Tag Archives: Teachers and Facebook

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.

Teacher Facebooks, Loses Job

A Michigan teacher lost her job when she refused to give her school district her Facebook password. What prompted the school district to ask for her password?

Hester posted a picture of a co-workers’ shoes and pants bunched around her ankles on Facebook in April 2011 with the caption, “Thinking of you.” She posted the picture in jest, but a parent who’s on her Facebook friend list saw the image and reported it to Frank Squires Elementary where Hester was employed, prompting the investigation.

And because of the case of the bunched-up pants, the school district wanted to be able to monitor her every Facebook move. They never got her password and, instead:

Part of the letter read: “… in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly.” Lewis Cass wanted to put Hester on a paid administrative leave before they fired her, but she chose to go on an unpaid leave because she believes she did nothing wrong. She plans to use the letter she received to sue the school district.

This would be hilarious if someone’s livelihood was not being jeopardized.

New York City, as well as many other school districts, does not have a written Facebook policy for teachers. This means that whatever the policy is has to be worked out on a case-by-case basis through the setting of precedents.

I was told from a pretty reliable source that principals in NYC are under direction to report any Facebook-related incidents immediately. The DOE conducted a witch hunt against Christine Rubino and, this coming Wednesday, another teacher faces termination for a Facebook status taken the wrong way. The DOE seems to be spending a lot of resources and time on regulating the goings-on of teachers on the internet.

There has to be a reason for this.

It cannot be that they just want to get rid of veteran teachers who cost too much. There are so many other easier, time-tested ways to go about doing that. The DOE seems to have much more at stake in prosecuting Facebook incidents.

There is no ignoring that our school system is run by Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire media mogul and darling of the corporatist forces. Giving him control over a municipal workforce of millions of workers gives him a type of far-reaching power that few people could ever dream of. The public workforce has always been the baseline for the private workforce. As the rights of public workers have been stripped away over the past 35 years, so have the rights of the private sector workforce. If the largest school district in the country can fire teachers for what they say on Facebook, they send a signal to the rest of the country that it is ok to do the same.

This is why the DOE has no written Facebook policy. They want to forge one by firing teachers for Facebook incidents as they come up. It sets a precedent for other teachers as well as other workers in general. It gives heart to employers everywhere that it is ok for them to do the same to their workers.

So any teacher who gets into trouble for some trivial Facebook nonsense needs to fight like hell. It is not only their own careers that are at stake, but the careers of millions of workers around the country as well.

This is a dark lesson about how far employers are willing to go in order to muzzle the free speech of their workers. It is a lesson in the unfreedom of the American workplace, a nether world where many Constitutional liberties are put on hold in favor of securing the rights of employers.

If you’re a boss and you’re worried about what your employees say on Facebook, perhaps you should not be in charge of people’s livelihoods. You are way too petty and paranoid to have any type of power.

Walcott Cracks Down On Facebook Teachers

Everyone on Facebook is your friend.

Dennis Walcott is set to put his foot down about teachers who friend students on Facebook and other social media sites. His reasoning?

“They don’t want to be put in a situation that could compromise them or be misinterpreted.”

And how does cracking down on friending students on social media prevent this?

Teachers will always be misinterpreted, misjudged and compromised whether or not we have a Facebook, whether or not there are students on our Facebook if we do.

I have a Facebook that I rarely use. There are no current students on it, although I have many graduates listed as “friends”. It does not mean they are my “friends”. The same goes for everyone listed as a “friend” on my Facebook page. Like most people, I have very few real friends and a whole slew of casual associates. I do not talk to anybody on Facebook and I cannot remember the last time I was interested enough to look through someone else’s profile.

Here is my suggestion to Dennis Walcott, as well as anyone else who thinks teachers should live like monks: get over yourself.

A teacher can be misinterpreted for something they say on Facebook whether or not there are students listed as their friends. The upcoming 3020a hearing that I have been advertising is one such incident. Whether or not this teacher had current students on her page is irrelevant to the frivolous charges she is facing.

What Dennis Walcott should be saying is: “teachers should stay off Facebook, period.”

As a matter of fact, teachers should stay off the streets, the supermarkets, the bars, the churches and every other public place, since anything they do out there can be misinterpreted as well. Teachers should not make any jokes while in class, the teacher’s lounge or the administrator’s office.

There should be an official social media policy issued by the Department of Education. The grey area that exists now gives administrators too much latitude to screw around with teachers’ careers.

Teachers are human beings. They get angry, sad, depressed, sarcastic, happy, frustrated, etc. just like everyone else. As time goes on, I get the sense that people expect teachers to be more and more superhuman. While parents are perfectly free to curse, drink, hit, spit, fight and keep Facebook pages with whomever they see fit, teachers are expected to be “role models” 24 hours a day, with all of the responsibility and financial poverty that entails.

As a country, our Puritanical hypocrisy masks a not-so-subtle depravity. A teacher has students listed as “friends” on Facebook? It must mean they are immature and really think those students are their “friends”. Take a look at your own Facebook and ask yourself how many people listed are really your friends. Maybe it is just a compilation of people you know, sort of know, may have known or never even met in your entire life. While I do not have students on my Facebook page, I do not begrudge teachers who do.

The word “inappropriate” flies around school buildings a lot. I would venture to bet it is one of the most verbalized school building words. Teachers and administrators say it to students and each other. It covers something as mundane as when a teacher leaves the copy machine without paper, as well as something as serious as a student cursing at a teacher. Things that are regular human interaction in everyday life get labeled as “inappropriate” with ease in a school.

While children need to be protected and teachers need to be adults, we have never found a way to do it without creating a climate of fear and repression in school buildings. Teachers literally find themselves walking on eggshells every minute of the day. What are the impacts of a repressed teacher on the quality of education children receive? Knowledge, wisdom, culture and learning are supposed to be natural and free, yet we are contorting our teaching force into plastic and inhumane “authority figures”.

These restrictions will get worse and worse as education reform continues its forward march. We do not want teachers. We want test prep trainers and authority figures that will babysit children 7 hours a day. We do not want teaching. We want barking out the correct bubble-in choice on the next decontextualized knowledge question. We want teachers to model this behavior of rigid discipline and fear for the next generation of low-wage workers.