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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The UFT's New York Teacher reports on the ATR

Here is today's Picture of the Day:

Yes, it is an empty box.  It contains all the words devoted to the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) in the latest edition of the New York Teacher, the UFT's newspaper.  

Over 1,000 qualified teachers are being shuffled around the city like a deck of cards, and the education of thousands of students is falling down like a house of cards.  And in this empty box are all the words that the UFT chooses to say about the situation. 

Correction: Upon further inspection, it has been noticed that the New York Teacher reports, on page 8, that the DOE is planning to utilize ATR teachers as part of a plan to improve services to English Language Learners.  

Readers, please imagine that one little scrap of paper resides in the corner of the box.  

Photo credit:

A Question from the Bronx

A teacher from the Bronx sent in the following question.  Any answers out there?

I want to report that at my last three schools there are two maternity leaves and one medical leave either being filled week-to-week by different ATR teachers or by day-to-day subs. I remember being told at the UFT meeting that ATRs could fill these positions until the regular teacher returns. So, why isn't the UFT investigating? 

Gypsy Teacher Adds to Darla's Travel Guide

Gypsy Teacher, who's been  aroamin' some herself, made these additions to Darla's ATR Travel Guide.

I started my travels at Tottenville High School in Staten Island. Great school. Great kids. Teachers and staff were very helpful. Street parking is available but try to get there early (before 7:30). I love this school! Oh, and they have a store in the school where you can buy coffee, drinks, lunch etc.

Next school was Brooklyn Latin. I was quite upset when I first got this assignment since it is so far from where I live (the school is on the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick) but once you get there it's wonderful. Very small, very young staff but everyone is very helpful. Since it was such a small school I was used in the main office and as a lunch monitor. The kids all wear uniforms and there are no discipline problems. Another great school. 

What can I say about the School of International Studies in Brooklyn? Not much. They use the ATRs as "monitors" for their "mediation" (detention) room. The first day was easy since there was only one quiet boy in the in-house suspension. The next day two boys who had fought were placed in the room together. They were there for the next 3 days. They didn't seem to be bad boys but the teachers didn't give them enough work (some didn't give any) to occupy their time so they basically played around. Were they punished? I don't think so. The week got more interesting when teachers started sending down their disruptive students. So they basically played around with the other "punishees". I felt like the one being punished. The APs seemed to have blinders on and no one came to help me when I was having a problem--like the boy who threw rocks out the window and his parents refused to pick him up.  

Did I mention that most of the problems were with the middle school?  Some high school students were suspended but they never showed to in house. Lucky me! The school is from 6-12 and it is a small school. TG! I can't imagine the behavior problems if the school were large. 

The School of International Studies shares the building with another small school, The School of Global Studies. The students wear uniforms but as I can see from the cafeteria, the behavior of those students didn't seem well-monitored, with students running and screaming throughout the day. Anyway,  I couldn't wait for the week to end. The school is in Cobble Hill and the parking is HORRIBLE. Get there around 7 and hope someone pulls out to go to work.

I spent the last week at the first high school I ever taught in, Grady, in Brooklyn. Parking is fine on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but you have to drive around on Tuesday and Friday. I am slightly biased toward this school since I know most of the staff. They were all welcoming to me and I really love the principal (not everyone does because she is a no-nonsense woman who wants order). The classes I covered were a bit loud and most every boy had his pants around his knees but I didn't feel threatened. The school is relatively small and clean. I covered the same classes for most of the week and there was a problem with other students trying to sneak into the room. The principal took care of them. All in all I wouldn't have minded staying another week. Oh, and they have a wonderful little cafe run by the Culinary Program. Coffee and full lunch for $ can't beat that.

Image credit:

As teachers die (literally) ATRs are underutilized

Here's the latest masterpiece from the great Life in Limbo.  Read it and weep. 

I didn’t think they could squeeze any more out of us. I mean, my colleagues and I are maxed out paperwork-wise, class size-wise, and stress-wise. Seriously, we had one teacher die of a heart attack the first week of school, two teachers are out on medical leave due to anxiety, the teacher across the hall has stopped me twice in the hallway to ask me to watch her class so she can go throw up (no, it’s not pregnancy), the teacher on the right is having panic attacks every morning before homeroom and the teacher on my right was in the ER this past weekend diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder and is getting a consult for anti-depressants this weekend. Also, a teacher down the hall left a few weeks ago, in an ambulance, because he was feeling dizzy and ill. Turned out his blood pressure was up to something insane, like 270/110 - he was in the hospital for three days. And that’s just on MY floor. 

Now, before I go any further, here’s a pop quiz (yes, I know it’s the weekend, but it’s only one question for full credit): 
How many teaching periods per week is considered a full schedule for an appointed teacher? 
Twenty-five you say? Hahahahahahahahaha!!! How 2005! 

Try thirty. 

I have thirty teaching periods per week as of this week. How did they do it, you ask? Allow me to explain. 

I came in to work this week to find a program of “small group instruction,” a Circular 6 Professional Assignment. I have no recollection of filling out a C-6 preference sheet, as required by our contract, but there it was anyway. 

Remember my last post, where I said we had vacancies in the building? One of them is an AIS (Academic Intervention Services) Reading position that, as of last week, has yet to be filled. This is a relevant fact, as you will soon see. 

Now, I teach a CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching) class, which means I have a homeroom, which, according to our contract, serves as my professional assignment, so I should not have gotten the C-6 assignment, right? RIGHT??? 

Wrong. I went to my principal who said that since it is a CTT, there are technically two people doing one job, so Mr. X, my co-teacher (whom I must say does a wonderful job of putting up with me and my compulsive board-washing), will be the homeroom teacher of record and I will report to my C-6 assigned “small group instruction.” So I was officially relieved of my homeroom duties, apparently. Fine. I hate collecting baby pictures and lunch forms anyway 

A New York City teacher provides academic intervention
to a small group of children.
So the period for this “duty” comes and I report to the room, and I realize that it is the room reserved for the AIS vacancy–it is not set up, many desks have been pilfered, graffiti has been applied to some of the furniture, there was debris everywhere and there was no chalk, earasers, etc. I had no roster of students, no materials, and no idea exactly WHAT I was supposed to do with this small group. So imagine my surprise when an ENTIRE class shows up for “small group instruction”! No section sheet, no roster, no materials, nothing. There were 21 students in my “small group,” all of whom were so used to not having a teacher this period (it’s been this way since September) that my chance of getting them to actually DO anything was slim to none. 

After this fiasco, I found out that the rest of the CTT teachers were subjected to the same treatment–one was given the homeroom exclusively, and the other pulled to cover a “small group” in this same room. We figured out that instead of HIRING one of the MANY READING ATRs that are currently members of the “School-of-the-Week Club,” they are using the C-6 assignment to avoid hiring a teacher and getting the five of us to teach what is, essentially, a sixth teaching period each day. 

Upon closer scrutiny, I discovered a few more oddities relating to my particular assignment: 
*On two consecutive days, it causes me to teach four periods in a row, a violation of the contract. 
*On two days, we have “voluntary” department meetings during our common prep time (as in, it’s voluntary, but you are still responsible for what happens if you don’t show up). On those two days, this C6 assignment leaves me with NO PREP at all, also a violation. 
*Twenty-one students is NOT a “small group” 
*I was never given a menu of C-6 choices from which to choose (I would NEVER choose more time in front of kids, LOL) 
*I was told by my Chapter Leader that I must have a lesson plan for this period, and that I can be observed in this setting. 
*I must keep track of what I do, and the kids change every day, so I just had my prep time cut by more than half (if you count the lost periods for department meetings, I only have three preps per week now) and was given an extra prep (the “small groups” are a different grade than the one I teach), and another 100 students to keep track of. 

I am considering chucking it all and joining a commune in Vermont. 

So, how was everyone else’s week? Me? I need a large glass of pinot grigio, which I will now pour. Any more of this, and I’ll have to start mainlining tequila.

Photo credits: 


Friday, October 28, 2011

Darla's ATR Travel Guide

An ATR teacher named Darla decided to help her school-hopping colleagues by preparing a little travel guide.  

Boys and Girls High School (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn): No one cares who you are, no work is given, and if it is given it is the same work sheet you gave the students the day before. Beware of   bedbug infestation (a girl in class had them on her but said she didn't care, and a LARGE roach crawled out of the desk).

I told a student to sit and he body-slammed me instead; oh, the memories!!!  They DO have a parking lot.

New Dorp High School (Staten Island): The secretaries are nice, AP English is nice, and I actually covered classes. They have a posted vacancy but if you have years in the system, don't even think about being placed. The area is nice, Starbucks and TJ Max across the street. Very Confusing building layout, got lost everyday. Has a parking lot.

High School of Journalism (Park Slope, Brooklyn): Very nice secretaries, co-workers, wonderful area but no parking; you will circle and circle and circle around, if you have to drive in. Nothing to do, small school, no vacancies, sit in SAVE room allllllllll day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Great New ATR Blog

It's tough to admit, but there is another blog that deals exclusively with the Absent Teacher Reserve, and it's awful darn good.  It's called The Traveling ATR ( and it should be required reading (together with NYCATR) for anyone who wants to understand what it means to be an ATR teacher.  

Gypsy Teacher goes back to the future

The Gypsy Teacher is back on the road.  Too busy to write a full report, she sent in this brief update.

Many years ago when I began teaching I was assigned to the school where I was sent this week. Many of the faces were still the same and I was welcomed back by my former colleagues. 

The school was on the "bad" list a few years ago but with a new principal ( a very strong woman who used to be my AP and I happen to like) the school has been removed from the "bad" list. 

The school is not bad--but as for the students, well, what can I say? Many walk around with their pants around their thighs and hats or doo rags on their heads. Their language is awful and I had kids walking in and out of the classes. Most of the teachers here are older and are disgusted and appalled at what is happening to our schools. One 35-year veteran told me he was just observed and received a grade of "developing."  After 35 years of teaching and he is not developed yet? What a farce!

The school seems a bit more undisciplined after my ten year absence, but is it the teachers??? Or the unruly students? Why are we accountable for the way students behave or misbehave??? Are we wardens? Cops?

The rudeness and the disrespect is bad, and worse for the ATRs who do not even have any way to keep the students in line! I feel like a lion tamer...without the whip. 

Picture credit:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

ATR teacher researches animal intelligence

Look! Nimbler than a chimp! Stronger than an elephant! Stealthier than a rat!  It's NYCATR's Philip Nobile, reporting from Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn.

The magical ATR algorithm carried me to Boys and Girls High School in Bedford Stuyvesant last week. With 2000-plus students, a 44% graduation rate, 73% attendance, 83% of 9th graders reading below level in 2010, and an F on its 2010-11 report card (down from a C) B & G is on the verge of a breakdown, perhaps too big not to fail in the narrow eyes of the DOE. 

It is unfair to rate the school from just five days in an abandoned Special Ed Bio Skills class, but here I go: F for fiasco. 

The students told me that their original teacher moved to a different section of the school at the beginning of the marking period. Since then it’s been sub after sub (maybe ATR after ATR) with no quizzes, tests, homework, or grades. 

Ms. Bozeman, an “academic community” supervisor, met me on my arrival Monday morning and escorted me to a large, unadorned, windowless room on the fourth floor with a blackboard instead of a whiteboard or smartboard, the sort of place that says when money is short black special ed kids take the worst hit. I asked her for lesson materials. She said that she would bring me some, but she never came back. 

On Tuesday, I tried to get my hands on lessons before school started. No luck again. The office that Ms. Bozeman shared with an A.P. named Ms. Williams was locked. 

On Wednesday, both women were in early. Ms. Bozeman introduced me to Ms. Williams who seemed unaware that I was covering the class. I requested a lesson for the second time. Nothing was ready, but Ms. Bozeman soon dropped off a clutch of stapled worksheets. When I passed them out, the kids complained they had done them before. Sure enough, on top of a file cabinet I found a bunch of the same set filled in by the same students from the previous week. Apparently, Ms. Bozeman neither bothered to collect this classwork, nor did she make a single inquiry about what I was teaching or how the students were doing. 

In this festering anti-learning environment, the discipline code was strangled by an endless loop of obscenities, harassment, fighting, bullying, insubordination and music from smuggled-in, aluminum wrapped iPods. The F-word, N-word, and the S-my-D imperative, even from girls, dominated the nonstop chatter. Several girls in one class wore revealing tops and some occasionally fondled themselves. A fiercely oppositional boy who called me “whitey” and “asshole” resisted removal by two aides, Ms. Bozeman, and Ms. Williams, relenting only when a security agent appeared. 

As a sub, I had almost no control over the mayhem and hesitated to intervene physically. The last time I broke up a fight at Cobble Hill High School I was framed by an emotionally disturbed special ed boy, his lying para, a hostile principal and a sleazy OSI investigator. Consequently, I spent three years in the rubber room before gaining a pro se acquittal on corporal punishment. (NYSUT refused to defend me because I insisted on accusing the investigator of corruption.) 

On Thursday, despairing of help from my ostensible supervisors, I improvised a lesson plan drawn from PBS Nature and NOVA programs: 
AIM: Are animals intelligent?
Do Now: List the three smartest animals you can think of.
Activity: Explain why these animals are smart. 
Next, I presented and the class discussed the 10 most intelligent animals followed by a mnemonic device to test their memory of the list.

The results were very mixed, but my engagement reduced the tension and related nonsense. Two boys who paid attention succeeded in repeating the 10 animals in precise order: chimp, dolphin, orangutan, elephant, crow, pig, squirrel, pigeon, octopus, rat. 

Since Friday was the final day of the marking period, the kids requested a movie. Why not, I thought. On Thursday night I found a suitable sequel to the day’s lesson--a documentary about exotic pets in the U.S. titled "The Elephant in the Living Room." On Friday morning I sought Ms. Bozeman’s approval, but once more, neither she nor Ms. Williams was around. To my delight, the first period class became engrossed and watched the film without a peep. 

But before showing the film on my laptop, I decided to send a message to B & G’s administration via student evaluations of the course, which received four Fs and two generous C-pluses in the 1st period. Herewith the verbatim replies: 

►What I learned in this marking period in this class was nothing. The reason I say nothing is because we always have a different teacher every week as we never have time to learn anything. This class to me is an F. If we have a teacher that would stay for the whole six week of the marking period maybe I could learn something. 

►F: What I learned this marking period was nothing because every week my class and I have a different teacher. So its actually possible we have no time in learning. 

►F: The last six weeks in this class I learning same thing from diffent teachers but I have to say I still learnd nothing because they teach us nothing that have nothing to do with scince. 

► I only learned about the 10 smartest animals and my grade is an F bcuz I only came here this week. 

► C+: What I’ve learned semester in this particular science course is the different kind of cells and functions. I’m able to identify the differ type of organs and put them from least to greatest. 

► C+: What I learned in this science class is the organs and functions. I also learned the different between them to organ. Now when somebody ask me what the different I will have the answer for them. 

A family emergency forced me to leave the school after 1st period. In my rush I did not have time to hand in the short-circuited evaluations. But I will email this post to Principal Bernard Gassaway, whose title includes “Chief Child Advocate.” 

Since ATRs have almost nothing to lose, we should consider rating our weekly assignments as a service to the DOE.

Photo credit:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mulgrew admits that ATRs suffer from Taxation without Representation

I've waited for someone to come out and say it: the UFT's refusal to allow ATR teachers to form their own chapter amounts to taxation without representation. I need not wait any longer.  Marjory Stamberg, a veteran NYCATR correspondent, has reported that the issue was raised at the UFT Delegate Assembly meeting that took place on October 19, 2011.  And guess who more or less agreed that it is unfair for the UFT to collect dues from members who cannot elect representatives?  None other than the President, Michael Mulgrew. 

Here is Stamberg's report:

President Mulgrew reported that since October 7, the number of ATRs has gone down to a little over 1,100.  If the principal gives an ATR a provisional placement, they can stay in the school.  ATRs that are not picked up will now be moved from school to school on a weekly basis. Mulgrew said the chapter leaders will make themselves available at schools to welcome the ATRs and help them with their problems at a new school. They should be treated with respect, as with any other staff member. A resolution was passed on dignity for ATRs.

Dave Pecoraro, Chapter Leader at Beach Channel High School put up a motion for an ATR chapter, which would elect a chapter leader and delegates.  I seconded the motion. His argumentation was that in May there will be elections for all chapter leaders and delegates.  ATRs are dues paying members and have a right to vote, and will not be able to vote if they don’t have a chapter.

The motion was defeated, but there was a good deal of support for it. The motion was opposed by the leadership which argued that this would make the ATR situation a permanent fixture, and they want that status to disappear. Mulgrew did acknowledge that the voting-franchise issue was a problem and they would work on it.

My own view is that as long as the DOE keeps recklessly closing schools down and throwing teachers out of their classrooms, the ATR situation will not disappear. No amount of incentives given to the principals will work.  There need to be systemic changes in the system. The problem arose out of the 2005 contract sellout when seniority transfer was eliminated and will not be resolved until those transfer rights are restored.

Several motions on ATRs were circulated but not allowed on the floor at this meeting.

Cartoon credit:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

ATR meeting rocks the Skylight Diner

The following report was submitted by our contributor known as Absolutely Teaching Ready.

On October 21, over 50 ATR teachers and friends met at the Skylight Diner in Manhattan. Enthusiasm ran high, sometimes too high, as the diner management requested us to try to keep our voices down.

We agreed to give life to the ATR committee of GEM, we created several committees to publicize our plight, we discussed future actions at the UFT and possible legal recourse for the discriminatory practices against veteran teachers.

Support for a UFT  chapter for ATR teachers ran high. Truth is, if Michael Mulgrew's figure of 1000 ATRs is correct, 5% of us were there last night! This is an auspicious beginning. 

One weakness, however, is that we need to reach out to get more ATRs to participate, especially Black and Hispanic UFT members who are ATRs. Given the preponderance of people of color at the  recent borough meetings, this will be critical for our group's success.

There was general agreement with the thrust of GEM's literature and the demands in the petition. On this basis, we should move forward to request meetings with UFT leaders on the statistics the Union has collected concerning the age and race demographics of ATRs, numbers hired since June, average length of time in the ATR pool, and salaries.

The restraint of last night's attendees was indicative of their seriousness.  People refrained from talking about their own difficult situations to insure that the discussion would be more general, enabling us to come to broad areas of agreement.

Several people tied our issue into the broader crises facing the education system, such as privatization through charters, school closures and budget cuts. Also singled out was the DOE's overall effort to cheapen and dumb down education for working class children. Others discussed increasing unemployment, budget cuts, the issues raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement and our need to defend teaching.

Photo credit:

Gypsy Teacher forced to serve in-house suspension

Today has been very interesting. The room I have been assigned to all week is a room for in-house suspension. What a joke! The ATRs assigned to the room are the ones being punished. The teachers give the students little work so they are left to fool around and bother the teacher (me) all day. 

I am assigned to this room from 9:30 to 3:00 with 45 minutes for lunch.  The teachers in the building also use the room as a dumping ground for the disruptive students in their class. They send them down with an "anecdotal," but with no work to do, so they can fool around all period. This is punishment???? 

The APs seem to be clueless and ineffective. One told me she would send down security to get a student who kept hiding.  Guess what?  No security! This school is a small school with young teachers. This school is a joke.

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Thomas Forbes in Heaven--for a Week

The following report was filed by Thomas Forbes, a teacher who is becoming a NYCATR regular.

This week had me spending time at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (the DOE's name is Upper East Side High School). It is located at 76th near 1st Ave. 

Most of the time I have been sitting in the library or study hall, or  checking kids' names on a list to see if they have to pay for lunch. 

I have not been in a school like this since the late 70's when I was in high school. Students have lockers, which they do not lock;  they leave their umbrellas in the hallway to dry off, and they left their book bags unattended when school pictures were taken. No students are hanging in the hallways, wearing hats, sagging their pants half way to their knees or carrying cellular phones out where we can see them. It is amazing to see kids sitting around and talking about their classes and assignments. 

I have become so warped after working so long in these completely dysfunctional schools, I did not realize any more that you can be a teacher today rather than a full-time disciplinarian. 

Alas, I am waiting for 2:00 PM today to see where I will be going next week. In the meantime, I am trying to figure out a strategy on how to deal with a principal who is running a horrible school and then blames the teachers. 

Gypsy Teacher sings the ATR blues

I always use to like Thursdays until the DOE took my life and career and put it on hold. Now, I wake up with a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Where will they send me next week? How long will it take? Will I be able to park? Is the school dangerous? What will I be doing there? So many questions and the answers are beyond my control. Unfortunately, I like to be in control.

This ATR merry-go-round is wreaking havoc with my mental state. I am feeling angry and depressed. Today, I sit and watch as the youngsters come in and have their own classes. Their own program. Their own school. Today, I am feeling bitter and angry.

First of all, I was excessed from my old school unfairly and the union says I have no hope of winning the grievance. SHOCKER! Principals are ruling the schools and they get what they want at the expense of the teachers and the students. I hear that the newbie  who is teaching the program I should have had is having a hard time. Can't control the classes and can't keep up. Another SHOCKER! 

I have been in three schools so far and in each school I have seen per-diem substitutes being awarded positions and NOTHING has been done! We, the ATRs, are treated like used Kleenex and NOBODY cares! Why should we be sent to schools that don't offer our programs? Why??? 

And as soon as I get used to a place, find a coffee shop, a parking pattern and an easy way to get to a boom...I am moved. This is no longer an annoyance! This is unfair treatment and harrassment! 

I have been stuck in this detention room all week with three boys. I am usually by myself. No one even comes down to see if I am dead or alive. What a damn joke. So DOE!

Picture Credit:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coverage Chaos

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.

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Gypsy Teacher on the Run

Gypsy Teacher, one of NYCATR's top correspondents, was too busy today to file a regular report.  Instead, she used her smartphone to send in this flash bulletin.  

I Spent almost an hour trying to find a parking space so I could report to my school-of-the week. I reported and--small world that it is--one of the secretaries is the mom of a former student.

Anyway, I am now sitting in the detention room writing out late passes. I am assigned here all day, all week. There is actually a chart listing ATRs in this room. This is how ATRs are used at this school.

Meanwhile, I overheard that there is a sub covering a long-term position. Whats up with that? 

I think every ATR should be given a parking pass at the least. We should be given some respect and a class to TEACH...

Photo credit:   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

ATR teacher can't go home again

The following report was submitted by a teacher who would like to be known as Absolutely Teaching Ready.

Occupy Wall Street protesters read pro-ATR fliers.
Notice that the protesters all appear to be dressed in
clean clothes and none of them are scratching due to lice.

I just came back from "Occupy Wall Street" and raised the issue of ATRS there while passing out fliers to the people at the School Discussion circle. There was a lot of support for us.

I've spent the week at a multi-school location, the former Wingate High School. The trail I am taking through the borough lets me relive some of my family history. Wingate was the high school many of my cousins went to. Now it is four schools and the one I was assigned to was the School of Public Service - Heroes. Or not. I will leave you to decide when I discuss my week and the behavior of the Principal, Ben Shuldiner.

A few years ago, Shuldiner made news as the youngest principal in the system. I think he should be making news for how he misbehaved towards teachers this week.  When I checked in on Tuesday, the Principal told me that since there were four schools in the building, he would send me to wherever I was needed. I said nothing, hoping the matter would not come up. The Principal told me how he had received UFT awards for cooperating with the Union.  Later that morning I was told to go upstairs and cover an 8th grade class ( I've been a high school teacher) at the School for Human Rights. When I arrived a very nice fellow who turned out to be the Principal (I didn't know it at the time) listened as I explained that my presence there was a violation of the Union-DOE agreement since I was not assigned to a campus, but to a school. I covered the class (no lesson plan was available) and spent a half hour showing pictures of Occupy Wall Street and encouraging the children to discuss the economic issues or political issues their parents may be concerned about. When I went downstairs to the Heroes school, the Principal asked me if I had a complaint about anything. I explained again that it was a contract violation to be sent upstairs. I also contacted the UFT Representative for my former school. I asked him to let me know if anything gets resolved.

There were at least two other ATRS at this location, two Haitian-American gentlemen who fit the age profile for ATRS, both in their late 50s like me. Both by the way hold math licenses, one hasn't had an appointment for three years. One was assigned to a school upstairs. When we were not assigned a class we all sat in the staff lounge of the Public Service Heroes school.

The next morning the Principal came and told our brother from upstairs he "was not allowed in the school because"--pointing at me--I had brought up the matter of assigning teachers anywhere in the building. When questioned, he told me he wanted to discuss "expectations"; I suggested we discuss my expectations, but he had other ideas. 

The following day I was assigned a teacher's schedule. The school has an SBO (School Based Option). Classes are one hour long. Some days teachers have four classes and a Professional period, other days they have five periods. Since the teacher I was assigned had only four classes that day, I assumed I would have four. An hour later, I was given another class to cover; this meant that I would teach 5 hours! When I suggested that I would like to speak to the Principal I was told that I could discuss the matter with the Chapter leader during our respective lunch periods. I did that and told the Chapter leader that as I was following a teacher's schedule, I expected to get paid for an emergency coverage. 

Again I contacted the UFT Rep. I hadn't heard back from him but the School Chapter leader had. So the arrangement for shifting us to other schools was ended (for now). Later, I also wrote to Amy Arundel who, to her credit, did write me in the wee hours of the night that I should be paid for a coverage. 

But something else that happened that day was that during our lunch hour our friend who had been chased out of the Heroes school came down to break bread with us. There were several teachers in the staff lounge. Suddenly the Principal, Ben Shuldiner, appeared and in a gruff voice demanded to know what the brother was doing there in his school. (The obvious answer, of course, was that he was eating a sandwich.)

"Get out!", he shouted at him. "Get out now!" I told the principal he was behaving inappropriately. I asked him why he was doing this. He asked me, "Is that a question? I am not going to answer it!" When the UFT brother began to get his things together slowly (i.e., not fast enough for the principal) Shuldiner told him he was going to get security. Our fellow ATR left and a few minutes later the Principal returned with a Security Guard. 

Later that day our third ATR was watching a class and as the students attended to their assignments, he opened up a  book. The Principal came into the room and started shouting at him, in front of the students, "Close the book now!" 

The three of us have talked about this and I've asked them to contact the UFT Borough Reps to complain about the way they were treated. The behavior of the Principal towards them was markedly different in tone from me. It was, in my opinion, abusive and racist. What's more, when another Principal in the building tried to speak to Shuldiner about his behavior with the ATR, he refused to meet. 

The entire week demonstrated to me why ATRS need their own chapter leaders.  I've requested that the UFT Reps develop a list of items that both UFT members who are ATRS and the Principals they are assigned to should know to maintain contract compliance. These should include the matter of multi-school locations and how ATRS can be fairly treated when assigned to schools with SBOs. 

I would like to point out that the system is ripe for abuse and without guidelines and clarity the ATRS are likely to suffer. I will keep all informed whether I get paid for the "emergency coverage" and whether or not the Principal hears from the District Rep about his abusive, even racist behavior.

Next stop? Why the High Schools for Sports Management in the former Lafayette High School Campus, Bensonhurst. I left Bensonhurst 54 years ago when I was five years old, as my family was movin' on up to Canarsie. But now I am back in the old 'hood.  I hope I have a quiet week.

Forbes's Phantasmagory

Thomas Forbes spent the first month of this school year at the high-school named after Washington Irving, the author of "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Mr. Forbes's story, below, is no less phantasmagorical than those two classics--except that Forbes's story is true.  

Washington Irving
After spending a month as a full time dean at Washington Irving HS, I was sent to Fashion and Finance in the old Park West Building.  I checked today and found out that I would be going next week to Eleanor Roosevelt HS or I guess it is now called Upper West Side.  Both places were okay, but no open social studies positions, so no chance of getting hired.  I asked Upper West Side on the phone today and they also do not have a social studies position available.  I see three listed in my district, which is Manhattan High Schools.   

I think we have around 32 weeks a year of classes, so there are now maybe 27 left.  Wow, 29 schools in one school year.  What about Regents week?  Maybe we can go undercover and further expose the mass manipulation of Regents scores in the city.  We can all do guest reviews for and  give the real picture of what is going on in the school.  

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

The UFT's silence is deafening re: ATR representation

Philip Nobile, NYCATR's gadfly correspondent, recently canvassed twenty-two UFT representatives in Brooklyn with the following question:

If you were an ATR, would you prefer to have a chapter with a leader and delegate(s) looking out for your interests via regular borough chapter leader meetings and Delegate Assemblies, or not? Explain.

As you will see, the response was underwhelming.  Below is Nobile's follow-up email.

Dear colleagues:

This is your last chance to take part in a survey re an ATR chapter granting full, normal representation. The response so far has been surprising. Not because one of you actually took the survey seriously enough to reply (in the negative of course), but because the rest of you did not bother to render an opinion.

I had hoped that the survey would counter the common belief that UFT reps are Unity zombies censoring all thoughts deviating from the President's office. Surely, some of you have reservations about Mulgrew's policy of denying hundreds and hundreds of ATRs, and maybe in the future thousands and thousands, the same union connection and support that non-ATRs take for granted. Remember, even suspect reassigned teachers, the lowest of the low, had elected liaisons and monthly meetings with Leroy Barr at 52 Broadway.

N.B.: The single rep who had the courtesy to answer the survey did not answer the direct question: If you were an ATR, would you prefer a chapter or not? Here is the response: "Don't make ATRs a permanent, separate group.  Does that mean you would have different rights--a different contract from classroom teachers? Remember what happened to the ed evaluators. It is not a good idea."

And my reply: "Thanks for your reply, and you need not continue the discussion.

But let me comment on your points:

(a) permanent, separate group: no more permanent than the former liaison arrangement with rubber roomers,no more separate than separate chapters in schools already.
(b) a different contract: same contract with ATR provisions maybe, that's up for discussion and ATRS should be part of it. It would be to UFT's benefit to get direct feedback from us, just as it did with rubber-roomers. 

If I understand you, you believe that ATRs are better off with a permanent and separate form of union representation from classroom teachers. Actually, what ATRs want is what all other members in good standing have--full representation. Why are we wrong?"

[P.S.  The Sunday deadline passed without further response from the reps.]

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Gypsy Teacher reports from first encampment

The following report was submitted by a contributor who would like to be known as Gypsy Teacher.  

The first week of this ATR nightmare has come to an end. I spent over an hour to get to my placement so I could spend the day putting home contact cards in alphabet order, doing lunch duty and, for one day, actually covering classes! 

The school was a very small specialized school and the students and staff were wonderful. Did I mention the staff were all YOUNG? Out of the 30 teachers on staff, I don't think any of them was over 30! The assistant principal was a kid and the principal not much older. I still don't understand why I was sent to a school that DOES NOT even offer any courses in my license area. The principal and I had a nice chat about it and he seemed to be confused also.

Anyway, there were also two "resident principals" (I suppose from the Leadership Academy) on board learning the ropes. Like I said,  everyone seemed nice but then again I was only there for a week. I was introduced to everyone and I kinda felt "ashamed." Why was I in this predicament? I know deep down it is not my fault but how do others view us? As losers or as capable professionals?

One other note: a gym teacher was hired. A young gym teacher. I doubt he had been an ATR so how was he allowed to be hired? The union and DOE are doing nothing to protect us! I know that day-to-day subs are still filling vacancy positions! I called the union and asked about the newly hired teacher and the subs still in vacancy positions..and guess what???? Oh we have to look into this, I was told! Bull! The principals are getting away with murder, the DOE is treating us like crap and no one is doing a damn thing to protect our rights! We have to have a voice. We have to be heard! And soon! 

Oh, and next week I am placed in another small school that doesn't have any classes in my license area. At least the commute will be better!

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RED ALERT FOR ATR TEACHERS: Check your DOE email daily!

A public service announcement from a teacher named G.:

I am writing this to alert ATR teachers to the potential for a poorly communicated assignment from the Human Resources department.

Today is Thursday, October 13, 2011. Last Thursday, I received my assignment from my DOE email for this past week. I thought my week's assignment was set. This past Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to the school I was told to report to in the email. 

I don't check my DOE email everyday. This past Wednesday night, October 12th, I happened to check my DOE email. To my surprise and my chagrin, I saw a new email from HR that had been sent on Friday, October 14, 2011 after 3:30PM! It stated that I should IGNORE the first email and report to a different school on Tuesday, October 11th.

This morning, Thursday, Oct. 13th, I called the first school to let them know I wouldn't be there and why. Then I reported to the second school and explained why I hadn't reported for the last two days. I called HR during my lunch and spoke with a rep. I think everything is corrected now. The payroll secretary at the present school entered my days on my time card.

I will now check my DOE email and the DHR link ( every day. "Fool me once..."

The DOE sets new trends in Special Education

This report was submitted a few days ago by a teacher who would like to be known as CB.  Our apologies to CB, and our readers, for the delay in posting.

This morning I arrived at my new elementary-school-of-the-week and was assigned to a small CTT class as the General Ed partner of a very nice Special Education teacher. I was told that I would remain at that assignment until Friday. 

The General Ed teacher in that classroom for the first month, it turns out, was also a member of the ATR, so he has now been placed elsewhere. Presumably, a new person will be in this position each week. This is certainly not a good situation for the Special Ed teacher. But it is much worse for the students. IN WHAT WAY IS IT GOOD, OR JUSTIFIABLE, FOR STUDENTS, ESPECIALLY NEEDY ONES, TO HAVE A NEW TEACHER EACH WEEK?

Yes, they have the stability provided by the appointed Special Education teacher. But they need assurance, familiarity, and safety, not the experience of constantly having to adapt to new primary adults in their lives.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Bright Lights at Manhattan UFT-ATR Meeting

This afternoon, October 11, the UFT held a meeting for Manhattan-based members of the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR).  The following report was filed by Marjorie Stamberg, a veteran union activist, and now a veteran contributor to NYCATR.

In terms of the information presented by Amy Arundel, today's meeting was basically a repeat of the earlier borough meetings last week.

There was one new item: principals who keep an ATR the whole year have an option to offer a written agreement for the teacher to sign indicating the teacher will be included in the school budget. Even so, it will only be provisional. Has anyone been offered this or know of anyone who was offered this?

It seems the leadership was mainly anxious to head off the hot issue of an ATR chapter. They made sure every district rep in Manhattan was there and kept repeating that they would be responsive to all phone calls. While it is important for the district reps to be aware of ATR issues, in no way is this the same thing as ATRs having full voting rights and elected representation in the union and at delegate assemblies--especially for teachers who are moving from school to school each week.

Several people spoke powerfully about this issue. As to the view that being in a different school offers opportunities to meet and interview principals, another teacher made the point that by the end of the year's weekly trek, this could impact negatively. For example, a principal could say that they've been in school after school and still had no offers.

Despite the many schemes to keep principals from gaming the system, there can be no solution until teacher salaries are again paid by central (avoiding the "two for the price of one" syndrome) and a return to seniority transfer, which the union gave up in 2005.

Again tonight, there was no real discussion of the deep issues facing ATRs.  In addition, only ATRs were allowed to speak despite the requests of many who have been advocating on this issue in the union.

I was appalled at the lack of respect for Roz Panepento who was told she couldn't speak. Roz is the author of "The Reckless Reorganization of District 79" and was the chapter leader when hundreds were excessed in our GED programs as well as the School for Pregnant and Parenting Teens.

D79 was the poster child for mass school closings and teacher ATRing. The former district superintendent, Teach for America star Cami Anderson is now running the Newark school system with Mark Zuckerberg's money.

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