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A Message to Future Teachers from a Fellow Future Teacher

March 6, 2012: Washington, DC teacher labeled “Creative” and “Motivating” fired because of her students’ low test scores.

September 13, 2013: New York teacher who “is the type of teacher that all parents want for their child: smart in her content area and committed to making a difference in her students’ lives…works incessantly with her students, both inside and outside of the classroom” was given low evaluation score due to her students’ low test scores.


I am currently a Junior at Rutgers University. I was recently accepted to Rutgers Graduate School of Education to pursue my Masters degree in Social Studies Education, and earn my initial teaching certificate. I strongly believe that teaching is not a job that anyone can do. I strongly believe that teaching requires intense training, experience, and years to become an effective educator. I strongly believe that people should go into teaching because they see it as a life-long profession, not a volunteer service.

As many know, I wasn’t always so “active” in terms of issues in education. I still laugh when I think back to the first day of my Introduction to Education class in Fall 2011. Our professor asked us to write why we want to become an educator.

As my paper reflected, I saw becoming a teacher just becoming a teacher and changing lives. The biggest struggle I figured I’d face were a few pretty rowdy students, students who were harder to help motivate, or students who simply didn’t like me. When it came to politics or education policy, I had no interest. I just wanted to become a teacher and change lives, there was nothing else to it.

I had a very rude awakening.

As my eyes were opened to the severity of inequalities in our education system, I realized that if you are becoming a teacher, you cannot ignore how strongly politics impacts both your students, and your profession.

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But bouncing back to my activism in education and why I feel a need to protect this career, a common question I get is, protecting teaching from what?

I asked the same thing when I engaged in my early days in discussion around education policy. I was so confused when I received Facebook messages and e-mails saying, “Don’t go into teaching. It’s not what you think it is anymore, it’s not what it used to be.”

But, as time moved forward and my discussions with current teachers increased, it all started to come together. It was finally clicking why my high school teachers would get annoyed when we’d take an entire week off for testing. It made sense when my English teacher would be pissed we were losing class time for AP Tests, or had to take a step away from Emerson and Walden to teach us test-taking skills–clearly learning how to score high on an exam is more valuable in life than encouraging us to actually think…(sarcasm…)

Of course, at the time, all of us students were saying–this is what we took this class for, to be prepared for an exam!

Dear god, what has school become? Even further what is the teaching profession becoming when we start only looking at them as people who are meant to prep us for exams?

Many future teachers know the common thoughts our society perceives about teaching: They only work until 3pm, have weekends and summers off, what can be so hard about that?

Even worse, we choose this profession for the dolla, dolla, bills y’all.


Even Matt Damon gets it: “A teacher wants to teach, I mean why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours, and do that job, unless you really want to teach?”

With all of this being said, I leave my fellow future teachers this message:

Maybe you have a similar story or reason why you chose to become a teacher.

One or a few teachers made an impact on you growing up, and you wanted to do the same. Pursuing a profession that includes impacting thousands of lives throughout your lifetime, engaging youth in a subject of your passion, giving them the tools to pursue their wildest dreams, being someone in students’ lives who helped them remove the word “impossible” from their vocabulary–a profession that means not only having the power to change and save a life, but a profession that opens thousands of minds and eyes and inspires them to change the world.

But choosing this career path probably wasn’t easy. Maybe you also had friends who asked, “Teaching? Why?”  Or maybe you had parents who always dreamed of you becoming a doctor or a lawyer–a “real profession.” Maybe you also questioned, how the hell am I going to pay my loans back when teachers are paid such a low salary?

But, maybe you came to the same final decision as I did: Screw society’s perception, screw what everyone will think of me, I know that that teaching is one of the most critical careers, and I refuse to let other peoples’ thoughts stop me from pursuing the career of my dreams.

In more eloquent words: You cannot see yourself any other place except working inside a classroom for the rest of your life.

I wish more of you were with me because I know that many of you respect the profession as much as I do. I know that your goals for your future students are just as large as mine are for my students. I wish you were fighting alongside me because I want you to be able to make that impact. But, if we continue to allow policy makers, politicians, and “reformers” who have no true idea what it means to be a teacher, controlling what we can and cannot do in a classroom–we will not be able to fully make the impact we envision in our heads. Instead, we’ll be increasingly forced to jam scan-tron sheets in our students’ faces. Instead, we’ll be engraving this idea in their mind that their worth and their intelligence is dependent on a number.

We know that that is not what teaching is about.

We can’t just sit here and let those with no teaching experience, or understanding of how students actually learn, kill the very reason we are pursuing the teaching profession in the first place.

We can choose to let the chips fall as they may. We can choose to obey like the dogs they think we are, and obey their policies and reforms we know are not good for students. We can even just simply avoid the profession all together so that they can throw the people who have no real respect for the profession into the classrooms. OR, we can not only defend our profession, but completely revolutionize how society looks at this career.

You know as well as I do that professional educators should be just as respected and found as necessary as engineers, lawyers, and doctors. But, we should not only know this, but we should act on it. 

I am not saying go and start a blog. No, I am not saying you have to go out there and protest. But, I am saying, please, please, please just be aware of what’s going on. 

I was moved to write this blog post because of how much I’ve been reflecting on the amount of future teachers I’ve been coming across lately. From speaking to future teachers from Columbia and NYU at a recent panel, to having the honor to know so many of my good friends and Future Teachers Association members–it gets me excited. I know it may sound cheesy, but I get the chills every time I envision them in their future classrooms. They are incredible people, and their students are going to be so lucky to have them as their educator.

But, it also scares me because I never want the passion I see beaming in their eyes to ever be sucked out them.

Which is the main reason why I am writing this message, in hopes this falls into the right hands (well, computer screen) of a fellow aspiring teacher.

There are students’ lives to be changed by so many of you.

Don’t let anyone take that away.

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The views expressed by the blogger are not necessarily those of NEPC.

Stephanie Rivera

Stephanie Rivera is a student at Rutgers University. She is a future teacher and educational equity activist. ...