Every teacher comes into the classroom through a different path. Some set out to be teachers, but others may come from other types of educational environments - such as tutoring. Understanding the path to full-time classroom teaching will make the transition as smooth as possible.
Making a Move?
Like many others, you may have entered the world of education by tutoring. You might be a college student who is earning extra money by tutoring K-12 students in math, science, or writing. On the other hand, you might be a retired professional who has begun tutoring students to supplement your income. In either case, you may be considering transitioning from tutoring to full-time teaching. It is possible, especially if you have a full-time degree, but you'll want to make sure you know the requirements to make the transition as easy as possible.
Where to Begin
If you are moving from tutoring to full-time teaching, you will want to start by looking at your college transcripts and talking to your local department of education about your educational experience. Ideally, you will already have a college degree. To be a full-time teacher you will need to earn your teacher credential, and that will require you to have sufficient college credit in a credential area such as math, English, science, or history. Certain degrees are easier to transfer to classroom teaching than others. For example, if you have a business degree, that is great unless you want to teach middle school math.
Once you talk to your department of education, it can provide you with a required list of courses for the specific area of teaching you are interested in. For example, if you want to teach high school history, the department can give you a list of required history courses. You can take that list of courses to any college, where a guidance counselor can help you identify courses you may have already taken and courses you still need to complete. If you aren't currently in college, you may need to apply initially as a non-degree-seeking student to begin taking classes.
As you work through this process, pay attention to the units earned on your transcript. If you took your courses on a quarter system, you might not have enough credit hours even though you took all of the classes. Be sure to discuss this issue with your local department of education to determine whether or not it will impact the steps you need to take to be a certified teacher. It is better to have as much knowledge as you can upfront about what courses you need, so you can plan accordingly.
Pathways to Certification
Once you have made sure you have the core content classes you will need for a teacher's license, you can start to explore alternative paths to earning a teaching certificate. Alternate certification has many options, some of which include allowing you to teach in a classroom while earning your credential.
For example, if you are planning on teaching in a critical needs area, you may be eligible to start teaching in your classroom while earning your teaching credential. These programs vary from state to state, but they typically follow the same format. To be eligible, you first have to get a contract to teach in a school district, as you will need a school to be your 'sponsor.'
Before you enter the classroom, you will typically spend several weeks of the first summer getting a crash course in classroom teaching. The alternative certification program will require you to attend seminars or mini-classes to assure that you have the basic skills you need to cope in a classroom. A lot of this will cover protecting student confidentiality, school safety, copyright, and other legal issues new teachers need to be aware of before they start teaching students.
Other topics will include basic classroom management strategies. New teachers frequently cite classroom management as a source of stress in their teaching lives. You need at least a basic set of strategies in place to manage your classroom so that you can teach. It won't matter how amazing your lesson is if you can't control the students in your classroom.
Once you enter the classroom, in addition to your district-required first-year teacher training, you will continue your training through your alternative certification classes. You will typically attend these classes on Saturdays or school breaks. These seminars will cover all the same material you would in normal teacher certification classes, from reading across the curriculum to more in-depth classroom management. At the end of the program, you may be required to complete a few classes at your local university, but that will vary from state to state.
Earn a Degree in Teaching
Another option is to enroll in a teacher certification program through your local college or university. Some offer credential programs where you complete all of your required education-specific courses within a year along with a teaching internship at a school site. Other options include completing a Master of Arts in Teaching program, which allows you to earn your master's degree and your teacher certification at the same time. This option will allow you to enter the classroom on a higher pay scale than you would otherwise be able to.
A Master of Arts in Teaching is a more intense teacher certification program. The classes will be similar to what you would have taken in a traditional bachelor's teacher education program, but they go into that deeper depth of content expected for a master's degree. These courses will include subject-specific courses in your content area for your teacher credential. Additionally, there will be courses in child development and psychology, education laws, and assessment methods. You will also complete student teaching requirements.
The time frame for these types of programs varies from state to state. Some programs can be completed in one very intensive year, usually including taking classes over the summer. Other states offer this option as a two-year program, so you will want to check with the college to see what time frame it expects students to complete the program within.