Middle school is a time of considerable transition for young students. They are becoming more independent, taking on more responsibilities and establishing their sense of identity. If you are wondering how to become a middle school teacher, you may feel called to inspire these young students to discover their true potential and attain greater academic and personal achievement. Being a middle school teacher can be challenging at times, but professionals who choose this career tend to find it personally fulfilling and deeply meaningful.
What Does a Middle School Teacher Do?
A middle school teacher typically teaches in grades six through eight, although some states classify fifth grade as part of middle school. It is common for a middle school teacher to teach one particular subject to multiple classes throughout the day. In some schools, such as those that consider fifth grade part of middle school, teachers are expected to teach all subjects to one class, as they would in an elementary classroom. Middle school teachers stay quite busy with the following responsibilities:
- Developing lesson plans in accordance with federal and state standards
- Teaching lessons and leading classroom discussions
- Creating assignments and grading students on their work
- Communicating with each student’s parent(s) or guardian(s) about the child’s progress, classroom behavior and other issues
- Enforcing classroom rules to maintain a safe, supportive environment
Middle school teachers may also serve as chaperones on field trips and be required to supervise groups outside of class, such as the lunchroom or detention. They must also regularly attend staff meetings. In addition, some teachers are involved with extracurricular activities. They may supervise the drama club, for example, or coach the school baseball team.
How to Become a Middle School Teacher: An Overview
Once you have decided on a career as a middle school teacher, your first step is to consider what state you intend to work in. All middle school teachers must hold a license or certification from the state in which they teach. Since the licensure/certification requirements vary from one state to the next, understanding the criteria for your chosen state is a necessary starting point. From there, you can make the appropriate plans.
Although certification requirements vary, every middle school teacher must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. It is best to choose a degree specifically designed for aspiring teachers. Your degree program will include a student teaching experience, which you will complete after all your other coursework. This will give you hands-on time managing a classroom and teaching students. Once you complete that satisfactorily and meet your state’s other certification requirements, you can begin searching for your first job as a middle school teacher.
Earning a Bachelor’s Degree for Secondary Education
Secondary education means the grades after elementary school. As noted above, unlike elementary school teachers, middle school teachers generally specialize in a particular subject, such as mathematics or English. Choose a degree program that specializes in the subject area you wish to teach. Before applying, make sure the program is accredited and aligns with licensure requirements for the state in which you plan to teach.
Details of the curriculum will vary from one school and degree program to the next. In general, you can expect to take coursework in your subject area of choice, along with teaching-specific classes. Topics covered in these courses might include classroom management and engagement, teaching methods, curriculum design and student assessments.
To position yourself for success in the classroom, strive to go beyond your coursework requirements. It is always a good idea for aspiring teachers to practice their skills by signing up for tutoring programs. You might tutor other undergraduate students or find a community tutoring program that pairs you with nearby elementary or secondary students in need of extra help. The more teaching experience you can get during your undergraduate years, the better.
In a similar vein, look for opportunities to practice your communication skills. Teachers need to be adept communicators and confident public speakers. Look for extracurricular activities that allow you to practice speaking before groups. Alternatively, consider joining a local chapter of Toastmasters, an organization dedicated to helping individuals become polished, confident public speakers.
Completing a Student Teaching Experience
The next step in becoming a middle school teacher is to acquire real-world experience. Tutoring and public speaking experience will serve you well when it’s time to become a student teacher. All aspiring middle school teachers must complete a certain number of supervised teaching hours. Before you can get started on them, you’ll need to complete certain requirements, such as fingerprint clearance and a passing grade on your state’s mandatory content area exams. You may also need to meet minimum GPA requirements.
Your student teaching program will be supervised by your college, the school in which you are placed and experienced teachers. In some cases, student teachers are placed at one school for the first half of the internship and another for the second half. This is intended to allow you to practice your teaching skills in varied settings.
Every student teaching experience is a little different. Initially, your supervising teacher may ask you simply to observe. Soon enough, however, you will begin giving lessons and working directly with students. This is an excellent learning experience for new teachers, so take plenty of notes and reflect carefully on what you did well and what you could have done better. Your supervising teacher will give you feedback and help you improve.
Acquiring Licensure in Your State
After you complete your student teaching internship and graduate with your degree, you will be ready to pursue licensure or certification in your state. Though requirements vary, expect to send in proof of your background check and fingerprint clearance along with your academic credential, student teaching experience and exam scores.
Note that you may be required to complete continuing education credits to maintain your teaching certification. In addition, some states require teachers to earn a master’s degree after they have begun working as certified teachers.
Landing Your First Job as a Middle School Teacher
Even before you are licensed, you will begin working toward landing your first job during your student teaching experience. At this time, you should begin asking for letters of recommendation from your supervising teachers. You should also begin collecting samples of your best lesson plans and student materials. Finally, begin defining your philosophy of teaching. These items will become part of your professional portfolio, which you will be asked to share with potential employers.
Expect a thorough interview, for which you should prepare by considering how you want to answer common questions in such areas as the following:
- Your philosophy and approach to teaching
- Your classroom management style
- How you might handle hypothetical classroom challenges
- Your subject area expertise
- Your motivations for becoming a middle school teacher
- How you’ve overcome challenges you’ve encountered
Always remember to send a thank-you note after your interview. This practice builds relationships that may serve you later if not immediately. It also reflects the kind of emotional intelligence that nurtures a positive classroom atmosphere.
Blend your passion for inspiring young learners with purpose when you enroll in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University. We are a leading destination for future educators, with a wide diversity of undergraduate degree programs that lead to initial teacher licensure. For example, you can earn a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics for Secondary Education or a Bachelor of Arts in English for Secondary Education. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to explore these and other exciting secondary education degree programs.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.