How to Become a Private School Teacher

Written by Brent Loomes

How to Become a Private School Teacher

In this guide, we will provide important information for education students and current teachers who are considering becoming private school teachers. We'll cover the educational background and certifications you'll need to work as a private school teacher along with other requirements. Additionally, we'll be looking at salaries and career information for private teachers, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of working in private vs. public schools.

Steps to Becoming a Private School Teacher

Many teachers want to teach in private schools because they feel that their value is greater to a private school where quality teaching is expected and appreciated. They may also want to avoid the rules and procedures that govern public schools and the never-ending bureaucracy that is guaranteed to affect their careers in that setting. Teachers who are attracted to private school teaching want to be free to teach and provide their students with in-depth knowledge in creative ways. There are a number of steps that you'll be taking first to become a teacher, and then to work in a private school. Let's look at them below.

Private School Teachers: Licensing

As you may already know, teachers need to get a license in order to practice. To become a teacher in any setting, including private schools, first you need to decide what subject you want to teach. You'll also need to think about where you want to teach because different states have different requirements to obtain your teacher's license and certification. Make sure you also think about things like what grade level you want to teach and whether you want to be involved in specialty teaching, like teaching special education. The way you will go about getting your license depends on what and where you will be teaching, so these initial decisions are extra important.

The second step to getting licensed as a teacher is to get a bachelor's degree. Your degree program will need to include a teacher preparation program. You can find many online resources that list teaching degree programs all over the country.

To apply to your program, you'll need to:

Pass a basic skills test: These include math, reading, and writing. Many states test these in Praxis I. Others accept the scores you obtained on your ACT or SAT tests.

Pass a special skills test: This requirement depends on what subject you're planning to teach. For example, to teach special education, you may need to pass an exam proving your ability to understand the cognitive development of the students you are going to teach. Normally, you'll take this kind of test after you have been accepted in your teaching program, but some schools expect you to take it as part of the application process.

Pass a background check and/or be fingerprinted: This is required because being a teacher involves working with children. The requirements vary depending on the state where you're applying, and, in some teaching degree programs, it is mandatory.

Depending on the state you'll be teaching in, you may also need to pass some coursework requirements that are unique to the state. Teaching programs normally make mention of what these requirements are, so you'll know ahead of time.

Once you complete your degree program, including a student-teaching portion that usually lasts between one and two years, you're ready to apply for your license. Begin by finding out what paperwork you need. Your teacher preparation program's staff may be able to help determine this. Get your paperwork ready and pay any fees you may need to present proof of; then submit your paperwork to your state's department of education. Once you've completed all of these steps, you'll receive your license and be able to work as a teacher in any setting.

Private School Teachers: Certification

After teaching for at least three years, you can become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). This certification is not mandatory; however, some teachers feel that they gain a great advantage by possessing it as it shows their quality as teachers and can open doors to better pay and career advancement. Notably, though, most private schools do not ask for this certification.

To obtain this certification, you must:

  • Complete a degree (bachelor's or master's) in education or a subject you intend to teach
  • Teach for three years, showing proven experience and skills
  • Be licensed in the state where you're teaching or planning to teach
  • Pass a certification exam administered by the NBPTS

Education Programs for Teachers in Private Schools

One way to start teaching in a private school is by graduating from one. If that is your situation, you'll be almost guaranteed a place in the private school that you graduated from. However, not every aspiring private school teacher graduated from the institution where they want to teach, of course.

If you did not graduate from a private school and wish to work in one, there are education programs that help you prepare so that you'll be a strong candidate for a private school job. Let's look at them in more detail.

Recently, some universities have begun to offer master's degrees that are partnered with teaching at private schools. Such programs allow students to gain experience teaching in a private school through a fellowship or similar arrangement. At the same time, students complete the coursework for their master's degree in a curriculum that emphasizes skills and perspectives applicable to teaching in private school environments. This kind of program combines advancing your education with getting used to the unique requirements and settings of several participating private schools.

Private School Internships

Another way to get a job as a private teacher is to intern in a private school while you're earning your undergraduate degree. Many schools provide the opportunity for faculty internships. These can be preparatory schools, independent schools, or schools that are religiously affiliated. You can find opportunities for internships while still on campus at your undergraduate institution. If you're a recent graduate, look at education job fairs to find places where you could land your ideal internship. Similar experiences can include summer fellowships and teaching assistantships.

Internships can also be found through networks such as Educators Rising. Through such programs, prospective private school teachers can participate in projects that include courses that last between one and two years to learn the particulars of private school teaching. Participants get the help and supervision they need at every level from a teacher leader. Internships usually include shadowing the lead teacher and doing some observational fieldwork. As they progress through their work, interns become co-teachers and get better acquainted with the needs of a particular private school.

Private Teachers and Private Teaching: Duties

This section will be hardly surprising to you if you're already a teacher. The main duties you will perform as a private school teacher are the ones you would typically do in a teaching position in any other type of school. They include:

  • Lesson planning and delivery
  • Grading student work and assignments
  • Structuring the classroom
  • Accommodating students' special needs
  • Providing students with feedback on their work
  • Coaching students

In addition to these duties, which mimic public school duties quite well, private teachers may also be expected to:

  • Provide religious education (for private religious schools, such as Catholic schools)
  • Teach a number of different courses at middle and high school level (anywhere between three and five) each academic year
  • Coordinate extracurricular activities
  • Instill a love for learning in students
  • Follow any specific guidelines that the school decides to implement

Beyond these expectations, certain private schools also expect you to get involved in after-school or weekend activities. This means that you'll be more than a ''simple'' teacher for your students. You'll also be coaching them and participating in their sporting events or other club work. The reasoning behind these extra duties is that private schools consider teachers models for students. Concepts such as resilience, tolerance, and leadership can be best taught directly, by example.

Moreover, by participating in sports and athletics, a private school teacher attends to more than simply the mind of their students and academia. They also contribute to enhancing teamwork and, more importantly, keeping students healthy both mentally and physically.

Despite these extra duties, it must be noted that if you like flexibility when you teach, being a private school teacher is perfect for you. You'll have more freedom when tackling lesson plans and design. Nevertheless, some private schools expect you to follow a particular teaching method. For example, Montessori schools include both a lab aspect and an informational aspect that teachers need to follow. This context still allows the flexibility you're seeking as a private school teacher because you'll be able to follow the natural aspect of kids' curiosity, especially since hands-on learning is the main tenet of Montessori education.

Private School Teacher Requirements

Each private school will have its own required qualifications for its teachers. It is not always necessary to be licensed or certified when you have the right degree and deep knowledge of what you are applying to teach. Preferred degrees often include master's degrees, but this is not the case for all private schools. In some, you can teach with a bachelor's degree as well.

Likewise, some schools require that you have previous experience working as a teacher, while others do not. If you took the path to become a teacher that included certification, you may find it easier to find a job, especially if you completed the student-teaching portion of your program.

Pros and Cons of Being a Private School Teacher

As with everything related to teaching, working in a private school comes with a series or pros and cons. Pros include:

  • More freedom in creating lesson plans: Private schools, unlike public schools, do not get funding from the government. This means that they are free from some state mandates and may not have to use standardized testing. This gives teachers more freedom when they work on their lesson plans with the students' learning as a whole on their mind.
  • Smaller classes: Private schools, which are funded by tuition and donations, often cannot accommodate all students who wish to attend them. They set limits to enrollment to what is profitable for them, which means that you'll likely be teaching smaller classes than what you may be used to in public schools. This gives you the advantage of both getting to know your students better and being able to give each of them the attention they need.
  • More parent involvement: Because parents pay out of pocket for the education of students enrolled in private schools, they are also more involved in the school's curriculum and want to collaborate with the teacher, which is an advantage you would forego in public schools. Also, you can benefit from parents volunteering to help with activities and special projects, among others.

Cons to teaching in a private school include:

  • Additional work: As previously mentioned, you'll do more than teaching in a private setting. The additional work does not necessarily translate into additional pay, however. Additional duties often include taking over another teacher's class when they call in sick because private schools do not have access to the same number of substitute teachers that public schools do.
  • Lower pay: Often, teachers in private schools are paid the same or less than their counterparts from public schools. Some are paid hourly and do not receive raises every year. As such, from a financial perspective, you might be better off working in the public system.
  • More parent involvement: For the same reason this was stated as an advantage, it can also be hindering. This is because more parent involvement means more parent authority. Private schools follow the objectives of parents closely when making decisions that can affect how you teach. This can be restrictive under certain circumstances.

Private School Salaries & Career Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary and career growth information for each type of teacher. Instead, it reports on all teachers, including those who teach at private schools. As previously mentioned, pay for private school teachers tends to be on the lower side of the scale compared to that of public-school teachers.

In 2020, the median salary per year for elementary school teachers was $60,940 per year, according to the BLS. Also in 2020, secondary school teachers were earning median salaries between $60,810 (middle school) and $62,870 (high school) per year according to the same source. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS expects job growth of 8% for teachers, which it considers to be ''as fast as average.''

In conclusion, becoming a private school teacher is a viable career path for you if you have a particular mindset and are willing to work in a significantly different setting than what you may have experienced in public schools. Hopefully, this guide has given you a clear indication of what you need to do to become a private school teacher and what your advantages and disadvantages are likely to be in this setting. Good luck with your preparation for working in a private school!

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