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A Teacher Responds To Chris Christie’s Finger In Her Face

by Jean Ann Esselink on November 4, 2013

in Education,Jean Ann Esselink,News

Post image for A Teacher Responds To Chris Christie’s Finger In Her Face

Saturday afternoon, Melissa Tomlinson, a New Jersey public school teacher, approached Governor Chris Christie and his wife at the Rutgers football game.Melissa is proud of her job, and proud of her school, and especially proud of her students, and has long been bothered by Christie’s criticism of New Jersey education. So Melissa seized the opportunity. She asked the governor:

“Why do you portray New Jersey Public Schools as ‘failure factories?’”

Governor Christie, who seems to find a special joy in yelling at teachers, responded by wagging his finger in Melissa’s face and screaming at her:

“What do you people want? Just do your job!”

Now Melissa Tomlinson has written this response to the governor’s boorish behavior, answering his question, “What do you people want?”

Dear Governor Christie,

Yesterday I took the opportunity to come hear you speak on your campaign trail. I have never really heard you speak before except for sound bytes that I get on my computer. I don’t have cable, I don’t read newspapers. I don’t have enough time. I am a public school teacher that works an average of 60 hours a week in my building. Yes, you can check with my principal. I run the after-school program along with my my classroom position. I do even more work when I am at home. For verification of this, just ask my children.

I asked you one simple question yesterday. I wanted to know why you portray NJ Public Schools as failure factories. Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.” Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.

We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education. Too me, there is never enough money that is spent on education. To invest in education is to invest in our future. We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn. As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing. Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs.

But let’s put money aside for a moment. What do I want? What do ‘we people’ want? We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel? The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth. This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments. The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the NJ Department of Education. I am all for evaluation of a teacher. I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job. This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching. I can not be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth. Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child’s educational success. If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch’s new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened.

Getting back to the issue of money. I am fully aware of our educational budget. Where is all of this money? To me it seems like it is being siphoned right off into the hands of private companies as they reap the benefits of the charter schools and voucher programs that you have put into place. It certainly hasn’t gone to improve school conditions in urban areas such as Jersey City. The conditions that these students and teachers are forced to be in are horrifying. Yet you are not allowing the funds needed to improve these conditions. Are you hoping that these schools get closed down and more students are forced to go to private charter schools while the districts are being forced to pay their tuition? I know for a fact that this is what has happened in Camden and Newark. Yet these charter schools are not held to the same accountability as our public schools. Why is that? Because deep down you know that you are not really dealing with the issues that influence a child’s education. You are simply putting a temporary band-aid into place. Unfortunately that temporary fix is already starting to be exposed as Charter Schools are showing that they actually are not able to do better than public schools.

You are setting up teachers to take the blame for all of this. You have portrayed us as greedy, lazy money-draining public servants that do nothing. I invite you to come do my job for one week Governor Christie. I invite you to come see my students, see how little they really have during the school day as they are being forced to keep learning for a single snapshot of their educational worth. For that one end-all, be-all test, the NJASK. The one that the future of my job and my life is now based upon.

Why do you portray schools as failure factories? What benefit do you reap from this? Have you acquired financial promises for your future campaigns as you eye the presidential nomination? Has there been back-room meetings as you agree to divert public funds to private companies that are seeking to take over our public educational system? This is my theory. To accomplish all of this, you are setting up the teachers to take the blame. Unfortunately, you are not the only governor in our country that has this agenda. What do “we people’ want, Governor Christie? We want our schools back. We want to teach. We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally. We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.

BadAss Teacher,

Melissa Tomlinson

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Alex_Parrish November 4, 2013 at 9:30 am

We need more teachers like this one who will hold our government's feet to the fire and demand accountability from them. They are filled with the buzz-word and desire to hold teachers 'accountable'; it's about time the governors and government were held accountable.

Alex_Parrish November 4, 2013 at 9:34 am

I don't know who the person behind Christie is, but if that is his wife — and I suspect it is — the could be a snapshot-emblem of what is wrong here. Look at how she is taking delight in the teacher getting yelled-at. She seems perversely gleeful at the thought of a teacher being 'put-in-her-place." Perhaps this is some kind of sick revenge fantasy on her part for a difficult teacher in her childhood, or perhaps it is just the face of pure evil. Either way it is telling and disgusting.

SteveoG November 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

That is his wife. Like him she was out to have a little respite from a 24/7/365 job for a change, smiling is a natural by-product. Maybe the snapshot emblem of what's wrong would depict people who believe a public servant does not have the right to get away from his job for a couple hours.

Graceed1963 November 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm

What are you basing that on?

rainechief November 5, 2013 at 12:51 am

It was a campaign stop. The teacher states that in her message, and even a cursory search on the web would verify that Christie stopped there to speak before the game, and didn't even stay for the football.

RRuinsky November 4, 2013 at 9:35 am

And yet, with all the evidence of Christie's bullying and his failures, the people of New Jersey are prepared to vote him back in by a wide margin.

User2post November 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

Christie is nothing more than a bully. Bullies should be unable to hold public office.

frodo59 November 4, 2013 at 10:07 am

Yes, Christie is a jerk, but I expect better use of the language from a teacher.

MiddleGrounds November 5, 2013 at 2:49 am

"Better Language"?? The teacher, in her note, was VERY respectable compared to how Christie treated her!

MickeyPerry November 4, 2013 at 11:39 am

This teacher IS bad ass! We need more like her and LESS idiots,like Christie! Let him run for president! He'll NEVER get in! The country is watching and listening and we vote to decide who gets in! Not happening,asshat!

ascanius001 November 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

now that the nj courts have delivered marriage equality, let's hope the legislature does not go ahead and overridechristie's veto. this way, since the courts have done it, there will be no special protections for the religious bigots. the legislative bill contained some special provisions for the haters.

SteveoG November 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Its worth a moment to put yourself in his place. He's out for some R&R from a job that's 24/7/365. Imagine your job consumed not just 40 or 50 hours a week but every waking moment. You go out to unwind and find someone taking that as an opportunity to bother you publicly about how you do your job. Is a curt, "get off my back" answer really all that shocking? Before judging him ask yourself if you've ever been out to relax and been approached by someone complaining about how you do your job. Would you accept your brief respite was prematurely over and commence pleasantly talking shop or would you just want them out of your hair?

Graceed1963 November 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

1. I would be happy that I had such a high-paying job.
2. He is the Governor 24 hrs a day, no one forced him to be in that position , no one forced him to take a job where he is in the public eye.
3. Why shouldn't the teacher take the opportunity to speak to the Governor when she had the chance?
4. The welfare of the children in this state should come before the governors leisure time.

rainechief November 5, 2013 at 12:53 am

It would have been worth a moment for you to actual do a bit of research before trying to defend the abysmal way this teacher was treated by an elected official. This was a campaign stop, not some private R&R.

Agnus1919 November 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

With Christies ABYSMAL record in office and T-Bagger stance on ALL social issues, from being against equal pay for women and abortion under ANY circumstance to anti gay marriage, and why would any thinking person and especially women ever vote for him??? Even after hurricane Sandy he STILL denies climate change!! Just check out this record:

Jobs Lost – New Jersey Falling Behind:
7th – New Jersey has the 7th highest unemployment rate in the country at 9.3 percent – the worst rate in the region (April 2, 2013)
15.5% – New Jersey residents who are underemployed (The Wall Street Journal, 7/30/2012)
47th – NJ’s economic growth ranking (The Times of Trenton 3/4/2013)
41st – New Jersey’s business climate ranking (CNBC, 7/10/2012)
35% –the amount of jobs NJ has restored since the recession (The Times of Trenton, 3/4/2013)
45,000 – Number of permanent jobs Christie cost New Jersey by killing the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project (The Star-Ledger, 10/28/2010)
6,000 – Number of construction jobs New Jersey lost when Christie decided to end the Access to the Region’s Core tunnel project (The Star-Ledger, 10/28/2010)
7,000 – Jobs that could be lost if Christie succeeds in privatizing New Jersey’s state lottery (Asian American Retailers Association, 12/12)
174,100 – Net private sector jobs lost (NJ Spotlight, 7/23/2012)
10,000 – Teachers and school employees laid off in 2010 due to Christie’s budget cuts (Daily Journal, 12/29/2010)
16,600 or 2.8% – Public sector workers laid off (NJ Spotlight, 7/23/2012)

New Jersey Families Falling Behind:
$7,885 – New Jersey’s average property tax bill, up from $6,244 in 2009 (The Record, 5/14/13)
18.7% – Increase in New Jersey homeowners’ net property tax burden since Chris Christie took office, due to elimination of property tax relief (The Record, 5/14/13)
4 – Number of times Christie vetoed women’s health funding
6 – Number of family planning health centers closed, so far, due to Christie cuts to women’s health and family planning
82% – Percentage of New Jersey towns that saw some increase in the average property tax bills in 2011 (The Star-Ledger, 1/8/2012)
138 – Hours a week a minimum wage worker in New Jersey would need to work to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent (National Income Housing Coalition, 2012)
7.7% – New Jersey’s mortgage default rate, 4.5% higher than the national average (The Star-Ledger 12/4/2012)
8.4% – Mortgage loans in foreclosure, the 2nd highest percentage of mortgage loans in foreclosure in the nation; one out of every twelve mortgages in New Jersey is in the foreclosure stage (New Jersey Newsroom, 7/18/2012)
20.4% – Net property taxes higher since Christie took office (NJ Spotlight, 1/30/12)
82% – Percentage of New Jersey towns that saw some increase in the average property tax bills in 2011 (The Star-Ledger, 1/8/2012)
11% – Amount of income a New Jersey household spends on property taxes; the national average is just 3%
138 – Hours a week a minimum wage worker in New Jersey would need to work to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent (National Income Housing Coalition, 2012)
$200 – Lost, per family, in tax credits aimed at low-income workers during the past two tax years (NJ Spotlight, 8/8/2012)
83% – New Jersey’s graduation rate, down from 95% in 2010 (New Jersey Newsroom 11/29/2012)
24% – Percentage increase since 2000 in the number of New Jersey children living in poor neighborhoods (, 3/8/2012)
7 – Percent that New Jersey’s homeless population rose between 2009 and 2011 (, 4/19/2012)
48 out of 50 – New Jersey’s rank when it comes to serving school breakfast to low-income children, many of whom come to school hungry and unable to concentrate on their school work (Advocates for Children of New Jersey, 1/31/2012)

Crumbling Infrastructure & Rising Costs:
651 – The number of New Jersey bridges found to be “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration, up from 620 in 2010, the year Governor Christie took office. (The Star-Ledger, 6/19/2013)
$13 – Record high cash tolls on the George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing (USA Today, 12/3/2012)
25% – Increase in fares for NJ Transit rail and commuter bus lines since Christie took office (Asbury Park Press, 4/14/10)
10% – Increase in fares for local bus and light rail fares since Christie took office (Asbury Park Press, 4/14/10)
36% –Percentage of NJ bridges are “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” (NJTV, 3/29/2013)
66% –Percentage of NJ roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing motorists $3.5B a year in extra repairs – $601 per motorist (NJTV, 3/29/2013)

- See more at:

MiddleGrounds November 5, 2013 at 3:56 am

– 138 – Hours a week a minimum wage worker in New Jersey would need to work to afford a two-bedroom unit at Fair Market Rent (National Income Housing Coalition, 2012) —

That's in there twice. Not that I'm going to state much more than that, but figured that should be pointed out.

pfonten November 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

For those of you saying he was just there for a break from his job… No, he was on a campaign stop which the teacher states in her first sentence, and you can verify that here:… He didn't even stay for the game.

Good for this teacher for speaking up.

Sue01 November 5, 2013 at 12:42 am

Why complain abut him, why not include Obama? Christie is going for reelection…what is Obama doing campaigning?

pfonten November 5, 2013 at 1:43 am

How is my statement correcting a misrepresentation a complaint, Sue01? This seems like a diversion from the point.

kbhmsw November 4, 2013 at 11:37 pm

If he had wagged that fucking fat finger in my face, I would have bitten it off and spit it out back at him with the biggest "FUCK YOU" one man has ever said to another.

Sue01 November 5, 2013 at 12:43 am

The same people that voted for Obama will now also vote for Christie! We're doomed.

MiddleGrounds November 5, 2013 at 2:52 am

*Hands you your fail sign*

dzweifler November 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

There's a grammar mistake in paragraph 3: "Too me…"

Grammar_Guy November 7, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Nice catch in paragraph 3. Also, in paragraph 1: "sound bytes" should be "sound bites". A bit of a nit especially in the fact that she was refering to computers. But if she was intending the pun, she should have put in in quotes: 'I have never really heard you speak before except for sound "bytes" that I get on my computer'. Having said that, I am fully in support of her sentiments, arguments and challenges to Gov. Christie.

mkowalewski November 9, 2013 at 7:14 am

She also used the wrong version of to, too, two in paragraph 3 at the beginning of her second sentence. She specifically stated "Too me" when it should have stated "[t]o me." She has a good message that is unfortunately lost when correct grammar is not used, especially by a teacher!

Peter Blaise November 10, 2013 at 1:04 am

Truth to power — well done, you rock!

(You did write this on school time using school equipment and resources, right? ;-)

No more second class citizens, ever, please.

And by that I mean the students, not just the teachers!

bming5 November 10, 2013 at 3:05 am

An acquaintance of mine is a Special Education teacher at a bilingual school. She told me her sister, who works for these mega assessment corporations, told her that one of these assessments cost $21 million, and that that was routine. Next time your state or district asks for more funding, ask about these u$ele$$, demeaning, humiliating, time-con$uming expen$e$. Talk about *Left Behind*: students, teachers, parents, communities, schools, contributing to our low-informed citizenry. As a teacher, it seems as if all I am provided with are a chisel and stone to educate- no support from administration -whatsoever. Ever. Lastly, check out the public education in Finland, where the teachers are honored and paid on a level of physicians.

LizzieMills November 11, 2013 at 6:23 am

What an impressive response from the teacher: a letter filled with typos and poor grammar. Let us note, too, that this woman has the audacity to brag about her own ignorance–she claims she has no cable and doesn't read newspapers, so how does she keep updated on world events? Every teacher I ever had–and, ironically, I was educated in New Jersey–stressed the importance of familiarity with the news both local and worldwide. Seems to me that her letter did nothing but prove that the governor is right–education in NJ does need a major overhaul, if only to get rid of teachers who think ignorance of current events is a point of pride for an educator. Manners sufficient to leave public officials in peace when they are participating in social events rather than functioning in their official capacity would be nice, too.

bming5 November 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Television and newspapers are no longer news. They are corporate advertising. Most educated, and even ignorant people have known to turn to the internet for a broader spectrum of information and actual investigative (several points of view) journalism for about a decade now. This is yet another shortfall of 'modern' education: the lack of computer access in the classroom. In fact, in my classroom I only have three outlets and three computers; one of those is for the teacher's administrative use.

slynnlacour November 11, 2013 at 10:58 am

As the daughter and niece of school teachers, I want to say, if this man runs for President in 20whenever………..I WOULD NOT VOTE FOR HIM! The two most important people in our worlds, teachers and military/police are paid the very least, so he can go put his finger in his nose and remember HOW he got where he is. Taught by a teacher and protected by police!

michelleszyd November 11, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Am I the only one who is concerned that she used the wrong "too" in the third paragraph? It would seem to me that if one is writing a letter defending public education one should use proper grammar. I don't agree with Christie bullying her, that was just wrong.

grammargeek1955 November 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm

To all of the other people who caught grammatical or spelling errors: did anyone else notice this: " Has there been back-room meetings as you agree to….." The subject is MEETINGS, which is plural therefore the verb needs to be HAVE not HAS.

Also in more than one place, she used "that" where she should have used "who", for example: "I am a public school teacher that works an average of 60 hours a week in my building. " I believe since she is referring to herself, a person not a thing, it should be "… a teacher WHO….."

Although she makes some good points, I expect a teacher to use better grammar and spelling.

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