We thought that classroom vacancies were supposed to be covered by members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, until a full-time replacement could be found--either from the ATR, or from the outside. At one school, however, administrators have found a Third Way: chaos. Life in Limbo, the superstar NYCATR writer who now has a regular appointed position, reports.
We still have at least three vacancies in my building: Technology, Art, and Special education. The tech and art positions have been covered with teacher coverages--we are all getting hit with these coverages two to three times per week. Covering the classes is a nightmare. Discipline in this school is already tenuous. Teaching my regular class is like sitting on a powder keg all day and bands of kids roam the halls and stairwells all day long. Having a different teacher every period covering a vacancy has made these coverages into nightmares. The kids know there is no teacher for you to report back to about behavior, and that there is no dean on the floor, and they act accordingly. They scream, yell, fight, run in and out of the room, and flip over the desks all period and curse you out if you dare request that they sit in a seat and stop screaming. In addition, since the room is unlocked but empty, many of the desks and chairs have been pilfered, leaving too few seats should the kids happen to decide that they WILL sit in one. We are all considering putting in for combat pay for these coverages. Also, these students are programmed for technology and art, but have not received one lesson in either all year. How is this "Children First"? Is it even legal?
The special education vacancy is another story. This vacancy was covered by an ATR Literacy teacher from a closing school until the first rotation ended. Now, this vacancy is also being covered, period by period, by teacher coverages. This is a 12:1:1 self-contained special education class and these kids are getting their entire education from a series of covering teachers every day. From what I understand, the paraprofessional or aide in the room has been sketching out lesson plans using the teacher's editions of the textbooks, just so whoever is coming in has a clue. I can't imagine that the kids are getting homework or grades, though. And once again, is it legal for a para to write out sub lesson plans?
I haven't yet found out if there are any new ATRs in the building, but I will be on the lookout and continue to share what I learn, though it becomes more and more absurd as time goes on.
The fact that parents aren't up in arms, demanding someone's head on a platter because of all this, amazes me. In my home district in the 'burbs, there would be a line of parents breaking down the door at both the school and at the district office ready to make heads roll.