First Grade Teacher Job Description
If the idea of spending the day with a group of six- and seven-year-old children sounds exciting, you may be destined to become a first grade teacher. Among the earliest educators children encounter at school, first grade teachers help set a tone that learning is exciting and everyone can succeed. But don’t get the notion that first grade is simply about fun and games. Critical basic skills in reading, writing, and math are introduced at this level, and mastery of them lays a strong foundation for future educational experiences.
Both public and private schools hire first grade teachers. Instructors teach for about six to seven hours Monday through Friday, generally all morning until mid-afternoon. They also may need to come in early or stay late to handle bus duties, attend meetings, or supervise extracurricular activities. The majority of schools do not hold regular classes in the summer, which gives first grade teachers several weeks free to relax, pursue other interests, or even hold a temporary job.
First Grade Teacher Duties and Responsibilities
Busy days are par for the course for first grade teachers. Job postings reveal the following as some of the most common duties they are expected to perform:
Each grade level at a school has its own learning objectives and materials that need to be covered. First grade teachers make daily, weekly, and even future schedules that detail what students will be doing when.
It should come as no surprise that much of the position revolves around teaching. Instructors explain things, answer questions, encourage discussions, and create activities. Since children learn in different ways and at different speeds, first grade teachers often need to adjust their methods to fit individual students.
First grade teachers spend a good amount of time grading worksheets and tests. They look for patterns of mistakes in order to point out what individuals are doing incorrectly. They also offer praise for improvement or hard work to encourage positive behavior.
With anywhere from 15 to 30 students, first grade classrooms can get chaotic. First grade teachers work to ensure a safe, controlled environment by setting up rules, organizing movement, and disciplining as necessary.
First graders travel to various places during the course of the day. Teachers need to watch the clock so that their students arrive to the cafeteria or other classes, like gym, on time.
They also need to be aware of where every student is at all times, such as which ones are absent or who is in the bathroom.
Communicate with Parents and Staff
First grade teachers attend meetings with colleagues to go over various school-related matters. Instructors also interact with the parents of their students. Actions might include emailing a note, holding conferences, and chatting for a moment during daily drop-off.
First Grade Teacher Skills and Qualifications
If you lack patience and energy, find a different profession! First grade teachers need to remain calm and upbeat to deal with students and motivate them to succeed. First grade teachers also need a thorough understanding of how children think in order to make learning fun and effective. Other things essential to getting the job done include:
- Empathy – understanding the world from the perspective of a young child helps with bonding
- Perceptiveness – teachers learn a great deal about students by watching them and listening
- Planning and organizing – good structure and time management keeps students on course
- Collaboration – students benefit when teachers work with parents and other school personnel to develop solutions to challenges
- Multitasking – teachers constantly juggle demands from students, parents, and administrators and need to be able to prioritize
- Creativity – thinking outside the box can enhance learning experiences and sometimes make up for a lack of resources
First Grade Teacher Education and Training
All first grade teachers possess at least a bachelor’s degree. Most major in elementary education and take classes in areas such as child development, psychology, curriculum planning, classroom management, and teaching methods. Hands-on experience is provided by student-teaching in an actual classroom under the guidance of a certified teacher.
Plan on becoming licensed if you want to teach first grade in a public school (policies at private schools vary). Each state has its own specific criteria for certification but commonly require a bachelor’s degree through a teacher-preparation program that includes supervised student-teaching, a clean background check, and passing a general test showing competency in the subjects one wishes to teach. To remain certified, many states require elementary teachers to take continuing education courses or seminars on a regular basis or to work toward a master’s degree.
First Grade Teacher Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the national median annual salary for first grade teachers, classified under “elementary school teachers, except special education,” as $55,800. Teachers in the 10th percentile earn around $36,500 a year, while the highest paid make more than $88,000. In general, first grade teachers at public schools have larger salaries than their counterparts at private institutions.
First grade teachers often receive benefits such as insurance, sick days, a retirement plan, and sometimes free cafeteria lunches. They receive paid time off during times when students are not in session, such as winter break, federal holidays, and summer vacation. Some teachers add to their income by taking on additional duties such as teaching summer school.
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of elementary school teachers is expected to grow 7 percent by 2026. However, prospects can vary significantly by region and oftentimes depend heavily on budgets. Creating larger classrooms by hiring fewer teachers sometimes happens when state and local governments experience deficits.
First Grade Teacher Helpful Resources
Do you have what it takes to be an outstanding first grade teacher? The following sources of information can help in the decision-making process:
National Education Association – This well-established organization is a go-to place for all things related to teaching.
Everything You Need to Know to Teach First Grade – As the title suggests, this book offers assistance in a variety of areas related to creating a successful classroom.
Association of American Educators – For everything from professional development to the latest educational hot topics, the website of this national organization has you covered.
Elementary Group for Teachers – This LinkedIn community of 82,000-plus members provides a way for first grade teachers and similar professionals to share what works in their classrooms.
National Association for the Education of Young Children – Children from birth through age eight are the focus of this group, which is involved in everything from policymaking to professional standards.
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