Middle school teachers work with pre-teen students, preparing them for high school by examining academic subjects in further depth and helping them adjust to new levels of independence. These educators must be adept at providing instruction on one or two subjects, unlike elementary school teachers, who cover a variety of subjects to an all-day classroom. Students in grades 6-8 go through major developmental changes, which teachers must be aware of as they design curricula and move forward with teaching methodologies.
Typical Requirements to Become a Middle School Teacher
|Minimum Education Level||Bachelor’s degree. Some states require middle school teachers to earn a master’s degree.|
|Recommended Major Field(s)||Elementary education or a specific content area, such as English, history, or math with additional education training. States also have other certification routes for prospective teachers who have already earned a bachelor’s degree unrelated to education.|
|Licensure/Certification||State-issued teaching licenses or certificates are necessary to teach in a public school. Private schools don’t usually require licensure. The requirements will vary by state.|
|Minimum Work Experience||States often require a certain amount of supervised student teaching experience, which can often be acquired during a degree or certification program. Required hours will vary by state.|
Key Skills and Strengths
- Social Awareness: Most middle school teachers will be working with 11-13 year olds. These preteens will be facing dramatically different social, emotional, and physical changes than students in grades K-6. Teachers will need to be aware of these social nuances, encourage positive behaviors, and watch out for signs of bullying or domestic issues.
- Flexibility: Teachers will face different types of pushback and behaviors from middle school students, who are becoming more independent. These instructors need to think on their feet, continuing to serve as role models in their classrooms, while maintaining control over groups of pre-teens. Teachers can’t get stuck in ineffective strategies – they must be open to trying new methodologies.
- Persistence: Since these students are on their way to adolescence, they are starting to enjoy greater freedoms in the classroom and at home. Teachers will be continually challenged by this age group, which can slow down lesson plans and become emotionally draining. Middle school educators must find strategies to move beyond these boundaries
- Poise: Maintaining your composure can be difficult if you have a particularly unruly class. Middle school teachers can easily become stressed while working with this age group, and they must retain their sense of humor, remain upbeat, and stay focused on the academic goals of the classroom. Teachers who can balance their emotions will often find it easier to keep their classroom on track.
- Engaging communications: As middle school students begin the journey into adolescence, they’ll be taking on greater responsibilities and going through major physical and mental changes. They might become easily distracted or bored during class, which can detract from their learning experience. Teachers must be able to present their lessons in a way that is relevant and interesting to this age group.
Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary / Middle School Education
If you’re interested in middle school students, then you have a variety of bachelor’s degree options to explore, which usually take between 4-5 years to complete. A bachelor’s degree in elementary education is preferred, and many colleges encourage students to choose content field specializations, such as mathematics, history, or language arts. Some colleges offer specific middle school degrees, which focus solely on the instruction of students in grades 7-8. If you have already earned a bachelor’s degree without a focus on education, each state has an alternate route to licensure, as listed by the U.S. Department of Education.
Prospective middle school teachers will often take survey courses introducing them to psychology, childhood cognition, and pedagogy fundamentals. They will generally be expected to take education courses on as many as three different content areas, allowing them to be versatile with the subject matter they teach in classrooms.
- Childhood and Adolescent Development: Teachers at the K-8 levels will watch their students grow into young adults, going through a multitude of physical, emotional, and mental changes. Understanding these developments are critical for designing classrooms and curricula that meet the needs of students.
- Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Classroom: Middle school teachers will often work with diverse groups of students from multiple cultural backgrounds. Creating inclusive learning environments is a major priority for schools, because it helps all students achieve higher rates of success.
- Curricula Development: Middle school teachers are expected to develop lesson plans, class schedules, and assignments that meet certain local, state, and national education requirements. Prospective educators will learn how to be aware of public school standards as they move forward with creating curricula plans.
Master’s Degree in Elementary Education
As mentioned earlier, some states require master’s degrees in order for teachers to find employment, so you’ll want to check your state’s specific degree requirements before enrolling in a degree program. Some colleges blend their middle school master’s degree programs with the elementary education departments, while others keep the two separate. These programs can take anywhere between 10-12 months to complete, and they place a greater emphasis on research and further content area specializations.
Master’s degree students will be expected to devote their time to specializing within a content area and to exploring advance pedagogical concepts. They can participate in extended fieldwork in middle school environments, and the research they conduct is usually applied to a capstone project before graduation.
- Student Teaching in the Middle School: While most bachelor’s programs include fieldwork experiences, master’s students will continue to gain classroom experience through supervised student teaching
opportunities in middle school classrooms.
- Content Area Courses: At the bachelor’s level, educators are expected to be well-versed on a range of content subjects. However ,master’s students will often dive further into a single content area, such as mathematics, political science, history, or English.
- Foundations of Urban Education: This is particularly relevant for middle school masters candidates who will be working at schools based in the city. These student demographics often face very different social and domestic challenges than students encounter outside of urban settings. Educators will immerse themselves in the socioeconomic histories and current climates of these work environments.
Work Experience Requirements
The work experiences required by states are highly variable, but most locations expect educators to student-teach under supervision for a certain amount of hours before the new educator can earn a license or certificate as a middle school teacher. Luckily, most degree programs provide students with these work opportunities. Just make sure that your college offers enough fieldwork opportunities for you to meet the work experience requirements set by your local department of education.
The road to licensure or certification will look different depending on the state you’re based in professionally. There are nearly 30 different types of credentials educators can earn in the U.S., depending on how long they’ve been working in the classroom and their future specializations. However, most state-issued certificates or licenses have the following minimum requirements:
- Fingerprints taken for a criminal background check
- Supervised student teaching in middle school classrooms
- A bachelor’s degree or higher
Looking for a Teaching Job
Once you earn your state license or certificate, you’ll be qualified to start working as a middle school teacher. Luckily, the job outlook for this role is growing at a rate similar to the national average, which is 12% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Before finishing your degree program, you should use college resources such as career counselors, who can coach you on questions that frequently come up during interviews with schools. State and local websites will often list public school openings, while individual private schools will often post employment opportunities on general career boards and on their respective institution websites.