Even though most teachers are paid far less than other working professionals with a comparable level of education, teaching maintains a high level of job satisfaction for working teachers. This is especially true for elementary school teachers who, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, consistently rate their level of job satisfaction as "high" in comparison to secondary school teachers. Consequently, though the field is hard to break into, and it is filled with challenges such as a fluid schedule, a requirement to know multiple disciplines and issues relating to teacher/student attachment, working elementary school teachers consider the profession well worth it.
In most elementary schools, a single teacher or core group of teachers will work with a group of students for the course of the academic day and year. This intense exposure produces both one of the strongest benefits of teaching elementary school, as well as one of its most unfortunate detriments: attachment between the teachers and students. Though teachers and students are able to form a tight-knit bond that helps facilitate the educational process, many elementary school teachers complain that the end of every school year is heart-wrenching as they must say goodbye to yet another group of students with which they've become incredibly close.
Unlike secondary teachers, elementary teachers do not need to specialize in a single content area such as English, Math or Science. Indeed elementary school teachers must have a general background in terms of content areas, as they will likely be required to teach all subjects to their group of students. This jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none position is both a blessing and a curse. Many elementary school teachers relish the opportunity to connect normally disparate and distinct content areas (for example, English and math or history and science) in their daily instruction. Other elementary school teachers feel overwhelmed by the vast amount of background information they must have in order to successfully teach all subjects with equal enthusiasm and expertise.
For the most part, the daily schedule of elementary school teachers is quite fluid, owing to the fact that a single teacher will often have the same group of students for several hours or class periods. During that time, an elementary teacher must cover a variety of subjects. The fluidity of an elementary school teacher's schedule allows him to avoid pitfalls that trouble secondary teachers: unexpected events. While unplanned events such as school assemblies, fire drills, snow days and so on will often wreck a secondary teacher's schedule, these same events can often be easily accounted for by an elementary school teacher. On the other hand, given the youthfulness of their students, elementary school teachers are often subject to far more of these schedule interruptions (student disruptions, field trips, nurse visits and so on) than their secondary education counterparts.
Though not associated with the practice of the profession itself, the extreme competitiveness of finding a position as an elementary school teacher is certainly a negative feature of the profession as a whole. Elementary education has always been one of the more popular fields within education, and most years the ratio of new elementary school jobs to new and experienced elementary school teachers on the market greatly favors the districts hiring, rather than the applicants hoping to be hired.
- "Your First Year As an Elementary School Teacher : Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional"; Lynne Marie Rominger, Karen Heisinger and Natalie Elkin; 2001
- National Science Foundation: Chapter 1: Elementary and Secondary Education Teacher Salaries, Working Conditions, and Job Satisfaction
- National Center for Education Statistics; Job Satisfaction Among America's Teachers; Marianne Peri; July 1997
- Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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