language Arts Teacher: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Language arts teachers teach and reinforce skills in reading, writing and speaking. While teachers specializing in language arts may teach at kindergarten and early elementary levels, the majority teach in middle school and high school.

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Job Description for a Language Arts Teacher

English language arts (ELA) teachers work to deepen mostly middle and high school students' understanding of the English language through reading, writing and speaking. ELA teachers must also practice effective classroom management strategies. Most instructors, including language arts teachers, work more than 40 hours per week, splitting time between lesson planning, grading, classroom instruction, professional development and faculty obligations.

Duties of a Language Arts Teacher

Duties outside of the classroom may vary from school to school; typically they include attending conferences and workshops, planning and chaperoning field trips, monitoring hallways and school grounds before and after school and sponsoring extracurricular activities.

Language arts teachers spend time choosing reading material for their students and preparing assignments and discussion topics. The higher the grade level means such preparation can be more time consuming; however many school districts reuse materials or have a reading list to draw from.

ELA teachers assign writing projects and monitor students during the drafting process. Compositions and essays may be assigned according to state standards. Speeches can also be assigned on a variety of subjects. Grades for both of these types of assignments tend to be based on content, organization and mechanics.

In addition, most teachers must keep a record of their lesson plans in a book or computer-based curriculum program. Lesson plans should be written with state standards in mind to help students meet minimum educational goals.

Teachers also interact with parents during designated conference periods to talk about academic and, if needed, behavioral issues. Contact can also be made over the phone, in writing or through e-mail.

Requirements for Becoming a Language Arts Teacher

Most universities with an education department or school offer a secondary teacher education program with an emphasis on English or language arts. Future educators are taught effective teaching and classroom management strategies while taking many of the courses required of English majors. Most ELA teachers have either a bachelor's in English or a secondary education degree with an English language arts emphasis. Prospective language arts teacher hoping to achieve 'highly qualified' status, as designated by the government through the 'No Child Left Behind' program, must possess a 4-year degree and be certified in language arts.

Many universities require a minimum number of credit hours in core university classes to enter the teacher education program. Once admitted, students focus on education techniques and English education content. Typically, the final undergraduate semester is dedicated to student teaching. Students shadow a classroom teacher and, eventually, teach lessons on their own. A university professor or advisor, along with the cooperating classroom teacher, will grade student teachers on preparation, content knowledge and classroom management.

Instead of a secondary education option, some schools offer a bachelor's degree in English with a teacher certification. Students in this program simply major in English and participate in an accredited teacher education program, offered at a different school or college in the same university. This program typically takes four years to complete.

Every state requires a teaching license or certificate. Licensing requires a bachelor's degree and passage of a state certification exam. Teacher education classes can help prepare students for the exam, but some study time outside of the classroom may also be necessary. In some states, two exams are needed to teach language arts. One exam tests knowledge of content and teaching ability, while the other gauges how well prospective teachers understand their responsibilities and deal with certain issues.

After he or she is employed, the new educator is responsible for earning professional development hours as part of continuing his or her education. Most school districts make arrangements for this, with the teacher responsible for keeping a log of hours completed.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov) predicts that jobs for kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers will grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022, while high school teaching jobs will only increase by 6% during the same decade. The BLS also reported that median annual salaries for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers ranged between $50,120 and $55,050 as of May 2012.

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