How to Become a Seventh Grade Teacher


Introduction

Intellectually, many seventh grade students are ready to tackle far more complex and challenging work than they were in grade six, but there is one complicating factor—statistically, seventh grade is the epicenter of puberty. As students begin to enter the teenage years, many adolescents face confusing times, which can affect their overall studies, attention span, and behavior. Seventh grade teachers must be prepared to go beyond introducing students to increasingly complex subject areas, and navigate developmental changes which include first crushes, acne outbreaks, and low self-esteem. Seventh grade teachers, especially those with specializations and a background in a sought-after subject area, should expect to encounter promising job prospects in middle schools through 2022.

How can I become a seventh grade teacher? 

Seventh grade teachers, like all middle school teachers, must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in order to teach in a public school system. The exact requirements that a prospective educator must fulfill varies on a state-by-state basis. Many states expect their middle school teachers to major in a specific subject area, such as language arts or science. Other states hire teachers who have majored in elementary education.teacher

Every public school teacher must also obtain a state-issued license before they are able to teach in the United States. Operating outside off government guidelines, all private schools do not require an educator to become certified in order to accept a teaching position.

Although state-specific requirements differ, seventh grade educators often complete the following steps in order to qualify for a teaching position at a public middle school:

  1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree: A four-year degree is the basic requirement of a middle school teacher. Prospective seventh grade teachers that major in a subject area, such as social studies or English, also enroll in a teacher preparation program, where they take additional classes in child psychology and education. Individuals additionally gain experience in the field through a student-teaching program, which pairs future educators with seasoned teachers as mentors within an authentic middle school environment. Lasting one or two semesters, students learn how to prepare lessons, observe classroom dynamics, participate in basic activities (such as arranging a bulletin board), and ultimately teach a class of students.
  1. Pass Examinations: Most states require the submission of scores associated with taking the Praxis exams, while other states have their own set of tests they wish prospective teachers to pass. In Iowa, teaching candidates are not required to take a Basic Skills Assessment. Instead, they gain certification by taking one Praxis II test in pedagogy and one Praxis II test in content.
  1. Become Licensed or Certified to Teach: Upon successful completion of a degree program, graduates must obtain a license or certification to teach in their state of residence. While the overall process differs according to state guidelines, most applicants usually submit their college transcripts, undergo a criminal background check, pass the appropriate exams, and pay applicable fees. It is not uncommon for middle school teachers to hold additional certifications, such as a secondary specialization; for instance in art, music or physical education. 
  1. Earn an Advanced Degree: A small percentage of seventh grade teachers also hold additional qualifications, such as a Master’s of Arts in education or Master’s of Education. Middle school teachers that are required by state to earn a master’s degree do so after receiving their teaching certification. Other educators pursue an advanced degree to qualify for higher-paying jobs and administrative positions within a school system.
  1. Keep a Teaching License Current: In order to hold a valid teaching license, middle school educators must renew their credentials by fulfilling professional development requirements, which vary by state. For example, K-8 teachers in North Carolina must renew their licenses every five years by earning 8 CEUs (continuing education units) that include 3 credits in Content, 3 credits in Literacy, and 2 General credits.

It is important to note that very few teachers only teach seventh grade. At the middle school level, an individual specializes in a subject or subjects and not necessarily in a grade level. Thus, in most middle schools, seventh grade teachers are also capable of teaching sixth or eighth grade students from time to time.

What can I expect as a 7th grade teacher? 

By seventh grade, most students are now 12 to 13 years old, and have settled into the rhythm of middle school. They know how to get from class to class, as well as how to keep track of upcoming homework assignments; they are ready to start exploring more complex ideas. Depending on the school, seventh grade teachers may work in groups referred to as team teaching (also called co-teaching or collaborative teaching). Comprised of two to four educators across subject areas, teachers work with one another to plan lessons which ultimately increase the level of support that their students receive.

Academically, grades become more affected by quiz scores, test results and completed homework assignments. Teachers strive to instill solid study habits and organizational skills. The seventh grade curriculum usually involves the following activities, subjects and themes:

  • Language Arts: Student expectations in reading comprehension and vocabulary are higher. Classes often involve reading more complicated texts, such as short adult novels or ‘the classics.’ Teachers will guide students as they write papers, book reports, and give oral presentations.
  • Science: The curriculum tends to be more hands-on, as science experiments are often conducted in class. Students are expected to complete lab reports and study independently for tests. The curriculum may touch upon the human body, the natural world, data collection, forming hypotheses, and using the scientific method. Many students may explore a single topic in depth, and participate in a science fair for the first time.
  • Mathematics: The math curriculum varies according to state, but for the most part, seventh graders are introduced to pre-algebra at this time. Students additionally expand their understanding of measurement and geometry. Seventh graders are generally expected to be able to graph and solve linear equations by the end of the year.
  • Social Studies: Students often read about current events and discuss the information in relation to their historical precedents. The curriculum often focuses on studying American history, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the Cold War.

Like other middle school teachers, seventh grade teachers who possess a high level of compassion, humor and patience have a better chance of making a difference in the classroom.

Socially, seventh grade students are in a transitional phase where childhood is in their rearview, and they’re looking forward to joining the ranks of high school. With changing bodies and growing minds, this is a time where teachers must be diligent in making schoolwork a priority. Adolescence brings new challenges that affect the behavior, organization and motivation of seventh grade students. Their actions lead to increasing consequences, as seen in the unruly student having to stay after school for detention.

An increasing number of students become more involved in extracurricular activities in the seventh grade, such as joining a sports team, playing an instrument, or taking lessons. As a result, some teachers may have to address a decline in a student’s classroom performance and grades when education takes a backseat to sports and recreation.

Every work environment differs according to the condition of a school, and the overall student population. Some schools have larger classes or lack teaching tools that make a difference in the classroom, such as current textbooks and computers. Most teachers will encounter defiant, unruly and unmotivated students at some point in their career, which can disrupt classroom activities and lessons. School districts may also cause stress and frustration by adjusting salaries or evaluating teachers based upon the performance of their students on standardized tests.

In addition to planning lessons and grading homework, seventh grade teachers are also responsible for writing progress reports and holding teacher conferences. They often work a schedule comprised of a traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month break during the summertime. Teachers that work all year-round in the school system have most likely opted to teach a class or classes in a summer program. 

What is the typical compensation and are there benefits? 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a middle school teacher in 2014, which includes seventh grade educators, was $56,310. While Texas employs the greatest number of middle school teachers in the U.S., the state does not pay the highest overall salaries to their 7th grade teachers. Instead, the following states pay the highest salaries (with annual mean wages) to their middle school educators: New York ($75,470), Connecticut ($71,690), Alaska ($71,040), Massachusetts ($70,020), and New Jersey ($68,410).

A state’s cost of living and individual hiring needs also affect the overall salary of a teacher. For example, while Massachusetts ranks above as one of the highest-paying states for the occupation, their high cost to live there actually translates into a teacher earning more like $59,893. However, when seeking employment as a seventh grade teacher, Massachusetts is experiencing a major teacher shortage in a range of areas, such as modern foreign languages and various science classes. The state offers increased pay for educators willing to work in high-needs schools with some districts paying much more than the state’s already attractive average, such as the Concord Carlisle district and Boston region.

In certain school districts, seventh grade teachers may earn performance-based pay when their students excel in the classroom. Those with an advanced degree and/or training may also apply for an administrative position that pays more money. Some seventh grade teachers supplement their income by serving as a coach for a school sports team; advising an after-school program; and/or teaching summer school students.

In addition to a vacation schedule that sees two months free in the summertime; most middle school teachers enjoy health and dental benefits, as well as employer retirement contributions. Another advantage to becoming a middle school teacher is that as a public service member, most educators are eligible for student loan forgiveness after ten years of full-time service in the profession. Those who accept a position at an urban or rural school in need of educators also qualify for incentives that lower overall student loan debt or offer bonus pay. For example, the state of Wisconsin provides differential pay support for teachers accepting a position in high needs schools.

Additionally, teachers within the private school system may receive reduced or free tuition for their children, or free room and board, as a form of compensation or added benefit.

What is the career outlook for becoming a seventh grade teacher? 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for middle school teachers, which include seventh grade teachers, are projected to grow at a rate of 12 percent. An estimated 76,000 additional middle school teaching positions are expected to open up between now and 2022. The steady job market for the occupation is primarily affected by the number of retiring teachers, declining student-teacher ratios, and anticipated increases in student enrollment.

Seventh-grade teachers who meet some of the following qualifications often face a better chance of being hired when applying to a variety of job positions at the middle school level:

  • A background, degree or training that specializes in bi-lingual education, special needs students, and/or counseling.
  • An advanced degree related to the education field
  • The ability to teach an in-demand field; for instance, the state of Kentucky demonstrated a shortage in the following types of teachers for the 2015/2016 school year: English, Mathematics, General Science and Social Studies.
  • Experience working in a specific school setting, such as an urban environment or charter school setting.

The number of job prospects for a middle school teacher also varies by school district and on a state-by-state basis. Government and district budgets play a role in the number of new teachers able to be hired. Overall student enrollment according to geographic location will also affect the need to hire educators that teach a specific grade level or subject. In the South and West, student enrollment is expected to climb the fastest, while the BLS anticipates declining population numbers in schools located in the Northeast.

In conclusion, seventh grade teachers are hired to teach students in one or more subjects in a public or private school setting at the middle, intermediate, or junior high level. Seventh grade teachers who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, gained experience through a student-teaching program, passed the appropriate exams, and obtained a license to teach in their state of residency possess the skills and knowledge needed to instruct a classroom full of pre-teen students.

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