NYCATR is proud to introduce a new contributor; she wishes to be known as Life in Limbo, a most fitting name for a member of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR). Below is Ms. Limbo's first offering; NYCATR has taken the liberty of highlighting some points that are especially interesting, outrageous, or pathetic.
Having just finished my second year in the ATR pool, the new ATR agreement and the possibility of yet a third year have been weighing heavily on my mind.
I was excessed in June of the 08-09 school year when the middle school I was at eliminated the entire Reading department. Four of us were excessed. One switched to her ELA license for a year and retired, the other two are still in limbo along with me.
My first year in the ATR pool found me sent to an elementary school, despite the fact that I have NEVER worked in an elementary school and have NEVER taught below the sixth grade. At this school, I was treated like garbage by the administration, told not to "sniff around like there's a job here because we don't pay for Reading teachers. There are so many excessed that we just get Reading ATRs for free." I was given a first grade class for twelve weeks due to a medical leave, and scolded because I did not look "happy" enough for the principal. (I prefer students who can tie their own shoes.) I was threatened with charges of corporal punishment because I asked a child who had returned from the bathroom ten minutes ago to wait until my read-aloud was finished to go again (he had agreed).
When my mother-in-law passed away that spring, I was criticized on the phone for taking all of my bereavement time (“You know, you are a sub and you are here to save us money, not cost us money," and upon my return, was told, “Welcome back from your vacation. Here’s your class.” Not a single word of sympathy, not to mention a card, was forthcoming.
This year, I was sent to a middle school relatively close to my appointed school and was treated quite well. They saw that I had been a testing coordinator and made use of my abilities in that area, and I was assigned a full schedule of AIS groups and English classes to teach. The only thing I never had was a desk, file cabinet, or place to secure my bag, so I carried all my stuff with me from room to room. I was told I didn't need a desk, cart, or cabinet because I was "just a sub." I adapted, however, (I can now teach an entire day out of a pocket folder) and must say that it was an overall good year. I liked the staff and students and the administration treated me well. I was given work I enjoyed and a predictable schedule. There was a reason to get up every day beyond simply earning a check.
This school is making indications that they would like to keep me on, albeit under my ELA certification, under which I have never worked. I taught ELA in Catholic schools for 7 years but came to public schools as a Reading teacher. I just finished my fourth year in my current appointment, and have been tenured for a year. So now I am facing the possibility of another probationary period in this current climate of tenure denials and extensions.
I have sought advice from several UFT people in various offices and have received mixed responses. Some say to make the change because Reading licenses are "dead" and I'll never find a position under that license. Others say that I am more secure as a tenured Reading ATR than as an ELA probationer. I have been told that, should I be discontinued under the ELA, that the Reading tenure would automatically keep me working, albeit as an ATR again. I have also been told that upon discontinuance of the ELA position, I could only revert back to my Reading IF I found a Reading position (about which I am told by the same union that there are none). I get a different answer every time and am not sure if I want to be the guinea pig on which these theories are tested.