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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

What Kind of Teacher Should I Be?

‘What Kind of Teacher Should I Be?’ Exploring Your Options as an Educator

Teachers have always been your greatest role models. They fueled your hunger for knowledge and always pushed you to do your best. In fact, the classroom leaders in your life have inspired you to pursue your passion for education.

While you already know that becoming a certified teacher is in your future, you’re having a hard time pinpointing which role is right for you. There are so many interesting topics you could cover for different subjects and age groups. You wonder, “What kind of teacher should I be?”

Deciding which role you want to pursue doesn’t have to be daunting. You just need to take the time to carefully evaluate what different teaching positions entail. Get started by exploring the options below.

“What kind of teacher should I be?” 5 roles future educators should compare

As you evaluate different teaching positions, you’ll notice the developmental phases students go through can make one role significantly different from another. Even your own inherent strengths can help inform which type of role you might want to pursue. To illustrate this, we used real-time job analysis software to identify some of the most important baseline skills that listings from the last year specified for each of these five teaching roles.*

1. Preschool teacher

These educators work with students who have not yet entered kindergarten. They’re effectively preparing young learners for the next educational phase. A preschool teacher’s duties include helping children learn basic skills related to letters and numbers, leveraging a variety of instructional techniques, developing balanced schedules and planning activities that cover a range of interests.

As a preschool teacher, you would educate students who are developing fundamental skills that can help them become effective learners. Children in this stage enjoy playing make believe, are beginning to develop their vocabulary and are able to sort objects by color and shape. This means that it’s useful for teachers to have a fair amount of energy and enthusiasm for early childhood education.

  • Organizational skills
  • Creativity
  • Physical ability

2. Kindergarten or elementary school teacher

Instructors who teach at the kindergarten and elementary levels introduce students to and help them deepen their knowledge of numerous subjects. These educators create lesson plans that cover essential subjects like reading and math, grade assignments, prepare students for standardized tests, communicate with parents to discuss progress and supervise children during non-classroom activities. In addition to instructing the entire class, kindergarten and elementary school teachers also work with individual students to help them overcome learning challenges.

Teachers in this group can work with students as young as 5 or as old as 12, so there will be some natural differences among classroom behavior simply due to age differences. But generally speaking, children in this phase are beginning to develop their own interests and are starting to enjoy learning more independently. They’re also still relatively sensitive and may have trouble managing their emotions, which is important to remember when asking yourself, “What kind of teacher should I be?”

  • Teamwork
  • Organizational skills
  • Physical ability

3. Middle school teacher

Middle school teachers have many of the same responsibilities that elementary school teachers do. They create lesson plans, grade assignments, assess students’ strengths and weaknesses, communicate with parents and prepare students for standardized exams. One notable difference is that educators in this group typically focus on teaching a particular subject. They also tend to leverage technology more frequently, so they need to be comfortable staying up to date on the latest tools.

For the right teacher, working with students in their preteen years is especially rewarding. As learners enter adolescence, they develop advanced reasoning skills, formulate their own opinions and become more aware of cultural and gender identity. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy working with adolescents. Students may experience emotional highs and lows during puberty, so it helps to have an extra dose of empathy.

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Building effective relationships

4. High school teacher

Like other instructors, high school teachers devote a lot of time to creating lesson plans, grading assignments, and helping their students get ready for standardized tests. But these instructors are also tasked with preparing teenagers for the next phase of their lives, whether that’s employment or postsecondary education. They typically specialize in one subject, which spans from foreign languages to art, and adapt their lessons to meet the ability levels of different classes.

High school students are on the cusp of adulthood, so teachers should feel excited about working with more mature individuals. At this phase, students are able to grasp abstract ideas, engage in discussions on topics they’re passionate about and are in better control of their emotions. Teachers need to be comfortable challenging students and pushing them to improve their abilities.

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Planning

5. Special education teacher

Special education teachers work with students who have disabilities, adapting lessons as needed. Typical responsibilities include assessing students to determine their educational needs, developing an individualized education program (IEP) for each learner, communicating with parents and other teachers, evaluating progress and helping students manage transitions between grade levels and life outside of school. They can teach at the preschool, elementary, middle or high school level and often work alongside colleagues in a general education classroom.

A special education teacher’s job is unique in that they have students at an array of ability levels. This can vary based on each student’s age, type of disability and individual needs. It probably goes without saying that you need to be passionate about empowering special needs students to be successful in this role.

  • Teamwork
  • Planning
  • Building effective relationships

Create your professional lesson plan

There are clearly some differences among teaching positions that you’ll need to think about as you weigh your options. Eventually, you’ll probably recognize that one of these roles is a better fit than the others. You’ll no longer need to ask, “What kind of teacher should I be?” Instead, you can focus on how to work toward a career in education.

Regardless of which type of instructor you plan to become, you’ll need to complete a number of requirements. The exact process of becoming a teacher varies a bit depending on your educational background and your specific needs. Familiarize yourself with the available pathways in the Lone Star State by reading our article, “How to Become a Teacher in Texas: Evaluating the Options.”

About the Author — Staff

AvatarThe University of St. Thomas is the only Catholic, liberal arts university in Houston, Texas. We have 35+ undergraduate majors including STEM, Nursing, Business, Education and Pre-Med. Located in a vibrant urban environment just minutes from downtown and the famed Texas Medical Center, we welcome students of all races and religions to our diverse and collaborative campus.

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