What School Teachers/ Secondary Teachers Do
High school teachers, often called secondary school teachers, are responsible for the education of children roughly between the ages of 13 and 18. They may work in private or public school settings, and often teach more than one subject, as well as oversee extracurricular activities.
Historically, these educators have been responsible for designing their own curriculums, though this is rapidly being phased out in favor of standardized curriculums. In addition to their teaching duties, secondary school teachers may be responsible for duties outside the classroom, organizing field trips, proctoring examinations, and helping students prepare for college. They also mentor students and work with parents regarding student-related issues.
Who would enjoy a career in High School Teaching?
Naturally, having a strong educational background is essential. People who are adept communicators and enjoy speaking both one-on-one and in front of groups do best. Skills like time management and complex problem solving come into play during classes, while perceptiveness and negotiation can go a long way toward bolstering a struggling student. A lifelong love of learning, as modes of teaching and technology are always changing, plus passion for educating are vital traits seen in those who enjoy their jobs the most.
Lastly, it’s generally a good career for those who seek work/ life balance, as most secondary school teachers have summers and holidays off, plus have schedules that allow them to maximize family time.
Who mightn't like the career?
Occasionally, the position can be a bit political, as following protocol and appeasing higher-ups are a big part of maintaining relationships with coworkers and career advancement, so the position may not be ideal for those who aren’t diplomatic or prefer to be left alone to do their work.
As with most teaching jobs, high school teachers are often underpaid for the work they do, and many fund supplies and activities from their own pocket. In these situations, it’s their heart and the lives they touch that keeps them in the position. Without this, and sometimes even with it, the position can become disenchanting. It’s also worth noting that many teachers no longer have the ability to create their own curriculums and write lesson plans. While this is a boon for some, others feel their skills are underutilized or that they’re not permitted to use the tools they need to reach their students.
The minimum requirement is generally a bachelor’s degree in education, though a degree relevant to a specific class that might be taught can sometimes work too.
Depending on the teaching position, most schools look for backgrounds in core subjects, such as English and mathematics, with additional coursework in subjects like psychology and at least one foreign language. Those hoping to teach the arts are typically advised to major in two subjects in order to ensure job placement later. In addition to this, all teachers are expected to be certified. This is typically handled at a state or provincial level after a period of working as a student teacher or intern. The UK has a somewhat different approach, offering many pathways and assistance for those who wish to be teachers. The UK teaching recruitment website, Get into Teaching, explores all the options in detail.
Experience in various schools, classes, and grade levels is a huge help for those trying to get into the field. While some of this can be gotten through student teaching, volunteering and requesting to shadow teachers also works well. This not only increases the amount of classroom experience one has, but also demonstrates enthusiasm to the person in charge of hiring.
- Six Steps to Landing Your First Teaching Job
- High School Teacher Interview Questions (Glassdoor)
- What Qualities Do Principals Look for in a New Teacher?
Moving into High School Teaching from another career
Depending on the jurisdiction and how high the demand for teachers is, people with almost any background and at least a bachelor’s degree can transition into teaching high school. Read “So You Want My Job: High School Teacher” to learn how one professional with a degree in anthropology wound up teaching high school English and reading, or check out “Tips for Becoming a Teacher in Your Second Career” for general information.
Student Teacher/ Intern
Role: Student teaching is generally required as part of a teacher’s college or certification process and, depending on the location as well as school, typically lasts one or two semesters. During this time, new teachers work under the direction of experienced teachers. They’re generally expected to slowly step into teaching by observing at first and then taking on new tasks until they’re handling lessons.
Role: Very few schools and school districts offer a career ladder for teachers to climb. Instead, they’re offered raises only based on tenure and degrees. While some areas are moving away from this model and developing levels, and others are instituting controversial merit-based pay, these alternatives are few and far between. Most teachers, once in a position, will continue at this level throughout their entire careers.
Those entering the field may teach outside their specialty for some time while awaiting an opening in their area of expertise. However, once established, high school teachers often focus on a single subject or area of study, teaching several classes per day of various difficulty levels for students.
Most high school teachers do not travel as part of their normal duties. Moreover, region-specific certifications make it difficult for teachers to relocate and find work.
Student Teacher: Most student teacher positions are unpaid, though those training in the UK may qualify for a £25k tax-free bursary, according to Get into Teaching.
Entry-Level (0-5 years): According to PayScale, average wages for a new teacher are USD$41,280 in America, £24,920 in the United Kingdom, CAD$48,950 in Canada, and AU$60,450 in Australia.
Mid-Career (5-10 years): USD$47,040, £31,080, CAD$58,300, and AU$59,550.
Experienced (10-20 years): USD$53,760, £32,480, CAD$63,250, and AU$75,400.
Late-Career (20+ years): USD$60,000, £35,000, and CAD$75,900, and AU$81,250.
Bonuses are not a large part of salaries for most high school teachers, though they can add a few thousand dollars to their take-home pay annually.
Why School Teachers/ Secondary Teachers move on
According to Brookings, when teachers leave the profession, the largest group of them do so to retire. The second-largest group continue working for schools, but in non-teaching jobs, such as administrative positions. This is followed closely by those who leave to take care of family members, which includes their own children and aging relatives.
Things like lack of freedom to adapt curriculum, inability to earn more, lack of recognition for achievements, and disagreements over how to best help difficult, troubled, or delayed students can all lead to teacher burnout. These types of things cause a small percentage to leave the profession altogether. According to exit surveys, the most popular careers for people leaving teaching are outlined below.