It has been reported widely that members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) will be shifted from school to school this coming year as often as every week.
Our contributor, Life in Limbo, considers the effect this new policy might have on herself, her family, and her career. As usual, NYCATR has highlighted the points that are especially interesting, outrageous, or pathetic.
If I am still an ATR teacher in September, I will have to deal with this new, week-to-week assignment situation resulting from the new ATR agreement. This will, in all likelihood, become a childcare nightmare for my husband and me. My husband works an overnight shift, from which he gets home at about 6:45 in the morning. If I am sent to a school in the far reaches of my quite extensive district, these assignments may very well force me to leave my three young kids (10, 8, and 5) alone in the house in the mornings in order to make it to work on time. I have no family in the area who can help out and my neighbors also work. No one will want to take a babysitting job that is not consistent week-to-week and is only for a half hour or so at the most, and I am not sure we could afford a babysitter right now.
On days when I am assigned to a far-flung school, my children will DEFINITELY be left alone if the weather is inclement--my husband will be getting home later while I have to leave earlier due to driving conditions. In addition, I get very nervous and stressed when I am going to an unfamiliar location and like to do a trial run before driving there by myself. This will be next to impossible when I am only given a day or two's notice of my new location. Ironically, as a per diem sub, I could refuse a job if it was too far away or too difficult to get to, so it seems that even the per diem people have more rights than I do.
I will face the same issues on the way home--I am not sure how to set up my kids' after-school activities since I have no idea what time I'll be home from one week to another. Deciding if a 4:00 Girl Scout meeting or 4:30 dance class is doable will be virtually impossible as my work hours and commute time will change weekly. In addition, scheduling doctors' appointments and other necessities (haircuts? manicures?) will also be an adventure. Some appointments must be made weeks in advance and I just will not be sure of being able to keep it. And again, do I consider the expense of a sitter to drive my kids around, or just tell my kids that there will be no more piano, dance, Scouts, etc. because we don't know if we can get you there? And would paying the sitter leave no money for activities anyway?
Now let's get one thing straight. I understand that I am "lucky to have a job at all" in this economy, especially one that pays decently and comes with good benefits. I understand that in other districts, excessed means no paycheck at all. I also understand that there are many who are facing more dire situations than I am. But the situation I am facing is a serious one for me and my family, and I am sure I am not the only member of the ATR pool who is facing the potential dismantling of his/her home life. This ATR situation has already stressed my marriage, my children, and my emotional well-being enormously. My family and I have paid dearly already. It's hard when all Mom does is worry about work and when the other shoe is going to drop, so to speak. So while I realize that there are many in worse situations than mine, I must maintain that this situation is pretty crappy, too, and has the "bonus" of not only making me miserable, but also spilling over into my family's life.