Just as a doctor might choose a medical specialty based on personal skills and interests in a particular field, so should a teacher consider the specifics of every educational level, from elementary to university instruction. See our Types of Education Degrees article for information on the schooling you will need depending on the level you plan to teach, and our Top 10 Online Master’s in Education Degrees article for information on the type of program that might be right for you. Once you have an idea of the requirements of each level, including curriculum/syllabus planning, knowledge of material, and classroom management, in deciding which level to teach, you must then examine your own skills, preferences and abilities in the classroom.
How Much Energy Do You Have?
If you have a lot of energy and like to be creative, you might want to stick with teaching younger students who don’t want to sit at a desk all day. While you can still have fun and get creative with older students, students who are under the age of 12 are generally more receptive to games that join physical activity with learning.
What Material Do You Like Teaching?
If you enjoy teaching about the state flag or why turkey is the traditional food eaten at Thanksgiving, teaching in an elementary school or junior high setting is right for you. However, if you enjoy teaching calculus or exploring historical issues in a more abstract manner, you should consider working with high school students who are ready to tackle those subjects in a more mature manner.
How Mature Are You?
Your own maturity and ability to relate to your students may impact which grades that you decide to teach. For example, you may decide to teach high school because you were bullied in your own high school years, and want to prevent other high school students from experiencing that. Potential teachers who might feel uncomfortable with teenage drama may decide to teach younger kids, whose physical and emotional needs are very different.
Is a College Classroom Right for You?
Would you be a good fit for a college classroom? Depending on what subject that you want to teach, you could be a teaching assistant or a research assistant after you finish your undergraduate work. This could help you pay for the cost of your graduate degree while adding experience and contacts that you could add to your resume.
Another plus to teaching college students is that you don’t have to worry about personal drama or other issues creeping into the classroom. College students are expected to behave like adults and professionals while attending school. You will not be blamed for not addressing those issues or held accountable for the bad grades of a particular student.
A career in education takes dedication; you have to spend many years in school, student teaching and getting certified in a particular grade level. While it is important to be familiar with as many aspects of all levels of teaching as possible and have an idea of how you will focus your studies, you will also want to speak with professional teachers about their day-to-day lives in the classroom, observe classes being taught, and perhaps have your own student teaching experience before you definitively decide which level to teach.