The teaching profession provides many opportunities to explore one’s interests by choosing a good concentration area in elementary education studies. Subject matter specialization enhances the credentials of teachers. The current environment, as far as education is concerned, is one that emphasizes measurable achievement along with rigorous enforcement of state and national standards. Teachers’ colleges have responded to this challenge by offering curricula that provide a solid academic and career track for those who have chosen teaching as a lifetime profession.
Elementary Education Defined
Depending on state standards, elementary education may include kindergarten to sixth grade or first to fifth grade. Some school districts may designate kindergarten as a part of preschool rather than consider this the formal start of elementary education. This is an important consideration because teacher certifications are typically linked to grade levels. These certifications may be used in personnel evaluations for purposes of deciding on retention, granting pay raises and awarding promotions.
Possible Concentrations in Elementary Education
Teaching in elementary school is different from a teaching position in middle and high school. The elementary school has to be prepared to teach all subjects with or without an assistant. In upper school, teachers can focus on subject specializations, but elementary school teachers have to demonstrate competency in math, reading and language, writing and the sciences.
The most obvious specialization will be a curriculum that prepares one to be a classroom teacher. Aside from subject matter competencies, this field will also focus on classroom management, child development concepts and intervention strategies for at-risk students. These teachers are generalists who prepare lesson plans consistent with the school’s academic thrusts and thematic approach. They will plan their assessment strategies that will be heavy on onsite observations and verbal assessments rather than the standard written tests.
Special education is a field that focuses on students who are classified as “differently abled” based on established standards of age-appropriate milestones, measurable skills and medical diagnosis of preexisting conditions. These students may have learning disabilities, physical conditions and mental challenges that may make it difficult to thrive in the regular classroom environment. Some schools may have designated classrooms for these students while others advocate for inclusion in regular classrooms.
Learning to read is a major milestone for children. Many young students enter elementary school with some ability to read, but a large number may struggle with this skill. With a specialization in reading instruction, the teacher will be familiar with strategies to help children read at different ages, identify struggling students, guide young readers to improve their reading, decoding and comprehension skills. Teachers should be able to assess student progress and implement interventions to help young learners with reading difficulties.
Some teachers can channel their leadership qualities to administrative or managerial positions in elementary schools. Preparing for positions such as principal, assistant principal, reading coordinator or community liaison usually starts in the classroom. One must have an understanding of how the system works, but specialization in this field may include financial management, budgeting, contract negotiations and human resources management.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the outlook for elementary school teachers is positive with expected growth rate at 7 percent for the 10-year period from 2016 to 2026. The demand will be greater in high-growth areas especially for teachers who have earned the credentials for a concentration in elementary education that is considered a priority focus for that school district. As such, it is prudent for elementary school teachers to consider all these factors when deciding on a specialization.