Different age groups can provide very different teaching experiences. So what grade should you teach? You’ll want to decide early on in your teacher training.
What grade should you teach? It depends on your preferred age group
The first step to deciding what grade you should teach is deciding on a preferred age group. You have three basic choices: young children (preschool and elementary school), adolescents (late elementary school, middle school, and early high school) and teens who are nearing adulthood (high school).
Part of this choice depends on what you love to do as a teacher. If you enjoy directing children in guided play, younger kids are the best to work with. If you want to teach kids how to develop their higher thinking skills, adolescents are probably the group for you. And if you want to teach serious academic content that prepares students for college and work, you’ll likely enjoy teaching high school aged teens.
You should also consider the job market before choosing an age group. Sure you might prefer teaching younger children, but maybe your city or state has a greater need for middle or high school teachers. Doing what you love is very important in your career. But if you can be flexible to meet the needs of your preferred job market, that can be good for your career in the long run too.
So what grade should you teach within your preferred age group?
Once you’ve decide on a preferred age group, you’re ready to choose a specific grade. Again, the kind of teaching you want to do is an important factor. If your really love helping young learners grow and play, preschool, kindergarten, or grades 1 through 3 are great. If you’re more interested in helping children develop good thinking skills as they mature, grade 4 is a good place to start. And opportunities to teach college-style academics really increase from the sophomore year of high school onward.
The job market also plays a role in your decision here of course. Maybe you really want to teach first grade, but only kindergarten or second grade jobs are open to you at the moment. In cases like this, I strongly recommend choosing the next nearest grade to your preferred one. Starting your teaching career sooner rather than later will open up a lot of doors to you in the future; when it comes to age groups, there’s no sense in waiting for a completely “perfect” teaching job.
What to do if you’re not sure what grade you should teach
A lot of students aren’t sure what age of student they would really prefer to work with. And they may not be sure which grades have the most teaching jobs. If your’e studying to be a teacher and you’re not sure which grade is best for you, you’ll have chances to decide while you do your teacher training.
Seek out field experiences in many different classrooms during your studies. And start keeping an eye on the job market now–read school district job postings and teacher job boards. If you’re not sure how to find varied fieldwork and good job boards to review, check with an adviser. Your academic advisers may be able to give you some additional advice about this important decision as well.
If you’re still not sure what grade you should teach, even after you graduate, consider substitute teaching. Subbing is a really good way to feel out the kinds of teaching work you’d like to do full time. And most school districts love to hire licensed subs for teaching positions.