Becoming a first grade teacher is a noble goal that will change the lives of many small children. You can't just head to a local school and fill out an application to become a first grade teacher, however. In addition to a bachelor's degree, you'll also need to take a series of educationally focused courses that prepare you to effectively implement curriculum while also preparing your students to be successful in second grade and beyond.
If you know you want to be a teacher when you start college, you can major in elementary education. While you complete your core math, science and literacy requirements, you'll also be able to take elective courses that prepare you to be a teacher, according to Mary C. Clement, author of "So You Want to Be a Teacher?" These courses prepare you to enter a teacher-education program, which is often completed after you receive your undergraduate degree, though some colleges allow you to enter the teacher-education program during your senior year. Teacher-education programs focus specifically on educational practices, classroom-management skills and curriculum implementation. One of your major course requirements will be student teaching, which allows you to practice what you're learning in an actual classroom.
Child Development Courses
Many education majors and teacher-education program requirements include courses that teach you about child development, according to the Education Portal website. You'll be a more effective first grade teacher if you understand the phase of development that your students are in and what you can expect in terms of normal behaviors. Most of these courses cover child development from birth until adolescence, which gives you a well-rounded understanding of how children learn and grow.
Of course, the bulk of your teacher-education program will involve specific education classes. You'll learn how to write lesson plans, meet curriculum standards, administer standardized tests and manage a quiet and calm classroom. Since you want to teach first grade, you'll also take classes that show you how to teach children to read, write and understand basic math skills. Many teacher-education programs also offer courses that teach you how to do science experiments and art projects as part of the existing curriculum. You'll also take courses that require you to observe in elementary classrooms so that you can develop a wealth of ideas to use in your own classroom one day.
Depending on what school district you wish to work for or what specific school you'd like to teach at, you might have to take additional courses to beat the competition for jobs. Many schools and districts require technology courses so that you're able to integrate technological advances such as tablet computers and software programs, into your classroom. Many schools, particularly parochial and private schools, might also require you to hold a master's degree in elementary education to become a first grade teacher. Some universities allow you to fast-track this process by attending an extra year of college after you complete your undergraduate studies. These are called fifth-year programs and allow you to get a master's degree more quickly so that you can also get a first grade teaching job more quickly.
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