Careers in Education
You've earned your education degree because you want to teach. Perhaps you've always pictured yourself in your own classroom, decorated in your own inimitable style, a room that spills with the joy of learning. That's a wonderful goal; but in order to take the greatest advantage of your education and what you have to offer the world, it's important for you to consider all the options.
Certainly, most graduates of education programs do become classroom teachers or specialists. Some have their own classes; others travel from room to room to push- in and work with an identified group of students, or to pull- out students to work in the hallway, library, an empty classroom or a special classroom. These are noble jobs, and provide tremendous satisfaction.
For some, however, they may not be the right fit. For example, perhaps you are tremendously well organized. You are methodical in how you arrange information, cross- referencing important pieces that belong in more than one category. Or maybe you've got a deep love in your heart for children who are categorized as special needs. You may have experience working with a deaf child, or one with learning disabilities, or one with special gifts in a particular area. Maybe you grew up in several countries and easily translate from one language to another. Maybe you are a whiz kid when it comes to math or science—your fossil collection goes back to the age of three, when you found a trilobite (and knew what it was called!) in the load of driveway gravel your parents had delivered. Or maybe numbers just make more sense to you than people. You've got a special talent, an ability that, in combination with your education degree, can provide you with a career in education that would be especially rewarding to you. Because you are a teacher, and because teachers typically look first, last and always, at how they can serve others, it might be difficult for you to accept a career that's more satisfying to you than simply teaching. In that case, consider this: you're not only an educator, someone who is committed and devoted to teaching; you've also got a special ability, skill, training or talent that most other teachers lack. If this is the case, it's not only in your best interest, it's in the world's best interest, that you investigate educational specialties that will be your perfect fit. Consider a career that combines your education degree with a specialization in bilingual education, special education, math and science, or educational administration.
If you're someone who could assume one of these positions, you'd not only be entering a field that would make you even happier than teaching in a self- contained classroom, you'd be fulfilling a very real need that every school district in the country currently faces. There's no reason you can't be happy and fulfill your greatest prospects at the same time.
Our country began as a nation of immigrants. While there are those who would like to see all borders closed, that isn't likely to happen anytime soon. After all, many of the people who make it into this country are incredibly hard- working and determined. They've held several jobs and saved for years. Once they become citizens, they appreciate the country in ways that many native- born Americans don't realize. Legal immigrants bring new ideas and new energy to keep America strong. And for nearly every citizen, except those who are 100% native American, we are all the sons and daughters of immigrants.
But without the help of bilingual teachers, these newcomers to our shores are unlikely to succeed. After all, it's language that ties a nation together, and if they cannot express themselves nor understand others, their opportunities to advance will be greatly limited.
How can a bilingual teacher work with students who speak many different languages—especially if the teacher herself speaks only English? An education degree with a specialty in bilingual education offers a plethora of skills, instructional strategies and techniques. While you will find ample opportunity to teach in public or private elementary, middle and high schools, the types of jobs available to bilingual teachers is even broader. Local businesses, training programs designed and implemented by local or state government, community colleges, technical schools, adult education programs and private tutoring all offer employment opportunities or ways to supplement a public school teacher's salary.
Bilingual teachers have many tasks. Of course, they need to teach their students the rules of grammar and sufficient vocabulary for basic communication. English is an idiom- rich language, and also contains more homonyms (words that sound alike with different meanings) than many other languages. As well, English uses many words that have two or more distinct meanings, some of which are completely unrelated! For example, is composed of extremists, while a scarf can be decorated with fringe, and bangs cut across the forehead are referred to as a fringe. Yet another meaning is found in science, where many new ideas exist on the fringe—not yet proven, but worth exploring. Bilingual teachers must teach their students not only to understand spoken English, they must also teach pronunciation. Unfortunately, there are many capable legal immigrants who are unable to get work or make progress because no one can understand them. The goal isn't elimination of accent, but forming sounds that are distinct in English. For example, a Japanese speaker must be trained to hear the distinction between /l/ and /r/, and then trained to form those separate sounds using the placement of the tongue against teeth or hard palate.
In some schools, bilingual teachers have a classroom that students visit throughout the day as pull- outs. These teachers work closely with classroom teachers, helping to ensure their charges are able to follow and understand the core instruction the classroom teacher is stressing. Some bilingual teachers move from classroom to classroom, pulling a small group of students to the back of the room where she individualizes each student's instruction according to their IEP.
As we continue to become a nation that is a microcosm of the world, with students from every continent and many countries, bilingual teachers are becoming ever more important. Specializing in bilingual education is not only a rewarding career choice, it's an important way to contribute to improving the lives of students and ultimately, to making the country stronger and more diverse.
It takes a truly special teacher to take on the sometimes frustrating work of a special education teacher. At the same time, each day in the life of such a teacher is equally filled with celebration as students learn new skills, internalize important pieces of information that have proved difficult to master, and grow as individuals. Teachers who have supplemented their education degree with coursework in special education will discover finding a job is considerably easier than it may be for teachers without this specialty.
Special education teachers are in very high demand, and might work with an extremely wide range of disabilities. Some special education teachers are trained to teach children who have profound emotional, physical, psychological or cognitive disabilities. The primary task these teachers face is in preparing their charges to learn sufficient basic life skills in order to survive on their own. They must teach them to make wise social decisions and learn acceptable social skills, to handle money and pay bills, to manage basic cleaning tasks, how to ask and follow directions, and so forth.
More often, a special education teacher will be responsible for students who are challenged by disabilities that are mild or moderate. These teachers work with family members, other teachers and administrators, appropriate members of the community and sometimes with the student himself to create an IEP, or Individualized Education Program that is designed to teach the student what others at his grade level are learning through the use of specialized instruction. Special education teachers often must provide remedial coaching, and often work closely with the classroom teachers to ensure the student is able to understand and apply these lessons.
Special education teachers might work with learning disabilities, speech impairments, language understanding problems, mental retardation, emotional issues, hearing, visual or orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, and a multitude of other impairments. Because a student must be identified under one of the appropriate categories in order to fall under the special education umbrella and receive an IEP, early identification and intervention is extremely important. Young children can learn skills and techniques that will serve them for a lifetime, as well as building blocks that will make later learning much less frustrating.
Among the techniques special education teachers employ are adjusting instructional methods to meet the needs of each child; working with small groups or one- on- one to learn problem- solving techniques, simplifying written materials, supplementing written materials with oral work, providing visual aids, teaching mnemonic devices, and allowing extended testing time. These teachers must also be on the lookout for emotional or behavioral issues and address them on the spot as well as discussing them with parents, school counselors or other appropriate individuals.
For many students, the goal of the IEP is to integrate individualized learning in the classroom community so that the special education student can participate in learning with others his age or grade level. Sometimes this is accomplished through pushing- in, in which the special education teacher works with one or more children within the classroom setting. At other times, special education children are full members of their classroom community, and might meet with the special education teacher to discuss challenges they've faced and work on possible resolutions.
While all types of teaching are greatly rewarding, few offer greater satisfaction than special education.
School districts around the country are facing a serious lack of qualified science and math teachers, especially on the high school level. This problem can be attributed to at least two sources, and correcting it is urgent or the United States will discover in the not- too- distant future that other countries have eclipsed ours in these all- important fields.
On one hand, college students with an interest or ability in mathematics or one or more aspects of science have a lot of majors to choose from. Many of these majors will lead to strong job security, a much higher starting salary than that offered to first- year teachers, the opportunity to advance at a rapid pace and to a higher level than teachers can, and a plethora of other benefits. In addition, advancements in technology are largely based upon math and the sciences. A middle or high school math or science teacher will be required to participate in almost continuous ongoing education simply to keep abreast of changes in technology. These two considerations mean that fewer and fewer educators are specializing in math or science. As a result, many districts are forced to place teachers who lack the necessary training or skills in such positions. As well, schools in lower income areas are even less likely to find qualified math and science teachers. This results in a self- perpetuating problem. How can lower- income students hope to improve themselves through education, if the education they receive is sub- par?
Fortunately, there are those who aren't tempted by money, benefits, advancement and other perks. Those who enter college intent upon earning an education degree and plan to specialize in math or science will find jobs with very little difficulty, and will gain great satisfaction in helping their students learn.
Government and private sector initiatives have, in recent years, made teaching math and science on a high school level increasingly attractive. Higher salaries coupled with expanded curriculum and innovative teaching methods are encouraging more potential teachers to consider going in this direction. In addition, many universities and teacher colleges have made a commitment to overhauling their math and science curriculums and offering financial and other incentives to the math and science teachers of tomorrow.
Whether your passion is for pure math at its most abstract or applied math, whether nothing fascinates you like fossils or DNA, pursuing a career as a math or science teacher will not only guarantee you a job, it will also result in a great deal of satisfaction for both you and your students.
While most students pursue an education degree with the ultimate goal of teaching, other options are available and, for the right kind of individual, might prove to be very satisfying work. A school is a business, albeit a special one. Businesses require professionally trained experts who understand how things are done in the business world. Without educational administrators, no school or district could survive.
But in order to be a successful educational administrator, it's important to understand the operations of a school building from the inside out. For this reason, many, if not most, educational administrators begin as teachers themselves. Any amount of experience in the classroom, working in a lower- level administrative position or as an assistant principal, curriculum specialist or head of a department, will ultimately improve a higher- level administrator's ability to handle a crisis, to negotiate a satisfactory agreement between parties in disagreement, and to manage the business of business.
Many educators who eventually become administrators do so in a series of steps. First they attend a teaching program and earn an education degree with the intent of teaching in a self- contained classroom or as a specialist. Over time, they may discover a talent for organization, a particular interest in helping to develop curriculum, or a willingness to serve on a committee with some administrative duties. If they discover a particular pleasure in this type of work and decide to pursue becoming an administrator, most must return to school to earn a master's degree in educational leadership or education administration. In other cases, those interested in working as a central office administrator or principal may be required to each a doctoral degree or the equivalent in a specialized education administration degree. Private schools are able to be a little more lenient; some will permit principals or other administrators to hold only a bachelor's degree.
What is the work education administrators are responsible for? They are the individuals who are responsible for organization daily educational and social activities as well as special events, and for making sure these activities run smoothly and according to plan. They must know federal and state requirements inside out, because when problems arise that require immediate attention there is little latitude for error.
Not only do administrators plan events and activities, they also create protocol, rules, and regulations for how these things are to be carried out. Among their tasks is the supervision of teachers, support staff, counselors, managers, and others. They focus on the educational and behavioral progress of individual students and on the student body as a whole, arrange for ongoing teacher training, and review records and budgets to ensure they are being properly kept. Issues with parents or other care givers, with troubled students, and with the community itself will be addressed through administrative meetings and the involved individuals. In addition to everything else, school principals also largely establish the academic and psychological ‘weather' within a building by setting the communicative tone, making themselves more (or less) available for brief meetings and interventions, visiting classrooms, and the like. Like classroom teachers, the most effective education administrators make their goals and expectations fair, clear and consistent.
Without the support of assistant principals, it is unlikely that most principals would be able to complete all these tasks and more. Assistant principals may be on track to advance to a principal position at a later point in time, while others choose to remain in an assistant position as a career. Among their primary duties are the scheduling of classes and ensuring that sufficient books and other media have been ordered for the upcoming semester or year. Assistant principals are the great organizers who coordinate everything from custodial staff to cafeteria responsibilities. Issues with student attendance or behavior falls within the realm of assistant principals; only in the most complex or hard- core cases will they turn to the principal for involvement.
The central office within a school district is populated with administrators who are assigned specific content area task, such as special education, sciences, English, music, and the like. These specialists work with curriculum specialists to assess materials and instructional techniques, as well as supervising the work done by building- level instructional coordinators.
Last Updated: 06/08/2014