(6.2 out of 10)
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The transition from primary school to middle school can seem abrupt. Math problems requiring simple addition and subtraction are exchanged with geometric theorems and algebraic equations. And the sufficient readying of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade minds for the rigors of high school emerges as a major must. This is just one of the reasons a middle school teacher’s job is so crucial. Effective teachers spend significant time preparing for the upcoming school day, says Nancy Poliseno, a middle-level educator of 25 years and the president of the Association for Middle Level Education.“They put in long hours preparing quality instruction and activities that engage their students in learning. And in addition to that, they spend long hours grading and assessing,” she says. “Middle school educators put in a lot of time before kids arrive in the mornings, and their time after school and on the weekends is extended as well.” Middle school teachers work in both private and public secondary schools.
Middle school teachers held a healthy 641,700 teaching posts in 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. The BLS predicts that the profession will increase 17 percent by 2020—a rate of growth close to the average for all professions.
On average, middle school educators earned approximately $53,130 in 2011. The highest earners took home $81,620, while the lowest-paid took home $35,760. Elementary and secondary schools are among the top-paying industries for these workers. The highest-paid teachers reside in the metro areas of Chico, Calif., Nassau, N.Y., and Napa, Calif.
Those interested in becoming middle school teachers must at least earn a bachelor’s degree in early education or in a content area like math, science, or English. Content-area majors almost always enroll in a teacher preparation program (taking courses in education and child psychology) at an accredited university. Certain states require prospective middle school educators to go a step further and earn a master’s degree upon receiving their certification. All states require public school middle educators to obtain a license or certification before they can begin teaching. Private school teachers, however, are exempt from this rule and other state requirements.
Aside from communication and instructional skills, patience and endurance are major musts for anyone interested in pursing a career in middle-level education. And a little self-criticism goes a long way, Poliseno says. “Teaching is such a series of failures and successes and being able to stay positive within those and highlight your successes and learn from your failures year after year and sometimes day after day is important.” Strong content knowledge and a solid understanding of how students learn are other indispensible “soft” skills.