Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Year of Living Aimlessly?

Well, despite my best efforts to actually retire this year, I am back in the ATR pool of  "living aimlessly".  I mean, I am of retirement age and my body parts are lining up for surgery but the economics of healthcare have forced my decision to forestall this momentous departure from my daily routine.  So now, in the waning days of August, I am girding myself for a year and two months of life as an ATR.  Having been excessed last year, I started this blog in response to my new designation and even though I was subsequently hired back at my old school, I decided to keep the blog going in order to address the larger issue of the educational/industrial complex.  And now that I am going back to school, albeit without a class, I have decided that to maintain sanity, I would keep this blog going and invite any members of the ATR to share their experiences, strategies or rants on these pages.

And, so how does one prepare for life as a wandering pedagogue?  First we have to look at the only good thing about the ATR status and that is that we are, for now at least, exempt from the new and improved, lemon-fresh evaluation system currently dumped on our "more employed" colleagues. No small matter these days;  the evaluation process called Advance will be creeping into your vocabulary very soon but if you are a member of the ATR you will still be evaluated.  However, it will be the old fashioned way with a U or an S after a perfunctory observation - all of it quite pointless as you can well imagine. Well, that's about it on the positive side unless of course, you feel that not having a class with all the attendant obligations, is a good thing; in which case, it might be proper to ask oneself, "why do you want to be a teacher"?  In the end, it is not all that easy living life in the absurd lane.  I am a teacher therefore I teach but now I am a teacher and I don't teach. It is a betrayal of the purpose of leading a meaningful life. Instead of daily engagement in one's life work, the ATR is left to wander like a ghost, aimlessly; a spectral presence in the machine.

 So how can one remedy the isolation and existential "otherness" that latches onto to you as you walk, coverage slip in hand, down the strange hall to an unfamiliar class to "teach" a subject you have never taught before. I can only recommend "engagement" in the political/social storm that is swirling around you whether you know it or not. You are in the mix and you really need to engage the political forces that determine your future and as a teacher you are, politically, not alone.  Not unless you choose to be.  I have spoken with other teachers in the ATR pool and there is hardly a consensus on how to survive in this Netherland.  Some teachers just let you  know that, "...hell, if they want to pay me to sit and twiddle my thumbs all day then I will twiddle and count the days", while another teacher just might try to actually be a teacher between 8:20 and 3:00.  In the end, it is every man for himself and god against all. However, there is a curve in the road and if you keep you head up you just might steer yourself in the right direction.  Don't make your condition a matter of survival in a hostile world but rather an opportunity for engagement in the political realm. By sharing the experience of being disenfranchised, by screaming that you have no voice in a union created to give you a voice, by exposing the reformers goal of your being expendable in the bigger war on public education, you just might find the intellectual tools you can use to stand up to the assault, to counter the demonization of your profession and to find the support of colleagues who also find themselves in the DOE gulag. I think this point must be made especially since we had such a relatively poor turnout of teachers voting in the past UFT elections.  It seems to indicate that many teachers are not really paying attention to the big picture. I guess they are assuming that their teaching positions are safe and unassailable. But who do you think is in the ATR? The very teachers, veteran teachers, who are failing to vote, failing to have their informed voices heard and to be counted.  Being in the ATR takes an emotional toll on the committed teacher.  Waking up everyday knowing you have no control whatsoever over the unfolding of the day can easily become the source of daily dread which, in the end, can actually kill ya.  So, living aimlessly? I don't know? We all need to make these kinds of decisions but if we can rise up even as we are ignored or discounted, we can at least attest that we were there and fought in this battle.

 It is time to join the  BadAssTeachers just for a start and from there you can look up and make up your own mind.


  1. I am entering the ATR pool this September 2013 after being excessed from my high school which was slated to close, received a reprieve with the caveat that the 3500 student school downsize to 1000 students as per the gracious Walcott. So this June, the massive first round of excessing began and I was part of the first cut. I have 7 years teaching and have never been an ATR. I feel that being an ATR after 7 years is not my fault. I do not think of this development as my fault or due to some incompetency on my part. I am a victim of the system.

    I went on some interviews, all at terrible schools, where I see my future job threatened in two years because of this biased "get rid of senior teachers" evaluation system, so I refused to take a position. I feel I will have better luck keeping my job by being an ATR for the time being. I figure it will take a while for the slaughter of teachers to subside (i.e. all the "ineffectives" given out in the next two years and resultant firing) before protests can take effect. In other words I feel I am buying time (a little) from being among the first ones to be fired. I need my job. This is survival, and if anyone wants to think less of me because I am an ATR let them. They will probably be on the unemployment line before me.

    At my old school there will be a double whammy. In June 2014 the next round of excessing will occur along with the giving out of ineffectives. I especially feel for the math teachers who are now all over ten years of teaching and have the majority of students who cannot pass algebra, geometry or trig even on class tests much less some state test that will comprise 20/20 of the teacher's evaluation which will result in them being mandatorily rated "ineffective." I also feel for the science teachers who teach Living Environment as students have been failing that regents regularly since I started teaching 7 years ago. My Special Ed teacher friends who still have positions feel like they are all hopeless because no provisions have been made for disabled students who can't pass the regents, any regents. So anyone who wants to look down on me for being an ATR can envy me when in two years I may still have a job while they don't. Let's just be real and not delusional about our present future as teachers...the slaughter is about to begin and no appointed teacher is safe unless you have students who are all levels 3 and 4, and that might not save you as students are notorious for not taking assessment tests seriously (i.e. acuity and pre-SAT). Why would they take student "growth" tests seriously, especially when they find out teachers will lose their jobs if they the students don't do well. So laugh at me for being an ATR if you want. I'll be watching the slaughter to see how it goes for you. For those of you who can see the writing on the wall, let's all pray. ATR safety will probably be temporary but hopefully the new mayoral candidate will eventually change this corrupt, insidious DOE systemic attack on all of us teachers.

  2. Like yourself I became an atr this past june through no fault of my own. My question is can an atr be forced into a position at a school that they do not want to work at(documented bully principal) if they have a vacancy?

  3. I don't think as an ATR you can be "forced" to take any position permanently that you don't want. This "forced" placement practice ended some time ago. But you may be "forced" to take a long term coverage assignment at a school you don't want. I read that somewhere and it would be wise for you to check with the UFT. In the future what will happen to ATRs is unknown right now. We live with caution.