Teaching Elementary School

An elementary school is an institution where children receive primary education, which is obligatory in most of the countries. Teaching there involves work with small children whose age differs depending on the country's education system. In most of the cases they start at six years old and their education continues for four or five years in elementary school. Compulsory education gradually spread in 19th and 20th centuries. In many societies fines are imposed on parents who do not send their children to school.

Teaching elementary school requires a series of competences. Teachers usually make differences in young lives, a process, which requires patience, dedication, knowledge and hard work. Teachers are well prepared by taking courses in maths, history, English, science, sociology, arts, child psychology or development. A major in elementary education usually means five-years of studies.

First, teachers have to pass prerequisite courses and standardised tests and then they start an education programme. A bachelor's degree in education along with specific teaching courses is required from elementary school teachers. They usually have to pass one semester as a student teacher too.

Many future teachers decide to start working with children as soon as possible. They volunteer at local elementary schools or with youth groups in their area, but often travel abroad to work with small children, help in kindergartens or just teach a foreign language to local pupils. Teachers presume that most teaching credential programs will require documented evidence of experience with children in or out the classroom. University and college programmes also offer trainings after the end of the education programme.

Upon completion of the education programmes, teachers may apply for a job. Many elementary school teachers teach core subjects like English and math. But there are teachers, who are trained in teaching music or sport. Their job can by rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Schools usually work with limited budgets and there are not enough resources to cover all the needs of the pupils. Teachers face every-day situations where lack of materials or chances to work more with lower performing students restrain progress in the classroom.

Teachers are often a combination of teacher, mother, nurse and counselor. They work with students usually, between 6 and 11 years old, which may involve a large number of accidents, such as loosing teeth and early teen-problems. Teachers have to be able to respond to all of these stages of development. They need to know all the time how to communicate with their students. Also, teachers shall be able to communicate well with each other and with the administrative staff of the school.

School teachers prepare for every class and by writing a lesson plan. The plan allows teachers to achieve their main goal – measurable student learning. The plan contains the lesson objectives which are in line with the education standards in the country. The teacher situates the plan in the context of her or his students' knowledge. He or she knows exactly how they will present the lesson's concepts to the students. The children are always given an opportunity to take part in the lesson and apply the skills they have learned.

Teaching at elementary school may require the use of a multiple intelligences method. The method describes the human intelligence by eight main ideas – children and people are body smart, word smart, number smart, people smart, art smart, self smart, music smart and nature smart. Then, when pupils learn history, per example, they may sing songs, draw pictures, go to school dressed as the people they are studying for. They are taught via activities, which develop and use their specific talents. When it is time for an exam, pupils are able to recall what they have studied as the knowledge is deeply ingrained.

The theory of multiple intelligences, which was proposed by Harvard education professor Howard Gardner, suggests that there are different approaches to find how students learn and understand concepts and abstract ideas. The approaches suggested by the method have practical value in the classroom. Hence, children who have problems with math could learn to multiply, for instance, using a different approach or may have intelligence which will allow them to develop in other fields or may simply be looking at and understanding the processes at a deeper level. The method suggests that a child who has no problems with addition and subtraction is not necessarily more intelligent than a child who has difficulties with math.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Effective Teaching
Richard Dunne; Ted Wragg.
Routledge, 1994
Creative Teachers in Primary Schools
Peter Woods.
Open University Press, 1995
Teachers and 'Stuff.'
Van Horn, Royal.
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 76, No. 10, June 1995
Teacher's Professional Development and the Elementary Mathematics Classroom: Bringing Understanding to Light
Sophia Cohen.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
The Learning-to-Write Process in Elementary Classrooms
Suzanne Bratcher.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Elementary Science Education: The Influence of Student Teaching-Where It All Begins
Plourde, Lee A.
Education, Vol. 123, No. 2, Winter 2002
The Analysis of the Emotional Intelligence Skills and Potential Problem Areas of Elementary Educators
Kaufhold, John A.; Johnson, Lori R.
Education, Vol. 125, No. 4, Summer 2005
Doing History: Investigating with Children in Elementary and Middle Schools
Linda S. Levstik; Keith C. Barton.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001 (2nd edition)
Reader Response in Elementary Classrooms: Quest and Discovery
Nicholas J. Karolides.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Balancing Principles for Teaching Elementary Reading
James V. Hoffman; James F. Baumann; Peter Afflerbach; Ann M. Duffy-Hester; Sarah J. McCarthey; Jennifer Moon Ro.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Beyond Classical Pedagogy: Teaching Elementary School Mathematics
Terry Wood; Barbara Scott Nelson; Janet Warfield.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Caring and Elementary Teaching: The Concerns of Male Beginning Teachers
Hansen, Paul; Mulholland, Judith A.
Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 56, No. 2, March-April 2005
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