Teaching has transformed from a simple educational function into a complex profession. Teaching develops the minds of children and young adults, and prepares them to become worthwhile citizens of society. The history of teaching can be traced to Confucious (561 B.C.), who was the first famous private teacher. Many ancient Greeks hired private teachers to educate their children. In the Middle Ages, learning institutions such as Cambridge University were founded and teacher training became required.

Teaching in Colonial Times

In early American Colonial days, housewives and ministers taught.The Pilgrims established the first public school in 1635, and this was followed by "dame" schools, primarily for women. Subsequently, Latin grammar schools that offered a secondary education for boys were formed.

Massachusetts and Virginia passed laws requiring that for every 50 families, an elementary school was to be built, and for every 100 families, a Latin grammar school. Teachers taught reading, writing and religion in these schools, and much of the teaching was done by requiring students to memorize subject matter.

Teaching in the 1800s

The 1800s brought dramatic changes in the teaching profession. By now, Massachusetts required all towns with more than 500 families to have a high school for all students.

In the 1840s, Horace Mann and Henry Barnard helped create school systems in Massachusetts and Connecticut that further increased teacher training and pay. In most states, teachers by this time needed to take a test for certification that licensed them to teach.

In 1857, the National Teachers Association formed and was the largest labor union in the United States. It fought for the rights of teachers and improved conditions in the profession.

Teaching in the 1900s

In the 1900s, because conditions began to improve and teaching became a more desirable profession, more men became teachers.

In 1954, a turning point took place when the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, ruled that "separate but equal schools" were inherently unequal, and ordered the integration of public schools throughout the United States.

The teaching profession emphasized improving teaching methods to accommodate the new educational needs of a changing society.

Teaching Today

Teaching today has advanced into the television and computer age, which has changed the emphasis in teaching. Giving students assignments on TV or the Internet has opened new and different educational possibilities.

The influx of new immigrants requires increased classes in English as a Second Language. President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program began the 21st century by challenging and expecting teachers to emphasize basic skills in the classroom. Standardized testing of students made teachers more accountable for results.

The Carl Perkins Career Education Act 2002 increased awareness of vocational and adult education. Many teachers now focus on preparing students for careers through technical education.

Future of Teaching

Teaching is a fast-growing profession, especially in inner city and rural areas, and is expected to continue to grow for many years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, there are problems that impede growth in the profession. Salaries are higher, but schools are overcrowded and funding is limited.