Understanding the student age difference between elementary and secondary education
The most significant difference between elementary and secondary education concerns the ages of the students, and it’s a difference that can impact the teacher’s experience in the classroom.
For example, a first grade student has different emotional needs, intellectual capabilities and social experiences than an 11th grade student. Prospective teachers must understand these differences, how they’d translate to the classroom and how, as teachers, they could excel (or not) in each environment.
Elementary and secondary teachers also have varying daily schedules, duties, responsibilities and areas of expertise. It’s important to understand the opportunities and challenges that working with these age groups presents before choosing one level or the other.
Roles and responsibilities for teachers in elementary education
While the exact ages for students may vary slightly from state to state, elementary education typically covers students from kindergarten through sixth grade (depending on the state) or 5 years old through 12 years of age. Students in elementary school are new to the education system, relatively speaking, and may enter their school with a wide range of preparedness based on their preschool experience.
Teachers for this age group instruct almost every subject the children learn, including math, reading, writing, science and social studies. Students do not typically change classrooms during the day, except for lunch, recess and special classes such as art, music and physical education.
Elementary education instructs students in basic literacy, arithmetic and science while laying a general foundation for later education. To adequately perform their jobs, teachers in elementary education need in-depth knowledge of child development and social and emotional learning, as well as best practices for teaching pre-adolescent children.
Teachers in elementary education also tend to have more involvement and communication with students’ parents than teachers in secondary education. This is important for prospective teachers who prefer collaborating with adults for student success rather than teenagers.