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1.5: What do I need to do to become a teacher?

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    Written by: Jasmine Tucay


    "Those who can't do, teach..." - The School of Rock.

    Learning Objectives

    • The reader will find out what makes a good teacher
    • The reader will learn about different types of degrees and the cerficates that are offered
    • The reader will learn about the tests that one is required to take prior to becoming a teacher
    • The reader will learn about the career opportunities existing after getting licensed


    "Those who can't do, teach, and those who can't teach...teach gym" (, Inc., 2008). All silliness aside, in the movie "The School of Rock" the career of a teacher, in so many words, chose the main character. Through various realistic, and unrealistic events, he learned to love the profession. However, he lacked the credentials and certification that teachers need to teach.

    All right, so life isn't exactly like the movies, but this particular movie does show an important point. There are certain steps that a person has to take before he or she can be a licensed teacher.

    In today's career driven society, there are always steps that you have to take to get where you want to go. Becoming a teacher falls in line with this mentality. The first step to becoming a teacher is taking the plunge and deciding that you want to be in the field of education. After this decision, you want to find a university offering a program that will earn you a degree and licensure to teach. While taking various classes, you'll be required to take numerous exams to assess your competency on knowledge regarding your future as an educator. After taking classes and teaching tests, you can receive your degree(s) and find a school to start your career as an educator.

    What Makes a Good Teacher?

    There are many qualities and characteristics that make up a good teacher. Engaging, caring and innovative are some things that may come to mind. According to Dr. Richard M. Reis, a professor and executive director at Stanford University, the top priority of teachers should be that they want to be good teachers. In his article he states that as teachers "we respect students who really try, even if they do not succeed in everything they do, so they will respect us, even if we are not as good as we want to be" (Reis, 2007). Your future students will know that you want to be a good teacher if you yourself strive to become one. To supplement this point, "among 150 teachers in the first three years of their careers aged under 26 reveals that 85 per cent of this 'Generation Y' probably or definitely want to be working in a school in 20 years, with only two per cent definitely not" (National College for School Leadership). With this being said, teachers with enthusiasm are working in the education field today.

    In addition, Reis adds that teachers should be good listeners as well (Reis, 2007). With the varying ages, gender and personalities of your future students, it will benefit you and the students you teach to listen to what works for them, and what to never try again.

    There are many opinions on what goes into a good teacher, but only you can implement the characteristics in your own teaching career.

    Getting Your Degree

    There are many programs that you can pursue on your way to get your degree. First you would choose your specific grade level, then you would go onto to taking your various classes. For example, at Old Dominion University, there are a few different educational tracks that you can pursue including: Pre-K - 3, Pre-K - 6, K - 12, K - 12 with a emphasis on Special Education, and Secondary Education which includes 6 - 12 (Darden College of Education 2008).

    After picking a program, you will be required to take different courses such as History and Math, depending on your focus. For example, if you were pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies Teacher Prep. with a Concentration on Pre-K - 3 Early Childhood Emphasis, you would be taking various general education courses, major content courses and some classes focusing on professional aspects of being a teacher (Old Dominion University Catalog, 2006-2008). Within the profession education courses, you may be required to observe in the classroom among other things. For example, during my observation period, I saw how a first grade classroom was taught and managed. It was a rewarded experience that I'm glad is required for teachers in the state of Virginia. I learned a lot and got to interact with the children as well. Observing is just half the battle though. After some professional education courses, you will still have other classes to pass.

    Once you've graduated with your Bachelor's Degree, you may want to move on to take your Master's Degree. You may be thinking that an extra year of school isn't going to matter. There are two sides to this argument. According to Linda Gorman, a writer for the National Bureau of Economic Research, " Teachers who entered teaching with a master's degree, or who earned it within five years of beginning to teach, were as effective as teachers without a master's degree" (Gorman). You may be one of the people who has what it takes to make it as a teacher with four years of college and an undergraduate degree. Contrary to this opinion, according to The Apple, teachers in the United States with a Master's degree can get paid any where from $2,000 to almost $10,000 more than what they would be getting paid with only a Bachelor's (The Apple, 2008).


    According to The Apple, teachers in the United States with a Master's degree can get paid any where from $2,000 to almost $10,000 more than what they would be getting paid with only a Bachelor's - The Apple.


    There are many tests that are required for future educators to take. Two of the most known ones in Virginia, that have many future teachers writhing in fear, are the Praxis 1 and 2. According to the Educational Testing Service, better known as ETS, the Praxis is a test consisting of "rigorous and validated assessments that provides accurate, reliable information for use by state education agencies in making licensing decisions" (ETS, 2008). Within these tests, you will be assessed on basic mathematics, reading and writing skills in the Praxis 1, along with a specialized test that is more focused on the path of education that you chose to go for in the Praxis 2 (ETS, 2008). Preparing for the Praxis tests can be very intimidating, but your university may provide help with prepping for the tests. Along with this, you can also purchase a study guide for the Praxis tests online or your local bookstore. I found that practicing with old praxis tests was very useful for helping me pass my Praxis tests.

    After achieving a passing score on the Praxis 1 and 2 tests, you have a couple more tests to pass. The Virgina Communication and Literacy Assessment (VCLA) and the Virginia Reading Assessment (VRA) are two tests that assess your knowledge communicating and literary abilities and how well you can teach reading skills (2008–2009 VCLA and VRA Registration Bulletin, 2008). These tests are required to be taken by future elementary education and special education students that want to teach in Virginia (2008–2009 VCLA and VRA Registration Bulletin, 2008).

    Once you achieve passing scores on the tests listed above, you're ready to apply for a teaching license. Applying for licensure is different for every state. For example, in the state of Virginia, "An individual seeking licensure must establish a file in the Department of Education by submitting a complete application packet, which includes official student transcripts " (Virginia Department of Education, 2007). For a general list of what to do to apply for your teaching license, you may want to visit a general website such as (Reynolds, 1999 - 2008) or ask your university for information.

    Venturing Into The Real World of Education

    Now that you're licensed to teach, you can now start looking into finding a career. According to the Department of Labor, "Job opportunities for teachers over the next 10 years will vary from good to excellent, depending on the locality, grade level, and subject taught" (U.S. Department of Labor, 2007). The reason for the good outlook on jobs is that many teachers may be retiring.

    Along with finding a job as a teacher, you may want to further your career to become an administrator to a school, or even a superintendent to a school district. For these job opportunities to work out, you would have to go back to school again. Along with this, you may want to try for your PhD in education.

    You may also want to teach classes at a local recreation center, or do volunteer work helping a teacher a school around your neighborhood. Although it may not be a paying job, I believe that every one still has time to learn something no matter what stage they are at in their lives. Along with this, you can gain experience, and give a local teacher a helping hand.

    Another career move could be possibly teaching overseas. There are many teaching abroad programs and you could even become a teacher through the Department of Defense or the Department of State (U.S. Department of State, 2008). "During 1995-96, 190 schools received grant assistance and technical support from A/OPR/OS. Because they are private institutions, these schools hire their own staffs" (U.S. Department of State, 2008) and many of these schools are over seas. Personally, I plan on trying this program sometime in my near future career as an educator.


    Although there is a long process in becoming a teacher, I believe that the product from your hard work will be more than rewarding. Through the classes, the credentials, and the tests, you get a license to teach students in a chosen state, or even all around the world if that is where life takes you.

    Much like Jack Black's Character in "The School of Rock", if the career of teaching does choose you, or you choose it, what is most important in my eyes is the students that you will be teaching. Whether you become an elementary school teacher, or a gym teacher, the steps all boil down to the deciding that education is in your intended career.



    2008–2009 VCLA and VRA Registration Bulletin. (2008). Pearson Education, Inc. October 5, 2008, from

    Darden College of Education: Teacher Education Services. (2008). Undergraduate Teacher Education Programs. September 21, 2008, from

    Educational Testing Services. (2008). Tests Directory: Ptaxis. September 21, 2008, from

    Gorman, Linda. Teacher Credentials Don't Matter for Student Achievement. National Bureau of Economic Research. September 21, 2008, from, Inc. (1990 - 2008) Memorable Quotes for The School of Rock. September 21, 2008, from

    Old Dominion University Course Catalog. (2006-2008). Bachelor of Science Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies – Teacher Prep. Concentration. September 21, 2008, from

    Reis, Richard M. (2007) What Makes a Good Teacher Article. Minnesota State University Mankato. September 21, 2008, from

    Reynolds, L. (1999 - 2008). How to Apply for a Teaching License. eHow. How to Do Just About Everything. September 21, 2008, from

    Rudin, Scott. (Producer), & White, Mike. (Director). (October 2, 2003). The School of Rock[Motion picture]. United States of America: Paramount Pictures.

    The Apple. (2008). Bachelor’s vs. Master’s: Compare Salaries in 50 States. September 28, 2008, from

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