DECLARATION OF A LIFELONG TEACHER

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Please welcome our next guest blogger, Christine Rubino:

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To me, the Right to Life means I should not be deprived of my life for the benefit of another person or group of people.

To me, the Right to Liberty means that my thinking be free from interference from the forces of unfreedom.

To me, the Right to the Pursuit of Happiness means that I have a right to live for myself and choose what makes up my personal, private, and individual happiness, just as long as I respect the same right in others.

Today, I realize that these three things were taken from me. I watched them burn, smolder into ash and blow away right in front of my eyes. For the record, I did not go down without a good fight.

Some things in life you are born with. I was lucky to be on the line, which gave me a good sense of humor, fortitude, and the ability to relate to children. I consider the last gift to be paramount to my whole being.

I grew up in the early 1970’s in a predominately Italian neighborhood. It is now known as Cobble Hill. Before it was invaded by hipsters and Midwestern transplants, we just called it “”South Brooklyn”. I lived directly across from the Red Hook projects and one block off of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. My days were filled with playing outside and keeping my eyes on my younger cousins. I loved this job and took great pride in it. It was then that I learned that I was a natural teacher. This has formed a major part of my identity ever since.

My parents moved us out to Marine Park by 1984, which seemed like the opposite end of the planet to a 12-year-old like me. One day, a new family moved across the street from us. They had 4 children ages 7,4,2, and 1. The mother of this family asked me one day if I knew anyone who could babysit her children. Being the boisterous child I was, I immediately told her it was her lucky day because she was looking at her new babysitter. Looking after her children made me happy and gave me purpose. They are grown now and help take care of my own kids. As time went on, they became my second family. There is a trust, an unspoken bond, between us. It is a bond that was forged all of those years ago when they were little ones in my care.

Babysitting was my sole means of income throughout college. I watched many people’s children around my neighborhood.  When it came time for me to decide upon a college major, it was inevitable that I chose Childhood Education. My parents were proud.  They said it was a fabulous union job, something I could make into a career. I graduated from Kingsborough Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood, then transferred to Brooklyn College where I got a B.S. in Elementary Education. I continued at Brooklyn College until I received my Master’s in Math Education.

In 1996, at the ripe old age of 24, I began teaching full-time at P.S.203 which is in a section of Brooklyn called Old Mill Basin. Once there, I held many different jobs and developed into a jack-of-all-trades. I got along with every child that crossed my path, just like I did during my babysitting career.

My days as a teacher were filled with:

1) The constant chatter of children, to which I added constant chatter of my own.

2) Paperwork, paperwork and paperwork.

3) Planning, organizing, and implementing lessons

4) Meeting deadlines

5) Adhering to a minute by minute schedule, including planned bathroom breaks.

6) Creating and grading homework and projects.

7) Writing notes and making phone calls home.

8) Making sure that I was always prepared and that my students were learning.

9) Planning and overseeing trips that I always managed to creatively connect to even the most boring topics.

10) Making copies

Within this list are things that I loved and things that I did not love so much. It was all worth it because it allowed me to be around children; to let my natural vocation as a teacher flourish.

Fourteen years of my life I put in that school before I was terminated at the ripe old age of 38 in June 2011.

Whenever I speak to colleagues, I find that I do a ton of reminiscing. Most of my sentences start with “when, I was in the classroom…” or “when I was a teacher…”. When that happens, my friends say “you will always be a teacher”. Their words make me pick myself up and brush the eraser dust off.

I am still a teacher when I listen to my own children chatter and laugh.

I am still a teacher when my children come home from school and I help them with homework, projects and studying.

I am still a teacher when my friends send their children to me so that I can help them with their tricky math problems.

I am still a teacher when I am talking to my own friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. I am asking a million questions and answering all of theirs.

I am still a teacher when I see a sign misspelled or a grammatical error in a book. I feel a need to get out a red pencil and start circling, highlighting and commenting. I even want to reach for the post-it notes.

I am still a teacher when I am trying to cheer a friend up, requiring me to dig deep into my humor arsenal to get a smile or a laugh.

I am still a teacher when I have to shuttle my children and their friends to and from school and all of their other activities.

I am still a teacher when I realize that every single second of the day has to be spent productively and accounted for. Yes, even bathroom breaks are still planned.

Despite the Department of Education’s efforts to deprive me of my life, liberty and happiness, they have not deprived me of my identity as a teacher.

That does not mean that my life has not been drastically changed. It has changed in ways that I could never have imagined. I was living decently when I was employed, raising my children and trying to keep my head above water like every other working person. Instead of a ”rags to riches”, my life since being terminated has been a ”rags to tattered threads” tale. It is not even remotely close to the life I led when I was gainfully employed in a “good” union job

My liberty has been buried. Yes, I am free to think but I always have this little pitchforked guy on my shoulder. He is constantly poking me. He is forcing me to self-edit EVERY SINGLE THOUGHT, WORD AND ACTION. Self-editing is essential in life but not to the extent of which I am speaking. That one moment years ago when the pitchforked man was not around constantly comes back to haunt me. People continue to judge me, my character and my abilities as a teacher based upon a few sentences I wrote years ago, sentences that I regretted and erased quickly after they were written.

As far as my happiness goes, I have been forced to pursue it even more. I have on the best and most expensive running sneakers. I am running as fast as I can. Yet, no matter how fast I run, I just cannot grab the baton from my partner’s hand. I can see it shining but I just cannot feel it. But, one day, I hope to have hold of it again.

So, despite the fact that I have been deprived of my life, liberty and happiness, I have not been deprived of my identity. YOU CAN TAKE THE GIRL OUT OF TEACHING, BUT YOU CANNOT TAKE THE TEACHING OUT OF THE GIRL.

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17 responses to “DECLARATION OF A LIFELONG TEACHER

  1. May I ask what the circumstances of your termination involved? I also am a teacher, recently retired after 33 years.

  2. I am a neighbor of Christine. I know what Christine wrote and it has not changed my opinion of her. I get to see on a daily basis how important not only her own children are, but how important ALL children are to Christine. We live on a block full of kids and Christine is ALWAYS there to help out any way she can. I myself have left both my children in Christine’s care several times and without a shadow of a doubt I know my children are as safe and well cared for with Christine as they would be with myself. You can not judge a person by one statement. It is unfair and unjust!

  3. Chris, you are a wonderful and strong lady and still an amazing teacher. T man bombed on a reading assessment last week and the first thing out of his mouth was “it’s ok mom, Chris will help me understand”. For that, thank you. You have restored my son’s faith in education. Justice may not be swift for you but I truly believe your determination will prevail in victory. Stay the corse my friend because the children of NYC deserve a wonderful and dedicated teacher like yourself because they seem to be few and far between.

  4. Brilliantly stated. I have followed this story from the beginning, and I am appalled at the profoundly unfair treatment of this dedicated teacher and truly decent human being. What a disgrace that students have been deprived of the rich and remarkable learning experience they might have had, if only Ms. Rubino were reinstated, as she most certainly should have been! So sad…the greatest educators are forced to struggle to keep up with required “numbers”, and the worst excuses for teachers are willing to spy, sneak and snitch to save their own asses! And a teacher with an impeccable record, Ms. Rubino, has paid much too high a price at the hands of a corrupt DOE, and their legal cronies. Where is justice?

  5. I remember Christine since I was a 7 year old playing with those kids she babysat… Chris, you are an amazing woman who has endured things that would have made most of us crumble to the ground, what they have done to you is so unfair! Keep your head high and one day you will not only have that baton… you will win the race!!!

  6. Christine is by far one of the most amazing people I’ve ever meet. Wht an amazing mother and friend!!! She has so much on her plate but still has time to make others laugh and smile. One text messag from her and im rolling in the floor lol love ya girlie. She has a glow about her that can not be broke or chattered. Keep your head up girl .. Karma is nasty it will always come around to those that try to knock you down. Xoxoxo (I’m not good at writing lol but I tried )

  7. Christine is a great teacher…she always will be…the building lost one of the best math teachers to ever walk the halls…i watched Christine turn topics like long division into an interesting lesson in which children were engaged and motivated…if a child didn’t understand something it took her only minutes to explain it in another way so the child could understand it…its a shame what a comment could do…and many teachers in the building should b weary of who their friends r….it boggles my mind what has happened to Christine and It makes me so angry to know how many difficult classes she has walked in2 and changed the lives of those students. We lost a great teacher and many should b ashamed of themselves for allowing it to happen! What burns me more is how many other teachers have written comments on facebook and didn’t have the same harsh penalty Christine received.

  8. I know Christine for a very long time and she’s a great person with a big heart. I understand she made some comments that she regrets but she never imagined that they would be taken to such an extreme….everyone makes mistakes and what she did was not something that warranted loosing her career over. Again I know her for a long time and she is a really good person. The board if education lost a great teacher.

  9. I too know and admittedly love Christine like a sister. I read what she wrote the day she wrote it I giggled and said to myself..must be a tough week at school…was is wrong, maybe to some but the real question should be… Is it illegal, did she break a law or even an oath? No! Absolutely No! Without doubt No! She complained to friends as I complain about my kids driving crazy and my husband making want to pull my hair out ! As innocent as that on her private Facebook page that was never seen by any student until someone with motives, issues and just pure evil decided to share her private rant to friends with the world…wrong maybe to you but to me, my friend needed me to giggle, offer support and most importantly MOVE ON!

  10. Dr. John Fernandez

    After 31-years of teaching in the public school system, I deeply miss the students at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, a Mexican/Latino community in Los Angeles. Christine’s story brought memories and tears to my eyes, I salute you because you will always be a teacher. Yes, one door was slamed shut on you, but many more will open for you. Best–jf

  11. It is a shame that over something so trivial a woman (that used to babysit for me and i would trust with my children in a heartbeat) is not allowed to work yet there a pedophiles and child abusers still working in our schools. There is definitely something wrong with the system! Chris, keep up the fight! You have already beat them with your positive attitude and will to fight for what you believe is right!

  12. Life is unfair and your words are beautiful. You were robbed of your vocation and the children were robbed of a positive influence. Such a shame. Your strength is admirable.

  13. Beautifully written. Sad when a moment of frustration culminates in making an off hand remark on a social media site and you are forever held to it. The Department of Education should look at the big picture here and years of service and dedication. It is amazing how they will keep teachers that have had allegations raised against them on very serious issues and yet keep their positions ?? Very sad but not too surprising…

  14. Christine, very moving post. My kids would be lucky to have you as a teacher. Keep up the good fight.

  15. As we read this blog we are so happy someone finally seems to be on Christines side. We have followed this story from the beginning from not only the news but also from Christine herself. We are not only good friends with Christine but we had the privledge of growing up with her always close by. We are two of the four now adults who were babysat by this caring person when we were younger. As we got older and no longer needed a babysitter we then just became friends. She was there for all the important milestones in our lives. She was there throughout school, graduation, proms, college ect. We were also apart of many big events in her life. We saw her go to her senior prom, we danced at her wedding, we saw her children born among alot of other things. As we look out our kitchen window we look into hers. We feel a great injustice was done to Christine on the part of the DOE. Not to sound too insensetive but GET OVER IT. It was one comment made years ago and it has snowballed into something it shouldn’t. We understand wars are started with words, but this isn’t war. What shouldn’t be forgotten is this was a PRIVATE comment made to a select few FRIENDS by a frustrated person at the end of their rope. Last time we checked we live in the United States of America, We enjoy freedom of speech, but to what extent? Who is to decide what is funny or not to someone else? Everyone has different humor. But is it right to judge someone based on one comment? If we were just reading about this person in the newspaper or online we would really feel sorry for this person. For us it’s much more. We believe that Christine Rubino did nothing wrong. We feel even though the comment was insensitive, it was said out of frustation and taken down almost immediately. Don’t you think she has endured enough?

  16. It has been a privilege to know Christine these past few years. I met her in one of the holding cells that Bloomberg created to villify and destroy one of the most coveted components of society.the “Teacher”. Teaching is not only a profession,. It is a vocation (from Latin “vocare” to be called) And as Christine described this profession ,this vocation she chose was her destiny. The teacher is held to high esteem and is regarded in equal esteem to the priest,doctor and philosopher.. I admire her. I find her brave and heroic. She has been denied her constitional rights. The one given all citizens in this countrry, the right to life, liberty and property (the 14 amendment). This right denied her is denied to all.

  17. I am not an advocate of teacher tenure. I am an advocate for great educators, time proven educators. With any profession if you rub your boss the wrong way, you can be fired. With teachers, tenure and unions it can still come down to who is liked by who. I believe a teacher’s job should be merit related. To give tenure to who likes who and who lunches with their boss is bs. When you are successful in the classroom, no supervisor or administrator should be the one in control of your fate. A few bad so-called observation done by someone who for their own reasons can give you great reviews or poor is not a reliable means to keeping or getting rid of teachers. I’m hoping tenure one day is abolished.

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