Dumped ATR, a NYCATR correspondent, recently endured a depressing interview. But guess what? She got the job!
Well, I got the job! Who'da thunk it?
Well, actually, a lot of people. The host of this very blog was one, Amy Arundell at the UFT was another and a host of good friends. No doubt, there were still plenty of people who are waiting for the "catch." I do have to sign a provisional agreement saying if this doesn't work out, I will go back to being an ATR. And a good friend in the ATR pool actually told me to worry that I haven't signed it. That I might actually not be hired, but be some kind of long-term ATR. I don't even know if there's such a thing, but it made me worry. Of course, because everyone is used to new faces coming and going, some people asked, after I introduced myself, if I was at the school, "permanently?" You can't blame them. For the most part, I've been welcomed with open arms and supported.
For the first time in--ever--I'm in a school with a large staff in my department and an actual chairperson. It's inspiring and daunting. I have to have long conversations with people when I get home to make it seem real. I've already bought TWO school sweatshirts and I have my eye on the Sing t-shirt. I've been in the vast book room... Am I really THERE? I want desperately to feel it's true, to not think about the possibility of not being asked back. I want to belong.
Teachers at this school talk about the courses they've created and teach and it brings back memories of the ones I taught for years that have become traces on my resume. There's no way not to feel a little envious. At the school in which I taught that was closed, we had a system in place. I was the person people went to right after the basic skills person. Then they went on to someone else. We dovetailed into each other's work naturally, through discussion of the kids. Even when we didn't get along, we talked about the kids and that generated ideas and shaped our work. The same is true at the school in which I am on faculty (really, I really believe it). It's a beautiful thing.
Sure, the teachers complain about some of the same things ATR's complain about on this blog: overcrowding, cutting, parental negligence. But, they're home. Every one of them has established his or her place in the development of students at this school. One is the "Grammar Goddess." They have hand-outs they pass around in every class created by different faculty members. I remember this. I had an outline for a college essay that I used all the time. Another faculty member had a pristine outline for Regents essays.
More than anything else, as we travel through this Department of Education, we need to find ways to support each other and give each other strategies for survival. All of us once fit into a scheme or a family which is no longer there and it's hard, in a way, to even feel like you want to join something new, sometimes. Like having been a father and now finding yourself a son who feels like a stepson. I overheard someone say I was, "the ATR they brought in" and it panicked me. Better to assume the best and push the issue; I'm assuming after three interviews and a demo lesson and discussion with two administrators about my start date and that this was a provisional hire that I am faculty, at least till June and hopefully beyond. Two years ago, I did join the founding staff of a school whose founding staff then proceeded to leave after the first year, so I know that being provisional has its positive sides. If I hadn't been, I probably wouldn't be teaching at all.
But, this is not a brand new school, one among the many whose turnover rate is faster than the service at McDonald's.
This is a school "as it should be." I am lucky to have a chance at such a thing again and I will just assume the best and enjoy it. It's very hard for me to do that and I know a million things I could say or think, and I have a strong radio signal of voices who tell me of all the horrors that might occur. However, right now, it's good. Maybe, just maybe, it will stay good. Somehow, most of the people in this school have worked hard to create a nurturing environment for everyone. I have to help them for the students, for them, and for me. Places like this have to continue.
In every school in which I have been placed, there have been people trying their best. I've stayed in touch with many of them. It was very funny for me to hear the same complaints we all make coming from my colleagues. We are all trying to survive and flourish. What I hope is that we all find good places to teach and that we see lights in these tunnels. I've found one. In whatever way I can control my ability to stay, I will. What I can't, I can't.
Honestly, I never thought anyone would hire me and I imagined if they did, it would be to set me up to fail and put me out of the system. I know that's not happening here. I have my class lists, their grades, and people telling me about the kids and what they do everywhere. It's an amazing faculty
I'd like to feel I belong to it, both as a legitimate member of the staff, and as an experienced teacher. I remember that feeling; I've even had it, in passing, in different substitute positions.
If we can find ways to do productive work everywhere they put us, for however long we are hired, we can "call their bluff." This Dept. of Education is determined to prove we can't hack it. Every complaint I've seen here--about clothing, respect, chaos, etc.--I've heard from faculty at every school. The difference is, the faculty talks up their achievements and the complaints stay in the teacher's lounge. Yes, we should expose problems and we should let the world know the absurdity we face never being able to take for granted that we will find ourselves again as faculty, with access to Aris, our own log-in names, and our own classes. The kind of thing you never expected to worry about after umpteen years in the system. I never expected to work at a highly functioning, competitive school, but, until my school closed, I always thought I'd be able to work with at-risk kids, that I had that "down," and that I could build programs for those students. In my first term as an ATR, I lost my classroom and there was no place for me to go between classes, except to sit in the back of other classes being taught. Suddenly, I was assisting a science teacher in a class I hadn't taken in high school. I taught myself the course, but then shortly after, my assignment changed. I lost "it."
We have to take "it" back. The confidence. We have to brag about what we do, when we can. When a school asked me to stuff envelopes, at first, I just did what they told me, though I did mention to the UFT Rep that I thought I should be teaching, and he was working on it. But, I went into the halls during passing and I started to help clear them. An AP grabbed me and asked me what I teach, and then asked me to help a group of students. Then he paired me with a wonderful teacher with whom I still correspond. I know some principals are just going to give you bathroom duty and that is a "shanda"--the Yiddish word for travesty. But, I know all of you are talking to kids. You're trying. We've got to be more proud of what we do so that when--and I do now believe WHEN--we do get hired, we feel good about who we are and we can even talk up what we've been doing in these confounded weekly rounds around the district. We do work. We do talk to kids. I walked into a school and a coverage of a music class in which I could not, obviously, teach guitar. We talked about the upcoming concert and their finals and what was hard, what was not, and they practiced. In the middle of the class, a kid grabbed me and started talking to me about an essay, and the girl next to me talked to me later about her self-image. I told her I was worried about her when I saw her next, and it stunned her. In her mind, I could see the question: "She caught on to what I'm feeling." We went to a counselor. It was just an interaction. Not a lesson. But, I know all of your are doing it.
I'm grateful to the people who didn't see me the way I did--as an outcast. I believe (I want to, I hope to) that I can prove that I belong on this faculty. I can prove it to myself. Ultimately, since we are all now "free agents," we have to believe we are no different than the people who happen to have programs at these schools. They're frustrated, they're worried and they're confused. Some believe they will all be ATR's. Yet, the person who walks the halls in the school, does grades and talks to kids, is grounded. We need to carry that grounding with us.
I wish us all luck.