What Does An Elementary School Teacher Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

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Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Elementary School Teachers

Elementary School Teachers teach academic and social skills to students at the elementary school level.

Salary
$65420
Becoming One
Hard
Education
Bachelor's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Elementary School Teachers teach academic and social skills to students at the elementary school level.

  • Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among the students for whom they are responsible.
  • Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students’ varying needs and interests.
  • Instruct students individually and in groups, using various teaching methods, such as lectures, discussions, and demonstrations.
  • Confer with parents or guardians, teachers, counselors, and administrators to resolve students’ behavioral and academic problems.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Elementary School Teachers maintain accurate and complete student records as required by laws, district policies, and administrative regulations. They assign and grade classwork and homework.

A typical day for an Elementary School Teacher will also include:

  • Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among the students for whom they are responsible.
  • Prepare for assigned classes and show written evidence of preparation upon request of immediate supervisors.
  • Prepare objectives and outlines for courses of study, following curriculum guidelines or requirements of states and schools.
  • Plan and conduct activities for a balanced program of instruction, demonstration, and work time that provides students with opportunities to observe, question, and investigate.
  • Establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects and communicate those objectives to students.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Elementary School Teachers also attend staff meetings and serve on committees, as required. They may also attend professional meetings, educational conferences, and teacher training workshops to maintain and improve professional competence.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Elementary School Teachers involve parent volunteers and older students in children’s activities to facilitate involvement in focused, complex play. They might also meet with other professionals to discuss individual students’ needs and progress.

In addition, they meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children’s progress and to determine priorities for their children and their resource needs.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them organize and label materials and display students’ work.

To some Elementary School Teachers, it is also their responsibility to prepare, administer, and grade tests and assignments to evaluate students’ progress.

Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

73% said they were satisfied with their job and 73% said they found their job meaningful.


Paige Bryant

My name is Paige Bryant and I am a 4th-grade teacher. As a 4th grade teacher, I teach reading, writing, math, social studies, and science on a daily basis. But teaching elementary school goes way beyond academics. You are teaching social skills and coping strategies. Some days you act as a counselor, social worker, advocate, or chaperone.

You get to watch students grow in all sorts of ways throughout your year spent with them and it is unbelievably rewarding.

My typical day

Being a fourth-grade teacher your day usually starts 1-2 hours before students arrive. This time is spent in several different ways. Usually, once a week you will have a formal collaboration time with your team (other fourth grade teachers) where you will discuss upcoming units, field trips, grading, and other day-to-day items that come up. On other days you will be informally meeting with other fourth-grade teachers to plan lessons, plan the day, and discuss concerns. Team collaboration is so essential to make sure everyone is feeling comfortable and ready for the upcoming day. A few days a month you will have a school-wide staff meeting. These meetings could focus on professional development, safety reviews, fundraising, etc. Every morning when you are not in meetings you will be planning for your upcoming day and upcoming lessons. Planning for lessons could consist of making copies, making slideshows, cutting up activities, reading and writing lessons, or searching google for fun activities to do.

During the day you are constantly watching the clock to make sure you are on schedule. In fourth grade, your students will move to other locations (classrooms, lunchroom, etc.) during the day and you need to make sure you are on time. When students first arrive in the morning you will have a “morning activity” for them to do. This could look like an academic worksheet, playing board games, or working with hand on manipulatives. For your core lessons, math, and reading/writing you will plan lessons to teach your objectives, do practice as a group, and then allow students to do independent or small group activities.

You will get a prep time, which is usually 45-60 minutes during the day where your students are with a different teacher. This time is used as additional planning time or collaboration time with other teachers. Often times you are getting ready for the next time spent with students.

A huge component of teaching elementary school that often doesn’t get talked about outside of being a teacher is the need for strong classroom management. As a teacher, you need to have a plan to know how students will line up, where they will sit when they will sit where, how you want them to ask a question, what are your expectations during different times of the day, and much more. Classroom management is something that will adjust each year, semester, month, or maybe a week depending on your group of students. There will be trial and error and lots of trying new things.

Here is a list of “Other” activities you will do outside of academics and planning

  1. Planning and executing field trips! These days are fun but also extremely exhausting!
  2. You give extra recess time and plan fun classroom parties for the different holidays.
  3. Throughout the year you will get new students and lose some of your students. It’s amazing how this can completely shift classroom dynamics.
  4. You will prepare students for and monitor state testing.
  5. You will respond to endless emails from parents. Emails may have concerns, questions, or feedback.
  6. You will always need to know how students are getting home and oftentimes will spend time reaching out to parents to figure out any changes.
  7. You will deal with classroom disagreements and unwanted behavior. You will collaborate with the principals and parents of students who need help with behavior.
  8. You will coordinate with other teachers for reading intervention, math intervention, and special ed depending on student needs. You may also work with the school social worker for help with teaching social skills or to address social concerns.
  9. If you are a new teacher you will be on probation for your first three years where you will have several formal observations done with your principal(s).
  10. You will attend baby showers, retirement parties, and wedding showers for your coworkers.

Pros

  1. It is endlessly creative (which can also be a con, due to how much time this can take up). You get to create lessons that try to spark interest in your students and meet them where they are at.
  2. It’s fun! Your students will make each day unique and entertaining. At the end of each day, you will have stories to tell that make you laugh.
  3. Every day is different. You will never be doing the same thing, as such, you will never be bored.
  4. The relationships you build with your fellow teachers is a bong like no other
  5. The relationships you build with your students are life-changing and you will cry when you say goodbye at the end of the year.
  6. You feel like you are making a difference. You get to see students grow and change throughout the year and you know that you are making an impact on their life.

Cons

  1. It’s exhausting, especially in your first years. You are doing so much and your energy is going so many places. I am often at school 1-2 hours before students arrive and in the evenings I am doing school work for 1-3 more hours.
  2. Lots and lots of meetings, which are necessary but they often feel like they are taking away from getting tangible things done for your students
  3. You will encounter quite a few teachers who are burnt out of the profession and this takes away from your excitement about your job
  4. The constant emails and calls from parents. You are extremely accessible and some parents take full advantage of that.

Paige Bryant
Paige is a 4th-grade teacher. She also writes an adventure blog LoveMinnesotaAdventure.com.


Pros

Suitable for people who like to help and teach others.

Suitable for people who value relationships between co-workers and customers and want to work in a friendly non-competitive environment.

This career is perfect for people who love to work indoors.

Good salary (earns more than 50% of the careers out there).

Cons

Not suitable for people who like practical and hands-on work.

It is hard to get into this career. A considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$65420 per year

Average hourly wage

$* per hour

Entry-level Elementary School Teachers with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $40,030 to $48,350 per year or $* to $* per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $100,480 $*
Senior (Top 25%) $79,120 $*
Median $60,940 $*
Junior (Bottom 25%) $48,350 $*
No experience (Bottom 10%) $40,030 $*

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Elementary School Teachers based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Elementary and Secondary Schools $65470 $*
Local Government $64290 $*
Social Advocacy Organizations $60640 $*
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $59290 $*
Educational Support Services $56620 $*
Religious Organizations $51270 $*
Other Schools and Instruction $49440 $*
Other Residential Care Facilities $49190 $*
Individual and Family Services $48300 $*
Civic and Social Organizations $46910 $*

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Elementary School Teachers work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Elementary School Teachers including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Elementary and Secondary Schools 1356460 $65470 $*
Child Day Care Services 1620 $36830 $*
Religious Organizations 1420 $51270 $*
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 690 $59290 $*
Local Government 620 $64290 $*
Educational Support Services 510 $56620 $*
Other Schools and Instruction 420 $49440 $*
Individual and Family Services 280 $48300 $*
Social Advocacy Organizations 110 $60640 $*
Other Residential Care Facilities 40 $49190 $*

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
7%

40 hours
14%

More than 40 hours
79%

Working schedule

96%

0%

4%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
7%

Every day
87%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
57%

Every day
12%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
11%

Every day
86%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
11%

Once a year
22%

Once a month
16%

Once a week
0%

Every day
51%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
21%

Slightly competitive
32%

Moderately competitive
20%

Highly competitive
26%

Extremely competitive
2%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
11%

Once a year or more
2%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
0%

Every day
84%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
62%

Once a year or more
22%

Once a month or more
4%

Once a week or more
1%

Every day
10%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
49%

Once a year or more
21%

Once a month or more
12%

Once a week or more
8%

Every day
9%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
87%

Once a year or more
10%

Once a month or more
3%

Once a week or more
1%

Every day
0%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Hard
You will need a considerable amount of work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Careers in this difficulty category usually require a Bachelor’s degree and several years of work-related experience, on-the-job training, and/or vocational training. Similar careers include Database Administrators, Chemists, Art Directors, and Accountants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
1%

High School Diploma or equivalent
0%

Post-Secondary Certificate
1%

Some College Courses
1%

Associate’s Degree or similar
0%

Bachelor’s Degree
73%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
11%

Master’s Degree
11%

Post-Master’s Certificate
1%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

Teaching French as a Second or Foreign Language

A program that focuses on the principles and practice of teaching French to students who are not proficient in French or who do not speak, read, or write French, and prepares individuals to serve as teachers and administrators.


Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language/ESL Language Instructor

A program that focuses on the principles and practice of teaching English to students who are not proficient in English or who do not speak, read or write English, and that may prepare individuals to function as teachers and administrators in such programs.

Communication Arts and Literature Teacher Education

A program of study that prepares individuals to teach oral expression, literature, and writing to students at various education levels. Includes instruction in interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, language learning, listening instructional techniques, public speaking, reading instructional techniques, writing instructional techniques, and practical teaching experience.

Environmental Education

A program that prepares individuals to teach environmental education at various educational levels as a K-12 classroom educator. Includes instruction in foundations of environmental education, instructional methods, and related content knowledge.


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Educational Methods

A program that prepares individuals to connect education practices with scientific, engineering, and mathematical principles for PreK-12 students. Includes instruction in critical thinking, curriculum and instruction, history of STEM education, integrating STEM across curricula, learning sciences and technology, STEM education methods, and teacher leadership in STEM education.

International Teaching and Learning

A program that prepares individuals to teach in schools that are implementing or proposing to implement the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Includes instruction in culturally-responsive classrooms, cross-cultural awareness, foundations of international education, human learning, human development, international teaching and learning, and pedagogy.

Online Educator/Online Teaching

A program that prepares individuals to teach students at various academic levels through online instructional technologies. Includes instruction in andragogy, pedagogy, assessment, instructional design and technology, and learning science.


Early Childhood Education and Teaching

A program that prepares individuals to teach students ranging in age from infancy through eight years (grade three), depending on the school system or state regulations. Includes preparation to teach all relevant subject matter.

Waldorf/Steiner Teacher Education

A program that prepares individuals to teach students at various grade levels according to the pedagogical principles and methods developed by Rudolf Steiner and his followers.

Montessori Teacher Education

A program that prepares individuals to teach students at various grade levels according to the pedagogical principles and methods developed by Maria Montessori and her followers.


Teacher Education, Multiple Levels

A program that prepares individuals to teach students at more than one educational level, such as a combined program in elementary/secondary, early childhood/elementary, elementary/middle school, or junior high/high school teacher education.

Elementary Education and Teaching

A program that prepares individuals to teach students in the elementary grades, which may include kindergarten through grade eight, depending on the school system or state regulations. Includes preparation to teach all elementary education subject matter.

Bilingual and Multilingual Education

A program that focuses on the design and provision of teaching and other educational services to bilingual/bicultural children or adults, and/or the design and implementation of educational programs having the goal of producing bilingual/bicultural individuals. Includes preparation to serve as teachers and administrators in bilingual/bicultural education programs.


Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
24%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
8%

3 to 6 months
15%

6 months to 1 year
22%

1 to 2 years
14%

2 to 4 years
9%

4 to 6 years
2%

6 to 8 years
2%

8 to 10 years
1%

Over 10 years
3%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
31%

1 month
10%

1 to 3 months
9%

3 to 6 months
7%

6 months to 1 year
24%

1 to 2 years
9%

2 to 4 years
9%

4 to 10 years
1%

Over 10 years
1%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Helper

People with this personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.

The Builder
19%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
52%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
62%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
100%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
33%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
57%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like working with, communicating with, and teaching people. They like helping or providing service to others.

They also like working with forms, designs, and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
81%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
71%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
62%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
90%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
71%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
76%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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