How to Become a High School Teacher
The drive to become a high school teacher will launch you on one of the most rewarding career paths you can imagine. High school students are passionate, impulsive, determined, energetic and in need of guidance, mentoring and patience. Their educators need to bring to the classroom a high level of intellectual energy, the ability to stay centered in the midst of potential chaos, and an unflagging sense of humor.
High school teachers (sometimes also known as secondary school teachers) often instruct students in one specific subject -- mathematics, history, science, art, etc., using standard curriculum, lectures, group discussions, and hands-on methods, and evaluate each student's progress via exams and coursework completion. High school teachers are needed to not only teach curriculum, but also to guide students as they develop adult life skills and build on their academic strengths for higher learning or vocational training. A high school teacher should have an extensive number of teaching and interpersonal skills in order to be able to reach all students, and accommodate every style of learner.
A prospective high school teacher usually enrolls in a bachelor's degree program at a college or university, with an area of concentration or secondary major in the subject they plan to teach. There are Bachelor of Arts degrees and Bachelor of Science degrees both available – the one for you will depend on your teaching goals; someone planning to teach English will usually want to earn a Bachelor of Arts in English, while an educator interested in teaching math would look for a program offering a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. You can also look for general education degrees like a Bachelor of Arts in Education, for a strong teaching foundation, especially if you have not yet settled on your course focus, but keep in mind that teaching your personal strength/interest will make the classroom a happier environment for you and your students. Most undergraduate programs in secondary education are designed to prepare students looking to become licensed in education jobs in the state in which the program is accredited. To have a well-rounded degree, education majors usually focus on their area of concentration and also study classroom technology, educational psychology and classroom management. They also must complete a standard student teaching requirement or internship at the behest of their program advisor as part of their required teacher training.
While private schools generally don’t require their teaching staff to be licensed by the state, public schools do require this teacher training. The regulations and steps involved in licensing varies by state, but most require teachers to pass proficiency exams after they have completed their bachelor’s degree. The type of certificate depends on the age group each educator plans to teach. Many states require high school teachers (grades 9 – 12) to specialize in particular subjects before becoming a teacher, while others require each certified teacher to hold a master's degree or work toward one within the first few years of teaching. There are master’s degree programs designed for full-time teachers looking to earn their master’s degree while still working in the classroom.
It doesn’t stop there. In order to do well in your teaching position, you’ll need to continually assess, increase and refine competencies not traditionally associated with the classroom. As well as knowing your curriculum inside and out, you’ll need to be on top of pop culture, world events and current slang, as well as the latest in technology and how teens are using it (texting, chats, etc). And that textbook-based curriculum you’re using? It will be changing with the times, too. You might be using tablets, Skyping, cell phones, PowerPoint slide shows, and whatever cutting-edge tool is designed next. Working with teens in high school promises to be an ever-changing, intellectually stimulating, rewards career.