Want to know how to become a middle school teacher? Let Magoosh help with a step-by-step guide to getting a teaching job at a middle school.
Step 1: Make sure you really want to work with this age group
Are you sure you want to teach junior high kids? Don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to dissuade you. In fact, middle school is my personal favorite age group to work with. I find kids this age to be more attentive than younger students, yet not as moody or rebellious as some high school kids.
Or at least, middle school students are more attentive and less difficult on average. You’ll still deal with some middle school students — usually the younger ones — who have the same joyous and sometimes exhausting energy as younger elementary school kids. And by the time middle school children get to the eighth grade, they can be as independent, rebellious, and difficult as the toughest high school student. (Back when I taught middle school, my colleagues and I nicknamed our eighth grade class “the firing squad.”)
In other words, some teachers see middle school as the best of both worlds — kids at the crossroads between early childhood and high school. Other teachers feel like middle school students are in the worst of both worlds, with the inattentive energy of a small child, but the difficulty of a moody teenager.
So before you commit to being a middle school teacher, seek out opportunities to work with kids this age. Volunteer or find paying work at a local parks and rec center for kids that age, or find similar work someplace like the YMCA or Boys’ and Girls’ Club. If you’re already training to be a teacher, find practicum experiences at the middle school level.
Step 2: Get a degree with a strong subject area emphasis
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are generalists. They teach small children the basics in every subject area– math, language arts, science, and so on. In contrast, middle school teachers are expected to be specialists. If you teach in a middle school, you’ll teach a specific subject — music, science, math, English, art, etc.
Decide which subject you want to teach, and seek out a degree path in it. Very often, middle school teachers will actually major in what they want to teach. There are two ways you can do this. You could get a bachelor’s degree in your subject, and take supplemental teacher licensing classes. In other cases, a degree that specifically trains you to teach content (such as a History Education degree or Math Teaching degree) may be offered at your school.
Step 3: Complete your teaching degree and go through the licensing process
Once you’ve finished your degree (including your student teaching), you’ll be ready to complete the last steps of the licensure process. This means meeting your state’s testing requirements and submitting a teaching portfolio to the state board.
Where testing requirements are concerned, you will usually take a general academic skills exam (such as the Praxis Core) and a content area exam (possiby the Praxis II/Praxis Subject Assessment). In some cases, you’ll also need to take a Praxis PLT — probably the one for grades 5-9.
Step 4: Get a job
I know, I know — this last step is easier said than done. But getting a job is quite feasible. For one thing, the job market for middle school teachers isn’t nearly as competitive as the one for becoming an elementary school teacher. If you’re licensed in a less commonly-taught subject, you may have a little more trouble finding work. But if you’re willing to teach outside of your content area, you should be fine. (See my post on what to do if you can’t find a teaching job in your preferred subject.)