To All The Teachers Telling Us To Not Go Into Teaching, Stop.

Ever since I started my blog (exactly!) 2 years ago, I have been told a number of times:

  • Stay away.
  • You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.
  • It’s not what you think it is.

In the past few years, there have been a handful of “Why I Quit” articles and essays, of exhausted–rightfully so–teachers resigning. I give these teachers credit for publicly announcing their reasons for resigning.

Their actions illuminate the detrimental direction our current education system is heading: increase of high-stakes testing, schools looking more like business-models, loss of creativity, never ending disrespect geared towards teachers and their unions, severe educational inequity–yes, their actions speak volumes and are undoubtedly very brave. Your resignations reflect a lot of the anger and frustration hundreds of teachers across the country also feel today, and have given many teachers this sense of, “Phew, so I’m not alone” reaction. With no doubt, knowing you’re not alone can do wonders in this fight.

Yet, honestly, I am fed up.

The most recent article I came across was, Diary of a Student Teacher: Why I Quit.

I know we are stronger than this, and there are more powerful ways to make our mark than simply quitting. There are more powerful responses to the poor reforms and policies being forced upon us. Just look at the action of the Seattle teachers who boycotted the MAP test–and won!

Yes, I know many of you are thinking: You have no idea what it’s like though in the classroom. You’re not even an actual teacher yet.

Yes, that argument is valid, and I whole-heartedly agree with you.

Yet, you have no idea what it is like as a student going into teaching seeing so many educators simply just give up. It is frustrating to see one movement of teachers taking powerful actions of resistance, and another who decide to quit, and even worse, tell future teachers not to go into the field. One recent example was published in the Huffington Post: A Warning to Young People: Don’t Become A Teacher. In this former English teacher’s warning, he lists the number of problems teachers are facing today e.g. high-stakes testing, Common Core, etc. and asks: Why would anyone willingly sign up for this madness?

Yes! Why?!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue saying it until this war is finally won.

When you see something you love being attacked, you don’t run away and hide. No, you stand up and fight like hell to protect it.

To all of the doubters, all the teachers encouraging us not to enter the field. I promise you, that is the worst advice you could be telling our generation. You are completely ignoring the fact of who experienced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era directly.

Please, stop underestimating us.

I will admit, there was a long period of time where I felt alone in my anger towards the direction of the education. Yet, more and more, I am meeting future teachers who know exactly what’s wrong with the current direction of education under elite, wealthy, out-of-touch politicians and corporate education reformers. What sparked this post was actually a Facebook status by an old high school classmate of mine who I haven’t talked to in years. She posted a link to an article regarding Chris Christie’s proposal for longer school days.

She wrote:

Genuinely curious who decided that extended school days would be beneficial to anyone. With the education system in its current state I’m almost positive that extended days would actually have nothing but a detrimental affect on student’s learning. Perhaps if the extra time would be spent allowing students to actually explore their interests and creativity it would be beneficial, but as someone who spent over 120 hours in a district with extended hours last semester I feel confident (and sad) to say that obviously won’t be what the extra time is used for. The extra hour or two a day is spent for, what do you know, MORE TEST PREP. I spent 120 hours watching FIRST GRADE students spend their day focusing solely on math and english/language arts. There is no social studies curriculum and science is a second thought, “Maybe we’ll get to it,” essentially. These poor children walk in the building at 7:30AM and are already asking me if it’s time to go home; school is not somewhere for them to enjoy, it’s somewhere for them to work.

Christie described the proposal as a “key step to improve student outcomes, and boost our competitiveness.”

That is the sentence we need to focus on because what he is saying is that this is a step to improve student’s test scores. Not a step to improve student’s critical thinking, or student’s creativity, or student’s desire to learn. TEST SCORES. period.

And the number of critically conscious future educators I have come across does not end there. If you’d like me to connect you to them, I would be more than happy to do so.

This fight against harmful, corporate education reforms will not be won with more teachers quitting. This fight will not be won by telling future teachers–who are going into the profession with  the right intentions, with the proper more-than-5-weeks training–not to enter the field. We will win by working towards educating more future educators of what is happening. Rather than telling them to not go into the field, and instead discussing ideas on how a powerful resistance can be built together. Imagine young future educators coming across articles titled: “Why I Revolted, “Why I Resisted,” or “Why I Was Fired for Not Teaching to Test,” rather than the ever so common,”Why I Quit.”

I know that many of the current teachers encourage us not to enter the field because they want to protect us. Thanks, but no thanks. We don’t need your protection, we need you to stay strong and stand up for what you know is right. We don’t need your protection, we need you to stand up for the future of your students, the future of our profession–and thank you to all of the current educators out there who have been doing this tirelessly. We need to know when we enter the classroom, you will stand fearlessly beside us.

We don’t need your protection, we need your solidarity.

*    *   *    *    *

Calling future teachers!
Another future teacher and I are working on a project regarding this very issue. If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at: SRRivera92@gmail.com.

*    *   *    *    *

Update 1\16:

The response I’ve received to this post thus far has been incredible. Thank you to all of those who have read and shared this post. I also thank those who have shared words of encouragement, and also those who have challenged me by sharing why you still insist teachers stay away. One of the greatest responses so far has got to me the amount of other future teachers who have contacted me expressing the same sentiments (and please continue doing so! SRRivera92@gmail.com). In addition, bloggers have also been sharing their posts. There are other educators who have written about the same issue! What a shame they are drowned out by “Why I Quit” articles. I hope we can change this. Please check out:

  • Paul Bogush’s, “Why I Continue Teaching
    How does a quiet person lead a revolution?Not by quitting teaching or saying I will never take another student teacher, but by assisting people to become a part of a system that is hell bent on creating an educational genocide

    .I will quietly continue doing what I do in the classroom with both kids and student teachers, I will go to conferences and lead sessions that are quiet calls for disrupting the system, I will quietly mentions things to teachers in the hallway, twitter, and email.  My hope is that someone much louder than I will ascend to power and lead the revolution.  It will not be me, but I hope that I can help in their training.

  • Dale Rogers’s, “Mr. Rogers Meets Charles Dickens
    While all of the wisdom of the research is being ignored and the foolishness of politicians, philanthropists, and corporations is being praised, teachers feel attacked, disrespected, and undervalued. What can teachers do? Teachers must seek total solidarity. Teachers must remain vigilant knowing that they have the facts on their side. Teachers must make every effort to push back against the foolishness. They must counter the attacks rather than retreating. They must realize most of the disrespect only comes from people that don’t know them or don’t have a clue what they do. They must value themselves and each other.

 

60 thoughts on “To All The Teachers Telling Us To Not Go Into Teaching, Stop.

  1. Spot on, Stephanie! I hope I never encouraged you to stay away. If I did, I take it back. The message I have always tried to send to future teachers is: “it’s bad right now – real bad – and we’re fighting tooth and nail to fix it for your arrival into this most important profession. If we don’t, be ready to stand strong.” Obviously, we don’t have to worry about teachers like you. You’re all over it!
    Great post!

    • :) Thank you, Kris! You’ve never discouraged me, the message you intended is one I’ve always taken away from you. Although I haven’t read “Children of the Core” yet, it’s teachers like you who work to get the knowledge out there that are teachers I respect. Passing on knowledge to future teachers of what is happening to the field is much, *much* more effective than simply telling us to stay away. Thank you for everything you do!

    • “How does a quiet person lead a revolution?

      Not by quitting teaching or saying I will never take another student teacher, but by assisting people to become a part of a system that is hell bent on creating an educational genocide.”

      Yes.

      Paul. This is incredible. I can’t believe I have never come across this post before. I will be passing this along.

      Wait, actually, I’m going to add it to this very post right now. Thank you for writing this.

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  3. I’m sticking it out to stand with next generation educators who will get this work done. We can’t do it without you. In solidarity Stephanie. Believe.

    • “next generation educators who will get this work done”

      That is insulting to current-generation educators. Please let us know your magical “get-it-done” secrets.

      • This. This is what she is talking about. Lori’s comment was not meant to be insulting to current-generation teachers (of which I am one, by the way), it was meant to be supportive of people-young and old-who are entering teaching, which resembles more and more of a battlefield everyday. We have got to stick together and share ideas and techniques. Veteran teachers benefit from the energy and tenacity of fresh teachers and newbies learn what good teaching looks like from their more experienced counterparts. But if we cannot stop bickering about EVERYTHING and look at what research says is the best for STUDENTS (not always what is most convenient for teachers-but that is an entirely different subject), we will share our common goal of educating the next generations of children to be productive, happy citizens. We’ve got enough battles to fight without turning on each other.

  4. Thanks for this post. My son will be entering school soon to study to become a teacher, and he will be a great teacher. But he is hearing the same mantra about “don’t go into teaching” and everyone gives him different reasons. I will share this post with him and maybe he will follow you as well for more inspiration!

    • The main reason not to get into teaching is the enormous loss of financial stability (contracts mainly) and extreme student misbehaviours. I was a teacher but never again. Could not get ongoing work anywhere.

  5. I wrote about this almost 3 years ago in a guest post for Education Week:

    “Our students need us now more than ever. Parents need us now more than ever. We know we are right now more than ever. We must work together as educators to fix what is wrong with education and not allow politicians, philanthropists, and corporations to instill their baseless ideals on the America education system.”

    http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2011/04/mr_rogers_meets_charles_dickens.html

    And a year later embarked on an unsuccessful attempt at running for state representative:

    http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2012/07/putting_your_money_where_your_beliefs_are_teacher_as_politician.html

  6. Right on, Stephanie. I’m a student teacher heading into the field next year and I’m on that same page. I don’t know how many times I’ve had the same conversation:

    “What are you studying?”
    “Social Studies Education. I’m gonna be a history teacher!”
    “Is it too late to convince you to switch?”
    -.-

  7. Twenty six years ago, I started teaching in Trenton, New Jersey in a bad neighborhood. My principal at the time advised me to “go teach in the suburbs.” My response was, “The children don’t need me as much in the suburbs.” I am still teaching there and will continue to teach there as long as I am physically able. I even switched to special education to make it more challenging. Hang in there. There are lots of us who aren’t quitting.

  8. The only thing that I would do differently is learn about money. Many say teachers teach for the love of teaching and not money. That is true, but that doesn’t mean ignore money and hope everything works out. Leave the government out by saving for your own retirement. If you have a pension, that will be the gravy. Save for your retirement on your own. Do the math and see what is left over and go from there. Never use credit cards and pay cash for everything. Teaching will be a lot more enjoyable.

  9. Amazing piece!!! I hope many disillusioned teachers read this and it is a wake up call for them… Keep up the great work, Steph. You never cease to amaze & inspire!

  10. Steph, you nailed it! I am guilty of “forbidding” my daughter to become a teacher because of what is happening to education in America and in particular what is happening to educators in Bayonne, New Jersey! But let me tell you this…I am not QUITTING ANYTHING and if I am forced to find another career because I can’t afford to live, I am not going down without a knock’m down and drag’m out fight and that new career may well be an attorney whose sole purpose is to defend TEACHERS, STUDENTS and the integrity of EDUCATION! I for one believe I am worth every penny I have been promised and will not allow anyone to tell me differently. We are four years without a contract here in Bayonne. They are looking to strip teachers of their long awaited bubble step, freeze raises, increase deductions and now Christie wants to make us work more hours for less pay. The nepotism, corruption and greed is rampant and I have been watching how our “appointed” Board of Education has abused spending for four years while claiming to not have the money to pay it’s educators. Our local government jumped on the teacher-hating Christie bandwagon with both feet and my colleagues and I contend that…YOU CAN’T PUT STUDENTS FIRST IF YOU PUT TEACHERS LAST! BAYONNE, NEW JERSEY IS FIGHTING THE WAR! I designed a banner that says DIVIDE A UNION/DIVIDE A TOWN and it hangs high on a building in a busy Bayonne neighborhood. I am not giving up on this fight and I wish more of our young teachers had the courage and the understanding you do about EDUCATION. Instead of FEARING supporting the UNION…they should be running the union with fresh, young, hot blood!

    IMG_2398.jpg

    • How nice that you have the opportunity to go to law school, if you should choose it. If I could afford it, I would certainly do it.

      I get the impression that many “fighters” have another source of income, or some financial back-up; i.e., you wouldn’t end up pushing a shopping cart in the park.

      If that is the case, then, indeed, it is you who should be on the front lines of the fight. Some of us have to try to do what we can in a far more low-key way.

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  13. As a high school senior, 31 years ago, I was told by teachers not to go into teaching. :-) There will always be those who see the negative rather than the positive. As a 26 year veteran teacher, I still love what I do. Yes, the challenges are many, but my friends in other professions face challenges as well. My advice to those wanting to pursue a career in education is this – go into it with your eyes open. It’s not an easy job, but then, anything worth doing isn’t easy. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

  14. I was just saying to myself what happened, because I haven’t heard from you! Sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic, but with future teachers like you I am hopeful and confident we’ll beat this together. Thank you for this very honest blog post…

  15. When you are young, you think you can do anything and good for you. However, after giving 13 plus years of devoted service, getting a masters degree, spending one year of Saturdays (9-4pm) toward professional development, staying up long hours of the night, and some evil, unprofessional administrators still push you out of your job with their bad evaluations of you, what’s left but to walk away? Humanly speaking, teaching is not worth getting nervous breakdowns and sick over. Everyone thinks they can do your job better than you do and no matter how hard you work, administrators try to get you out as soon as you become too expensive. Also, many parents are so ungrateful and the public says suck it up. It’s too bad but they won’t allow you to stay one day more than they want you to.

  16. If you feel you can get the training and institutional support to be an effective teacher, by all means, go for it, our students need you.

    However it isn’t fair to suggest that teachers who have quit have given up.

    When a teacher realizes that they don’t have the training or experience to provide their students a decent education, or even a safe classroom, it isn’t giving up to quit (many TFA and Teaching Fellows teachers quit before the end of their 2-year commitment.)

    When a teacher realizes that they are part of an institution that is systematically and intentionally maintaining racist and classist social structures and failing poor kids by design, it isn’t giving up to quit.

    When you go into a situation thinking you are going to help kids, and you realize you are part of an institution that is hurting kids by design, it isn’t giving up to quit.

    If you want to be Jaime Escalante, and you find yourself acting like a prison guard or a slave owner, it isn’t giving up to quit.

    Quitting to avoid harming children’s futures isn’t giving up.

  17. As a fellow future teacher, THANK YOU for this post. I share the same frustrations of people bashing my dreams, and it is so refreshing to hear your point of view. I understand that teaching is very frustrating, but we need passionate people like yourself to be entering the field of teaching to turn that around. I will definitely be following your blog and can’t wait to hear more of your perspective.

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  24. With all due respect, and admiration for your willingness to fight, I will not tell you not to go into teaching, but I will tell you this:

    Do not go in with the smug attitude of some TFA teachers who feel they are so smart and capable that they should be fast-tracked to administration and policy-making.

    Do not go in with the attitude that being fired is an acceptable course of action for most teachers. It isn’t. Some of us rely on a paycheck to survive.

    Do not go in with disrespect toward teachers who are not willing to be fired. I’m not sure why anyone would take a job with the intention that, “If it’s the right thing to do morally, I will resist and be fired.” You must have wealthy parents. And don’t get me wrong, I would love it if thousands of teachers could do just this, to make a statement. However, most people have student loans to pay off, and will not.

    Do not go in with disrespect for teachers who quit. In fact, massive numbers of teachers quitting would also send a message. It’s too bad many more are not in a financial position to do so, or I guarantee they would. And quitting does not put you in the more difficult position of trying to find a job after you have been fired from another.

    It would be unconscionable for teachers, who are being attacked on a daily basis, not to warn you.

    With all due respect, your post sounds more like youthful idealism than realism. Please let us know how it works out for you. I hope you are not a spent-two-years-in-the-classroom-and-now-I-should-be-running-things know-it-all who pretends you care so much about education and needy children, but really care about climbing the ladder.

  25. I hope you go into teaching, fight and win the real battle of education reform. Yet, I am not optimistic. There are many venture capitalists who are being sold a bill of goods that the “education marketplace” is a $500B plum just waiting to be picked. These are influential people. A bunch of teachers and students and parents are not going to stop the machinery this way. The only way to stop them is to show them there isn’t really much money to be made in education.

  26. Thanks for this. I’m thinking of becoming a teacher but have been really hesitant because of all the reasons you mentioned, but this really gave me a new perspective.

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  28. I remember when I was like you. Back before I went to work everyday to be abused by children, colleagues, and parents. Before my district bought and hlf-implemented a new computer program every year. Before I knew anything and back when I knew everything.

    I will tell you this: there is NOTHING that teachers can do except teach where I live. We don’t have unions. We need our jobs.

    I’m leaving the profession after this year. I have more to give than this job allows. Furthermore, I think everybody in teaching should quit. If everybody worth a damn leaves, then maybe they’ll listen. Maybe they’ll see that it’d be better if they ran public schools the same way that the private schools so many lawmakers’ children attend.

  29. Well, it sounds like you are headed into a teaching career with your eyes wide open. Good for you! I hope you do make the changes you and your friend are intent upon making. Sometimes it only takes one person to change something big!

    However, you should not be irritated by the gads of teachers who try to warn you away from the profession. You are unique in that you are well aware of the pitfalls to which you are headed, and you are ready to do battle.
    MOST young aspiring professionals who have dreams of being a teacher are not so well-equipped. Spending one day or even a summer as an intern is completely different than spending the rest of your life teaching in a broken system for very little pay, and even less recognition or respect.

    Instead of becoming annoyed with the nay-sayers, perhaps you should listen and understand. This type of absorption and reflection is an important skill in teaching anyway! In addition to honing these teaching skills (that yes, you will need), you can use the information (even though it is negative) to help you realized exactly what skills and “weapons” you will need in you will need in your hopefully successful crusade to change the face of education.

    Best of luck to you!! We need you!

  30. A lot of teachers have a very ethical streak in them, and as they want the best for young people, they want you to know that there is probably an 80-90% chance that you will be happier in a different career. The nerve of them.

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  33. Your teachers have a better understanding of the realities of teaching than you do, because they have many more years of experience than you do. Most teachers start out with big plans and ideals like you are, and that’s a good thing. But don’t dismiss their concerns just because you’re so focused on the big picture. And remember that we experienced teachers HAVE been fighting for our students for years, and we HAVE been doing a lot to help our students every single day. We do that even though we are underpaid, overworked, and undervalued at the schools that employ us. So we don’t need you to call us to action when we already have been in action since the day we started. Don’t overlook the efforts and achievements that have already been made by teachers who have already been working in classrooms for years. Don’t be so quick to criticize the teachers who quit, because you don’t know or understand everything they went through or what exactly motivated their decisions; it’s not fair to make blanket statements about all the quitters as if they were all the same.
    I think it’s good that you want to be a teacher, and I think it’s good that you want to improve the field of education. But remember that while you may think you have it all figured out now, there will be other obstacles that stand in your way. I’m not saying you should let those obstacles stop you; I’m saying that your teachers are not wrong to warn you that those obstacles are there in the first place. It’s good to be idealistic, but it’s also important to be realistic. Be prepared for how difficult it’s going to be, and learn how to deal with it rather than criticize the people who are trying to educate you about reality rather than just telling you what you want to hear.

  34. Nice youthful idealism. What exactly are you fighting anyways? How about you name names? Name organizations? Name ideologies? Sad to say, but it is my generation, the 60’s, that has destroyed an excellent education system in America. Sure it had faults, but the idealists of that generation have turned education into a nightmare for educators, students, and parents. I look forward to a bit more concrete information, until then, you are just swinging at air.

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  36. You tell people not to underestimate you, but you underestimate the teachers who “gave up.” You don’t want people to judge you for your decision to become a teacher, but you’re judging people who don’t want to be teachers anymore. They have a right to make that decision, just like you have a right to become a teacher. Don’t act like you’re so much more courageous than them when you haven’t even worked as a teacher yet. The fact that they became teachers and lasted as long as long as they did is pretty courageous, yet you are quick to attack them for their decisions to stop, and that is WRONG. You don’t need their protection, fine. They don’t need your criticism and condescending attitude, especially since you haven’t even worked as a teacher yet.

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  38. I’m a public school teacher of 14 years at a school that serves 75% low-income students, most of them of color. This issue you speak to of ‘giving up and running’ instead of standing together with our colleagues and students and fighting is REAL.

    Do not listen to ANYONE who is minimizing your perspective because of your youth and/or inexperience. Your perspective and leadership are vital to the possibility of renewing our forces and pushing back against the pro-corporate, union-busting, Teach-for-America attitudes that pervade education.

    Your words are inspiring to those of us who want to stand and fight and are a challenge to the those who have chosen to give up by leaving or just retreating into their classroom.

    Thank you!

  39. When I retired from the military, I decided to become a teacher. As a manager, supervisor and trainer, I loved the training portion of my job. Working with young man and women who were cream of the crop. It was a struggle making the transition, going to school, raising a family, and understanding what type of teacher I wanted to become. Along the way were lots of trials and tribulations. One of the hardest was being discriminated as a veteran. A human resource director told me “my military and life experience meant crap to teaching” The one thing that struggled with daily was how we were leaving students behind, denying the fair and equable education, and the abuses happening within the schools. If you try to report abuse you can be retaliated or lose your job. I report an incident where a behavioral student was verbal abuse/degraded, physical dragged to his cage and neglected. There was no investigation but they use me as a scape goat. It destroyed me ways I’m still trying to heal the wounds. No one wants to talk about this or workplace bullying. The things I’ve heard and communicate with other teachers is unacceptable. Yet, everyone is silent on these areas. Yet, many teachers are leaving because of this and dealing with live threatening health issues. We can put a good face on a bad situation but we should,t sugar coat how bad it is out.

  40. No one “just quits”, Stephanie and your characterization is as naive as it is insulting as it is arrogant. You have not fought a battle, nor have you even seen one. You have read about a few. Perhaps you should write something after fighting at least one battle if not ten thousand. No one “just quits” teaching. And just because you are too green to know of any of the hundreds upon hundreds of great teachers in this country who have been fired or harassed out of the profession for standing up for their beliefs does not mean there are not hundreds upon hundreds if not thousands upon thousands.

    “Just quit.” Where do you get the nerve, let alone the standing to insult the heroes who have courageously fought the fight you’ve only dreamed about in a profession you only know from the movies?

    Take your degree to the heart of the inner city, Stephanie. Survive until New Years Day. Just one. Get that under your belt first. Let’s see you survive one semester in the inner city before you start patronizing those who have been there fighting for students and the teaching profession every day for decades.

    Fifty percent of teachers do not survive their first few years in the classroom, Stephanie, a shattering statistic that is dwarfed in the inner city. Shall we at least see first if you survive? If you happen to be one of the few survivors and then go on to become one of the fighters, you will know that no one in the profession “just quits”.

    You owe those still in the trenches, those who could not take it anymore, and those who have died courageously fighting for what is right (the legions who have been fired completely unbeknownst to you) an apology.

    • I believe you largely missed the point of Stephanie’s post, and then spent the rest of that time writing an ad-hominem attack. She does not need to apologize for telling us that we can stand up and fight, that it is not the best (or only) course of action to discourage people who could otherwise make a positive impact.

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