"30 Schools In 30 Weeks"

My adventures as a Gypsy going from school To school in a futile search for a real teaching position.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Adventures As A Gypsy ATR . School #6

I found myself in another "Restart School" and expected the worst since my other two experiences in school #3 and #5 where like being part of a horror show, with the students as the flesh-eating zombies. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the school was orderly and the students respectful. Yes this school has many problems, it wouldn't be a "Restart School" if it didn't, but I must admit my stay was pleasurable.

I did spend the election day doing unprofessional development and hear the "Restart Company" speakers (ex principals from Atalanta, the cheating capital of the nation) tell the staff that they are the blame for the school's poor grades over the last three years. They blamed the teachers that "they look out the window rather than looking at themselves in a mirror" when it comes to student achievement. The short version it's the teacher's fault for the students shortcomings academically.

First, let me tell you about the good things in the school. The APO greeted me with a hello and three keys (bathroom, classroom, and elevator). The first school to actually give me a bathroom and elevator key! Second, the students were relatively well behaved even for me. Third, the hallways were empty during class time and the few stragglers were handled quickly by school safety agents who patrol the hallways. Finally, there was ample parking and the staff, including the Administrators were helpful and friendly.

Unfortunately, this was a "Restart School" for a reason. The students are low achieving as they enter the high school with serious academic needs. To expect teachers to raise the academic standards of "1's and low 2's to pass rigorous high school courses is not realistic. Because higher achieving students don't attend this school, higher level courses are not given. For example, there is no Physics and only one class of Chemistry at the school. Further, the 16 Earth Science classes are taught by teachers who are not licensed in the subject with one being a Math teacher! The result is that few students pass the Earth Science Regents and can't obtain a "Regents Diploma". To cap off the problem, quite a few students come from Brooklyn and they seem to have the most problems adjusting to the school's culture and act up both in class and on school property, thereby increasing the violence associated with the school.

This school, like the other "Restart Schools" I have been in have two vacancies that they cannot seem to fill. Moreover, they also have hidden positions where teachers left on long-term leave and are not coming back. These positions are covered by day-to-day substitute teachers from outside the DOE and not ATRs. In addition, the elimination of one day of Science means that two or three Science teachers don't need to be hired. The Principal is a "Leadership Academy Principal" who has never taught in the classroom and has an "F status" Principal shadowing her.

Teacher morale is poor as they told me that in three years, when the "Restart" money ends, they will be ATRs and the academic ability of the students the school attracts make meeting the "Restart" conditions highly unlikely. There seems to be less "ineffective ratings" in this school than the other "Restart Schools" but still many teachers fear that it will still lead to a "two-year and your terminated" and nothing the union tells them changes that feeling. I ran into the Chapter Leader and he has worked hard to tell the members that this year's evaluation does not count. I believe he is wrong but to the teachers the evaluation system is just a termination process, when combined with the uniformity low academic achievement will allow the Administration to target selected teachers.

Overall, I had a pleasant experience at the school and would consider a position there, if offered, even if the school closes three years down the road.



  1. While this school seems to try, teachers once again being told they are the reason students are failing is wrong and I am surprised the administration allowed these speakers into their schools. Just on that alone, I would never accept a position in that school.

    These schools were set up to fail because they still expect these students to pass rather than give them the foundations of learning they so deserve. The UFT agreed to these schools and this unrealistic evaluation method. Doesn't that say something about where the union is going with this??

    Once again we come back to the contract where money buys treating teachers as inferior. 20 years ago I told a teacher I would forgo a big raise for smaller class sizes. Of course others did not agree. But I wanted to do a great job, not just a good one, and I went into teaching for that reason. In 2005 and 2006 I held to my conviction and voted NO to both contracts. But this time I did so from experience. Having lived through excessing and 2lay-offs in the 70s, I appreciated the fact that my years in service meant something and another class in another school would be waiting for me. I remember when I was assigned to my 3rd school (after being excessed once again) I was asked to help out the secretaries because the position I was supposed to get was still not open. I did so, and by impressing the secretaries--it made my transition easier. So if an ATR is asked to help out in the office, it could be a way in to a school you like as well as being close to the principal. That's 5 days to make a good impression--show you're a team player. If you find extra time on your hands, then you can ask if you can assist any teachers or students.

    I really think you should fwd your finding at these restart schools to Commissioner Tisch and let her know she can't blame the teachers. She visited Aviation High and will know you are telling the truth.

    btw, there is a special ATR meeting for those who really want a chance to teach and change this method:
    The GEM ATR committee continues to organize ATRs - next meeting Weds. Nov. 16, Skylight Diner - 34ST and 9th ave 5PM. Send email to gemnyc@gmail.com to be added to the google group.

  2. Why not clean toilets so as to make a good impression on the custodians. Maybe that would be a good way to get into the school. The truth is that these are violations of the contract and if a teacher does this then they are betraying their union brothers and sisters. Do not fold like a cheap suit. Stand your ground. Your years of experience and dignity should make it clear that you are not a kid waiting for some internship.
    Have some pride. We are not factotums and the powers that be need to recognize this fact.
    If you settle for nothing now you will settle for nothing later.

    Bedouin Teacher

  3. You are comparing office work to cleaning a toilet?

    Is patrolling the halls or being asked to cover a kinder class when you are a HS chem teacher as was done to one ATR any better. The chem teacher tried to stand up for her rights but was bullied by both the principal and AP. So it's better to start the week pissing off the principal if you are looking to get your foot in the door? And for some it really is trying to get a position.

    How many actual grievances have been filed by ATRs and what were the outcomes?? I know I am very curious about that. And when there are vacancies, how many ATRs are actually interviewed. The ICE blog had an interesting post about that.

    I bet there are ATRs who would rather work the phones than cover the class with the most disruptive students--the one class that has yet to hire a full-time teacher but have ATRs (regardless of their license) cover the class.

    A former colleague of mine was recently made an ATR. Her principal used her connections and she was offered 2 jobs. She turned both down because she heard from other ATRs that they spent a large part of the day sitting in the lounge reading a book and she would rather read her book than have to suffer the workload of a classroom teacher. So I suppose there are ATRs who would jump at the chance of doing some filing and getting top salary. Like Vet Teacher stated, ATRs didn't make these rules.

    Settle for what Bedouin? I understand Mulgrew was bursting with pride when he announced 212 ATRs were placed and only 1,140 were left (less than last year which to him means the program is working.)

    Absolutely stand up for your rights, but make sure there is a powerful union standing behind you and that they always have your back. And of course if you are asked to clean the toilet, demand to call the union office and have the school union rep called immediately. Hell, the principal would have to use deadly force to get me to do that and I still wouldn't budge.

    Best thing to do on the first day is locate the CL before you report to the office. Have him or her come down with you and introduce you to the principal. I do know that all CLs have been told to introduce themselves to all ATRs and help them out.

    Bedouin--if you really want to be recognized and send a message, join GEM!!

  4. After 20 years I don't need to be recognized. After being used last year as a provisional employee I had to do all the things that you do but with no rights. We have a craven corrupt union standing behind us. No, in not one of the schools/sewers I have had the misfortune of working in, would I want to be trapped there. The day of the senior teacher is over. No I will not do clerical work. I am not going to file or walk children to the bathroom. It is easy for you to suggest this because you have a normal job temporarily. No I want to read my book and be left alone, while all those white midwestern, ivy league, highly effective and young"teachers" fill out pacing calendars, ais logs and other assorted bullshit busy work to satisfy the martinets who stalk the halls looking for u shaped configurations, common core standards and word walls, while the students have no text books. The union sucks and so do my colleagues who have obviously drunk the kool aid and buy into the vichy collaboration.
    You deserve to end up in the ate pool because you talk out of ignorance. Perhaps a year long tour of the doe sewers might change your tune.
    It is inevitable that at some point in the not to distant future, you too will be reviled as an atr.
    You can be sanctimonious now, since you are of the favored class of slave. But us field slaves just can't seem to share the enthusiasm that you have over doing clerical work. Do you know that the contract clearly stops members from having to do that. If you want to be a clerical person then be a secretary. Please do not advocate that your other brothers and sisters do this. I do not want to stick my foot in the door after twenty years of toiling for these rat bastards. I want to either do the job that I am good at or be left alone. If this seems to be not your cup of tea, then do not be taking their shitty paychecks when you become a traveling teacher

  5. I agree. Hold your ground! if you decide you want to help out in the cafeteria, office etc, do so, but from my experiences, most of these principals are not looking to help you out. They are ambivalent or apathetic towards you. Basically, you're there to wait until they tell you what to cover. Like a post said earlier, and I agree, I am not going to get on my hands and knees and beg. That is not what I went into teaching for. I did not go into teaching to deal with immature, egotistical adults who want me to act like some naive 22 year old. Been there, done that!

    My message to the city is clear. Let me teach. I am good at it and if you do not like the job that I am doing, then show me(don't tell me in buzz word terms) what you would like me to do.

    I was doing a vacancy in my license area in Sept which the principal did not even interview me and observe me for. When I asked why I did not get it, she yelled at me and said that,'the students are saying you make the lessons very simple and basic that they understand it too easily' duh? isn't that what a teacher supposed to do? present things in a way in which kids understand it. she also said i did not use the smart board at all. my response was,'give me a computer and teach me how to use it.' i got no answer and then was switched out.

    if this is what they want to do, fine, just don't denigrate ATRs for not landing a position when this is what happens.

    It is disappointing, but it has taught me not to approach administrators and go 'above and beyond' because it never works. that is from experience!

  6. Anon 9:27:

    Once again, I am not speaking to those with over 20 years in the system. I am speaking to those who have a long road ahead of them.

    I have served the NYC school system with distinction for 30 years. I served as a CL--and a very good and vocal one at that. I did not swallow the Kool Aid in '05. I had my share of layoffs and excessing in the 70s so I appreciated the no-layoff clause for ATRs.

    But those who want to stay in teaching, those with only 10-15 years in the system (and some less) serving as ATRs know that this will come to an end. Either the union has to fix this which is why I will be supporting Liu, or do what other cities are doing and firing teachers.

    Did you read the Times editorial today? Did you know that Randi held a book signing party for Brill and is pals with Gates.

    And Vet: When have I ever denigrated any ATR? Unlike you, I voted NO to the '05 contract because of this provision.

    I am however making "suggestions" to those that really want a placement. And a big part of that suggestion is to organize. GEM is working hard to do this, but if you are happy with the situation as it stands, then so be it.

    Why did the ATRs drop their discrimination suit last year? That was a step in the right direction. In '06 when Klein sent an email to all principals ordering them not to hire ATRs because they are "incompetent", Randi did not challenge that.

    No, I am not an ATR--just someone who lived through 2 layoffs when a few months prior Shanker declared at a Madison Square Garden rally--"NO LAYOFFS!!"

    But if this is the reaction I get for standing up for ATRs by voting NO in '05 and posting on Edwize that this program will lead to disaster, and supporting community organizers like James Eterno to keep schools like Jamaica open, then I deserve your contempt and will no longer post on this site nor will I continue to promote it.

  7. kudos to voting no to the 05 contract. i will admit that i did not see this atr stuff happening, so shame on me. i give you credit for fighting the good fight, but i know better as to how this city works and it moves at the speed of a glacier.

  8. Did anyone have parent/teacher night this week? I wonder how many parents went to their school and demanded to speak to the ATR

  9. To Veteran Teacher re: parent/teacher conferences.... I covered for a teacher on medical leave for five weeks. The 4th graders have been partying and the parents did come to me to complain. Why? The Principal wanted a real teacher to hand out report cards, explain test scores, etc. Instead of the day to day subs she has been hiring. It was my first day with the class and it took a lot of effort to get them on track and stay with me, but it worked. Parents came in and said they wanted to meet me. It's about time they had a real teacher who engaged their kids. They were happy to have this ATR and angry at the administration....yet the DoE and UFT keep spreading the lies that we can't teach. I thought those who can't teach become administrators and office workers telling us how to teach....lol

  10. haha, those that can't do teach and those that cannot teach become school principals. good one!

    do you think covering the vacancy will lead to a full time spot in the school?

  11. To veteran teacher: The teacher is coming back.... and no surprise.... no vacancies. This school, PS68, puts all the bad kids in one class on each grade and gives them to newbies who are drowning. I know because the Principal asked me to go into these "challenging classes to help". It was painful to sit there and watch these teachers being tortured no matter what I attempted.

  12. I never understood, Rod, why they give the 'lockdown' class to one teacher. Why not have a few of them rotate? But, we were all once there ourselves, right? Being tortured etc but that's how you grow.

    Sorry there aren't any vacancies there.

    I went on an interview today for a supposed vacancy that took me 2 hours to get to. They said they would call me next week, so I am sure I will never hear back

  13. why commute two hours each way?