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What does a School Teacher do?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A secondary or primary school teacher has numerous responsibilities, which can vary per grade and school environment, i.e., private or public. Some of the basic things a school teacher does is create lesson plans, carry them out, adjust plans according to class progress or special needs of some students, maintain school disciplinary standards, evaluate ongoing student performance, and interact with students and their families. Teachers must also participate fully in staff and administrative meetings, seek continuing education for personal benefit and to maintain credentialed status, and receive training on new teaching methods or technology.

The creation of plans is key to the success of the school teacher. First, a yearly syllabus is developed that either uses books and materials recommended by a school or that address regional standards. Most teachers craft yearly plans based on regional standards, but may have flexibility in choosing some of their materials. Daily plans or unit plans help teachers figure out how they’ll accomplish the goals of a syllabus or yearly curriculum.

In carrying out lesson plans, some adjustment is required. A good school teacher should be able to detect if students are able to keep pace with a syllabus or aren’t progressing as needed. Yearly, unit or daily plans may need to be altered and should be considered fluid and based on student response. Students with learning or behavioral issues may need individualized programs or different methods of assessment, and these need to be factored in, too. All students require regular feedback on academic and behavioral performance, either with formal grades or informal discussion.

The success of planning is often determined by student performance. A school teacher must keep careful record of student work, grade it per established standards, and be able to report grades to the school and parents. Providing discipline is another responsibility, and teachers need to set rules, enforce them, or evaluate whether some students might need different rules. Planning, grading and disciplining bring teachers regularly into contact with parents who may have concerns about one or more of these areas. Parents also participate as volunteers, and teachers may need to supervise parental volunteers in classrooms or on field trips.

Teachers have responsibilities toward school administrators and faculty. Planning may exist on the faculty level and administrators may have directions on appropriate material or based on overall school performance. A credentialed school teacher also must regularly participate in continuing education, which could be part of staff training or may be more formal. Most teachers need to fulfill continuing education units in order to maintain their credentials.

The school teacher works long hours, and may work about 10-11 unpaid hours a week. The demand for greater accountability in schools and ongoing school funding issues has also led to more structured planning with less choice of materials and less assistance in the classroom. The rigorous nature of a teacher’s work fortunately does not discourage many fine educators from entering this field.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Feb 26, 2014

Everyone has a favorite teacher. Maybe you even break it down by grades and you have a favorite elementary school teacher, a favorite middle school teacher and a favorite high school teacher.

Regardless of how you break it down, I imagine there are a few teachers who made a big impression on you. For me it was a high school teacher. She was not my favorite teacher when I was in school, but years after I graduated, I realized she was the most prepared teacher I ever had. And the best compliment I can give her is that she never wasted a minute of my time.

Anything I didn't learn or grasp in her class was because I didn't work hard enough, not because she didn't work hard enough.

By Sporkasia — On Feb 25, 2014

There is this saying from a book or maybe it's a poem, but the gist of the writing is that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. It's a great piece of writing and it explains all the things kids learn in that first year of school. Every time I read it, I think of my own kindergarten teacher, who was great, and my experience that first year of school.

A kindergarten school teacher sets the groundwork for the rest of a kid's school career. A good one can propel a child to academic success, a bad one can do exactly the opposite.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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