Total Pageviews

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A House of Mirrors, in Which the Former ATR Finds Herself in a Different Kind of Limbo

NYCATR's star contibutor, Life in Limbo, has done it again: she's managed to get stuck under a low-lying limbo pole, with her poison pencil intact. 

To the regular ATR readers and Friends of ATRs, I hope your summer is going well. 

To the newly-minted ATRs, I hope that your fall down the rabbit hole provides a soft landing and there is a Mad Hatter waiting there with a very strong Margarita just for you (ask for a second, you’re going to need it). 

So, after two years in the ATR pool and a year in a REAL position (at a completely insane and out-of-control school, but let’s not mention that-- oops, too late), why am I here writing for an ATR blog? Good question. I mean, I am a fully appointed teacher who had a satisfactory year by all accounts, right? Life in Limbo should be, for all intents and purposes, out of limbo. Right?? 


Wrong. Apparently, there is more than one type of limbo when you are in DOE Wonderland. 

Let’s turn the clock back all the way to… May. You know, when you get to fill out your preference sheet? Yeah, that time period. I filled out mine requesting a job in my actual license area first, then requesting the job I already had as my second. When tentative assignments came out in June, I was informed that I was (most likely) going to have the same assignment next year. Ok, I thought, this is as good as it’s going to get in this crazy place and I love my colleagues, so yeah, I can handle that. 

Teachers line up for a job fair in September, 2011. 
So I am happily going about my business this summer–schlepping my kids to camp, swim lessons, and basically going with the flow, appreciating that no mandatory, but useless, “Job Fairs” are in my future for the first time in three years. 

Then I get a text message. A colleague tells me that she stopped at school to introduce herself to the new (Leadership Academy) principal and that she got a chance to peek at the new organization sheet for the 12-13 school year. 

My name was not on it. This puzzles me. 

I did not receive an excess letter. 

I did not receive an e-mail, phone call, or smoke signal indicating that I am in excess. 

There was no indication that ANY excessing was necessary under our last principal back at the end of the year. 

HR Connect still lists me as appointed to my school and NOT in excess. 

An e-mail to my AP has not been returned. 

Now, you may be asking, Why not just call and ask? In a universe devoid of absurdity, that would make sense. But this is the DOE, and we all went through the looking glass the day we signed on. So the obvious becomes, clearly, the last reasonable option. 

IF I seek to correct the mistake, then I face being in a situation where I am dealing with a first-time principal with little actual teaching experience (I Googled) in a completely out-of-control school where there have been few, if any, actual consequences for disruptive behavior. I am facing a Leadership Academy principal who has never been a principal before, and who is likely in the building to perform one of two functions: to either drive the school in to the ground so it can be put on the closure list, OR, to get this school “under control” by beating up on teachers so the building can look like a “success” story. Neither scenario puts me or my colleagues in a winning (or even tenable) position. Seems like ten months of torture is on the menu regardless of which is true. 

So I am now tempted to keep this under wraps. At this point, traveling from school to school weekly seems like a better deal than ten months of torture under a Learning Academy principal and the Common Core. In an odd way, given the options, the ATR is the better deal. Now I agree, they both completely suck, but at least the ATR option doesn’t require all the extra hours, paperwork, and “accountability”. 

If my job is going to suck either way, I’ll take the suckage that requires less work.


  1. I love your writing! And by choosing the job that requires less work aren't you modeling good and better decision making? Every teacher in New York City will, in all likelihood, experience the ATR/Weekly Rotation life. Many ATRs think they are not supposed to enjoy it, so they don't, but those with positive and constructive attitudes find that It's going to be hard to trade weekly adventures and direct research away for the confines of a regular teaching job. Now, if only we could get UFT representation for ATRs, repeal the Taylor Law! (We have been paying special COPE dues for that very purpose and there hasn't been any progress, has there?) If the City wants to do away with Education Law 3020-a that guarantees due process for tenured teachers, shouldn't we be restored the right to strike?

  2. Liked reading this! I am in a similar boat. Glad I'm not alone.

  3. so true - unfortunately
    try and explain being an ATR to ANYONE that is not with the DOE
    and they look at you as if you have 5 heads
    keep the paychecks coming - i will never take a buyout and I will never take a permanent position with an incompetent principal
    only 10 more years to go

  4. @David Hedges and Anon 12:58 - thanks for the compliment. I agree that ATRs need representation. In my experience, CLs at schools don't really have to worry about ATRs since they are gone quickly, which isn't much of an incentive for them to work on our behalf. And yes, being able to make inferences based on evidence is a high level literacy skill, and modeling for students is very important! Isn't that somewhere in the Common Crap, er, CORE standards? ;)

    Anon 4:22 - I WISH I only had 10 years left. I left teaching for a few years to do something else, so I have 16 years left. I may bail at 55 and wait, though, if I can find something else.

    I am just glad that my oldest child is now old enough to stay home with the younger two for a half hour or so in the early morning in case my (night-shift working) husband gets hung up due to weather or other circumstances. Also, this school is in a district closer to home, so the travel hardship is less of an issue than it was when I wrote my pieces on weekly assignments. However, this situation really is hellish for people in the HS districts, single parents, or anyone with young children without VERY flexible childcare.

  5. Great article and an even better job of taking people through the mind of someone who has been an ATR. I myself am an ATR and have been one for my 3rd school year now. Also, this article is cognizant for me because the thoughts have been which is better:
    -to be an ATR or to take a position with a vindictive principal who will excess you in a year or two any way.

    Now, I am glad I am not a HS teacher b/c they got royally screwed with the HS districts. JHS and elementary teachers stay in one district or one neighborhood which make things easier. HS teachers go from borough to borough which is wrong!

    Last year feels like it did not even happen. But, the bright side was if you got a real awful school with unruly students and a jerk of a principal, you were gone by Friday.

    I do miss teaching in a supportive environment, but since those days are done, this is next best bet.

  6. Great to read your post. This will be my first year in the ATR and I am interested in your take. Thanks for displaying a different attitude regarding this situation. I'm just trying to make it into a joke but really,as a 2nd career teacher, I took the effort to learn how to teach and now all I will need to learn is where to park and how close is the nearest bodega.

    1. Also wheres the restroom

  7. Going into my 2nd year as an ATR, School I was excessed from has asked me back, since everyone there is transferring out, HELLOOOOO!! I don't think sooooo.
    I always said that I would rather be an ATR than go back there. My excessing was done as spite, since I was to be the new UFT rep but it all fell on deaf ears: Union did not believe it, newspapers would not listen. If you are an ATR do yourself a favor and don't stress. There are days that you will just want to quit, feeling it now, but in the long run, keep those checks rolling, that is the only way to beat them.

  8. Commenters have called out as bogus the city's claim that there are only a little more than 800 ATRs.

    Too bad Gotham Schools uncritically takes the word of principals, without out digging for the truth that there are 800 tried and true and ready ATRs. GS doesn't report that the principals are biased and will only consider newbies like the Teach for America teacher trainees.

    Comments on Gotham Schools' "City lifts some restrictions on schools still in need of teachers"
    by Rachel Cromidas, at 12:50 pm

  9. What happened? One thing I will say is that THE KIDS NEED YOU. It sounds like you were managing in chaos, which is sometimes all we can do. But, if you are back in the travelling band with the rest of us, I understand. I wish you well.