Fifth Time’s the Charm

A journalism teacher’s journey through trial and error


Mr. Joshua Rubinstein hard at work. Captured by Julia Lynn.

Deciding on a future career is not a path that’s set in stone, despite what people say. There can be complications along the way, and desires can change with growth. Mr. Joshua Rubinstein, Rocklin High School’s new journalism and yearbook teacher, has gone through that. Five times, in fact.

In high school, Rubinstein took his mother’s journalism class, and that’s when he started to enjoy writing. He even worked up to the position of Editor-in-Chief. Still, but it wasn’t always easy.

“It took me a while to get good at journalistic writing, even when I was good at writing essays,” said Rubinstein. “It took me a while to really figure out how to make sentences impactful and grab readers. I started in junior year, and it took me a year to get good at it.”

But liking something doesn’t always equal a passion. What really helped him decide journalism was his passion wasn’t during his time as a student, but a teacher. During his first year as a teacher managing Florin High School’s journalism team, he covered a rather controversial story about the website Rate My Teacher, where students could anonymously rate their teachers.

“We wanted to run it by the [administration] first because it could prove to be difficult if the school decided to evaluate teachers based on it,” said Rubinstein. “That could affect contracts, teachers could get fired because of that… So we actually got the admin and the teachers’ union to write a piece, so we had around four stories on the website because there were so many angles and everybody wanted to have their say. That was the first time I thought, ‘This is important.’”

That story birthed Rubinstein’s philosophy on journalism. It’s one he still practices today.

“There’s a reason [journalism is] a fundamental enshrined into the constitution,” said Rubinstein. “When you don’t have the ability to write true stories about what’s going on, then things get hidden. People in power want to hide things.”

Despite his passion, Mr. Rubinstein wasn’t always set on journalism as a career path.   Originally, he wanted to be a lawyer, but one day, that changed.

“I was having a graduation party, and at both of them, a family friend came up to me and told me that ‘we know that you’re a family sort of guy, and being a lawyer is hard and requires a lot of hours away from your family,’” said Rubinstein. “‘Most of the time it’s not arguing in front of a judge, most of is doing paperwork alone in a room,’ and so I thought ‘Is that actually what I want my life to be?’”

And that change wasn’t the last, it was the first of five. Teaching was never on his list after watching both his parents struggle through the difficulties of public education. So within a couple of years, Rubinstein changed his career three times.

“My first job out of college was design,” said Rubinstein. “After that, my wife and I joined a [Jewish] ministry for three years and spent three years living on the roads on a bus. Then I ended up working in Home-Theater Installation and did all sorts of custom theaters in people’s houses.”

After years of wandering, Rubinstein found a final answer from his role model, the same woman that introduced him to journalism: his mother.

“One day my mom called me,” said Rubinstein. “She said, ‘I know you don’t want to be a teacher, but I think you’d be good at it, and wouldn’t it be better than what you’re doing right now?’. So I gave it a shot and tried student teaching and really loved it. It was like something clicked inside of me.”

Rubinstein started his teaching career by teaching journalism at Florin High School, where he also juggled his second job of being a Rabbi. He, however, does not let his religion judge how he leads his class. When students compared him to the previous teacher, Mr. Nichols, they found that the change was actually good.

“Mr. [Rubinstein] is a really fun teacher to be around,” said junior Riley Williams-West. “He teaches in an enjoyable way, so it never feels like we’re forced to do homework or anything because it’s really fun.”

Speaking of change, those years of change were never actually what challenged Rubinstein. In fact, he enjoyed “doing a lot of different things”. The true challenge wasn’t transition, it was the bosses.

“Sometimes you get a good boss and sometimes you get a bad boss,” said Rubinstein. ‘Even at school, you can have a good or bad principal. I think we have a great principal, but I had bad principals at Florin High that were not supportive of the teachers. It was hard.”

“My favorite thing about RHS right now is the students. There’s a real kindness,” said Rubinstein.  “I don’t know where it’s coming from, I don’t know if it’s from the way they were raised or if they’re part of a faith community, but there’s a real pro-active kindness and really getting out there trying to do work. There’s that real extra special I-don’t-know-what-it-is, and that has been wonderful. It’s going to sound cliche, but it really is a dream job right now.”

Rubinstein feels better than ever with his new dream job. Despite the challenges that used to keep teaching off his future career list, Rubinstein has found that there are still good things to consider in teaching.

“Sometimes it’s chaotic,” said Rubinstein. “Sometimes you have knuckle-headed boys that run around your room and break computers, but sometimes it’s also really wonderful. With students that are actually learning something and you see them grow over the course of a year. It’s really powerful.”

The future isn’t set in stone. Rubinstein stumbled through four jobs before he found his place, but he has found that it was worth it in the end, and he doesn’t plan on going through a sixth do-over.