First Grade Teacher Education Requirements and Job Description
First grade teachers head a single classroom of children aged six or seven. They teach reading and writing skills as well as also introduce mathematical and science concepts to first graders. First grade teachers typically need a bachelor's degree education as well as licensure and certification for work in public schools.
Education Requirements for First Grade Teachers
The traditional route to becoming an elementary school teacher begins with earning a bachelor's degree from a teacher education program. The Teacher Education Accreditation Council and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accredit education programs for teachers. Students planning to teach at the first grade level should find a program that offers an early childhood (preschool through grade three) or elementary education (grades 1-6) degree.
In addition to completing coursework, students observe and work with students in a classroom setting. They write sample lesson plans and research philosophies of teaching. Students learn about childhood development and examine activities that are developmentally appropriate for first graders. Elementary and early childhood education degree programs may cover the following subject areas:
- Child or educational psychology
- Technology in the classroom
- Beginning reading
- Elementary science
- Elementary mathematics
- Special education
- Classroom instruction techniques
Most programs require students to complete a supervised student teaching internship at a nearby school. Students typically must complete this phase prior to gaining employment. In order to teach first grade in a public school, teachers need a state license. Private schools may not require licensing. To qualify for a teaching license, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree and demonstrate that they have completed supervised teaching experience. Teaching licenses can be obtained through an individual's state Board of Education.
First grade teachers work in both public and private schools. Typically, first grade consists of children age six or seven. A talent for communicating with young children and encouraging academic achievement is essential for the job. Since many first graders are still learning how to behave in a classroom setting, a high level of patience is also needed.
First grade teachers deliver lessons on elementary reading, writing and mathematics and also introduce basic science concepts to students. Oftentimes, early childhood teachers use arts and crafts, classroom games and other activities to help students understand the lessons. Teachers communicate with parents and supervisors about the educational and behavioral challenges of individual children. In addition to grading papers, first grade teachers write report cards, which provide specific feedback on each child's performance. They may also meet with parents in one-on-one conferences. Common job duties include:
- Leading group study, discussion and demonstration
- Introduction of new concepts
- Behavior and rule enforcement
- Objective communication
- Evaluation and observance of students
- Challenging students in preparation for advanced education
- Material preparation and delivery
Some teachers choose to go back to school for a master's degree in education or a related field. Several school districts pay college tuition for teachers enrolled in graduate courses. Some districts may even require their teachers to earn a master's degree within a few years of being hired.
Obtaining a master's degree generally will increase a teacher's salary or stature. Similarly, completing a voluntary certification program through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards can accomplish upward mobility for teachers who wish to advance their careers, salaries, benefits or a combination thereof (www.nbpts.org).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, (www.bls.gov) predicts faster than the national average growth for elementary school teachers, at a rate of 17% between 2010-2020. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary school teachers was $53,400 as of May, 2012.
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