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The Difference Between Teaching Elementary and High School Students

students studying in classroom
Reviewed By
Published on: 12/19/2017
Last Updated: 05/22/2023
3 minute read

Kids will be kids, and that’s a fact. Teaching kids at the elementary or high school level is a challenge. That doesn’t mean, however, that you won’t find a teaching career to be the most fulfilling one you could possibly imagine.

One of the best ways to keep the job exciting (and keep you sane) is to make sure you’re teaching the right age group. The need for teachers at both elementary and high school levels are roughly the same: 51 percent are in elementary, while 49 percent teach at the secondary level, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Become a teacher

Here are a few different factors to consider.


Obviously high-schoolers are much more independent than elementary-schoolers. Kids who already know how to dress themselves and pack a lunch will naturally be “better” at art projects or math. While this has its benefits, it also means that high-schoolers aren’t a blank slate—it’s up to you whether you prefer to mold a student who is already taking shape or start from scratch. In either case, though, students should be doing the majority of the work in any classroom. You should only be talking a small percentage of the time.


This is related to the aforementioned issue of independence. Elementary students have relatively limited abilities compared to high-school students. If you enjoy watching skills develop, it’s a great age for you. If, however, you want to help students refine a true art or science—drama, art history, calculus—then clearly high school is calling your name.


High school teachers usually enjoy a considerably slower pace of life. Most high schools use block scheduling these days, which means 90-minute classes with a long planning period each day or once every 2 days. Unless you choose to teach an after-school activity, your before-and after-school time is usually free.

Elementary schedules, on the other hand, are somewhat manic. “Classes” last an hour or less, and the kids are going somewhere new every hour or so. Your planning periods are short, and there is no block time. You have a long lineup of before- and after-school duties, are expected on the playground with your class, and will most likely need to put in more after-school hours than a high school teacher due to the lack of planning periods.

Advance your career


Behavior issues are present at any age. In elementary school, students often times need assistance in managing their emotions. It's the teacher's job to help the student understand their emotions. In high school, it is common for students to be withdrawn. Effective teachers will find a way to reach the student by relating to them. For example, finding a shared hobby or interest with the student will likely make them come out of their shell. Teachers who manage to cultivate a true love of learning in their students are one of the greatest gifts they will ever receive.

Are you ready to learn more about a California Teaching Credential and what it can do for you? Check out the many possibilities available to you when you attend Alliant International University, from elementary to high school, one subject to several, and all the options in between. Your career is calling; all you have to do is answer. To learn more contact Alliant International University today.

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