Wednesday, June 21, 2017

(Repost from 1/21/15) Survival as an ATR - A Brief Overview

     (Today I came across some very upset, newly minted ATRs. To say they were devastated would be an understatement. All of them have over ten years in the system and are great teachers. This crap has to stop. Here's one of my first posts and I hope it helps someone.)

Survival as an ATR - A Brief Overview 

     When I was teaching I never thought I could become an ATR. The 2005 contract seemed like a win-win and most teachers trusted the union. At the time my chapter leader said the seniority clause really didn't mean anything - unless you wanted to change schools and bump someone. (Most of us wanted to stay in the school we were in until retirement.) He went on to further explain it would stop someone from bumping us. No one imagined school closings and the creation of the dreaded beast "The ATR". As time went on the number of school closings increased, as did the number of ATRs.
     Today many teachers are deathly afraid of becoming an ATR, partially because it's inevitable for experienced teachers. I now know many ATRs. Almost all are over 40 and professional individuals. (The stereotypes that abound are disturbing , especially when it comes from our union and fellow teachers.) Depending on your teaching background, some will have a much more difficult time than others.
     Everything is taken away from you, except the pay check. You will have no routine. You won't know the kids, teachers, administrators, building, or neighborhood. You will spend a lot of money in parking garages or on tickets. You will have a new cold every time you change schools, because of the different populations and stress. You will have to carry everything with you- coat, bag, food, etc.. You will start at 9 in one school, 7:35 at another. If you had a miserable time in the past, this may not be so bad. If you had a great time teaching, this will be hard on you. How to survive?
     Try to have a positive attitude. Try to exercise more, preferably before work. Watch yourself for depression and addictions ( shopping, overeating, gambling, and any of the more illicit ones). I have several friends who have become seriously ill and quit. Dress in layers - some schools are 90 degrees, others 40. Carry hand sanitizer and earplugs. (Yes, believe it or not, these rooms can get so loud your hearing will be in danger.) Carry some generic class work. Expect no help from the UFT and you won't be disappointed. Pick your battles, because you may win the battle and lose the war. Most importantly- don't lose your head.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

How about a Raffle?

I like raffles.
    It feels like summer today. Another year over already. I'm making my list of things to do and people to see. I don't care about the UFT having meetings to explain why this 50K offer isn't a shafting. I'm not taking it and I only know one ATR that is considering it. Last week the Chapter Leader at my school asked if I was planning on taking this 'terrific opportunity' and I said no. He said, "You should reconsider - they have some nasty things planned for you guys." He wouldn't elaborate. I guess that's what's referred to as the fear factor. I believe it's that fear that the UFT is betting on and what's keeping them from having meetings. (If you have any questions email the UFT or just get out your Magic 8 Ball.) The fear that people imagine is always much worse than reality. The best horror movie directors scare by not showing their monsters. It's what caused several of my colleagues to leave teaching, rather than become an ATR when our school closed. It's what causes most of us not to take a risk that could greatly benefit us.
     I was listening to a lecture by Alan Watts last night. He said something profound (and I'm paraphrasing) 'Once you realize that you will eventually die there is no fear in living.' I don't believe many ATRs will take the offer, but there are many teachers that would. Why doesn't the UFT offer everyone the same deal? Aren't we all considered teachers? Why should only one group be offered this 'opportunity'? If the UFT or DOE (they have become increasingly synonymous) doesn't want to offer this to all teachers, why not just offer the budgeted amount, that is turned down by ATRs, to those teachers that want it? How? A UFT raffle of course!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Another Victory!

                                   Mulgrew wins again!                                               
       I look to the future with joy and happiness at being alive and healthy. That's something many teachers and ATRs I know can't say, and if the UFT can do something to alleviate its members anxiety, it should do so. I've read the new ATR agreement, but it is vague on many points. There's been an offer of 50K to retire or 35K to resign, but more than a couple of us are wondering why the questions concerning the agreement aren't being openly discussed. Is there something being concealed? Is it that the truth may dissuade those who don't want to be placed from leaving? Or is it something outrageous that will shock the conscious of the rank and file? For instance, do principals have to accept ATRs in a permanent placement? If not, how are they to be placed? Will they be placed? If there are more ATRs than there are for certain vacancies, how are the placements to be decided? If there are no vacancies, for certain license areas, how are those ATRs to be placed? The system seems ripe for outrageous indignities to be heaped on ATRs - which was the reason the weekly rotation was developed in the first place - to avoid schools taking unfair liberties with teachers placed in the status of ATR. This was of course after the terrible mistake of allowing an ATR system to be created in the first place.
   The UFT should be having meetings now to help ATRs decide if this is the right time to leave based on what is or is not planned. I have plenty of aquiantances that are principals and they have told me they can't afford ATRs even if they are free at first; that some of them (they seem pained to admit) believe the stereotypes about most of us; will not want our seniority to trump a newbie superstar and do not want us to infect their staff with unknown union rights. If I was racing horses I might feel the same way. Why should I pay top dollar for some old broken down horse (that may have a disease), when I can get three foals for the same price? The DOE seems to want to put us out to pasture but it seems like we're being led by our handlers into a glue factory. We are not horses, we are teachers. Our experience should make us vastly more valuable than a new hire. I guess the Belmont Stakes is bringing out all these metaphors. I read the asinine comments from some of our UFT handlers. It's infuriating not to have a voice, be treated like a fool and then told that a couple of ATRs are excited. We're running the good race, but it looks like the fix is in. Always enjoy the race, even if you lose.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Annual Meetings and Input From ATRs

   See you in September!
      There is a new ATR agreement that looks a lot like the old ATR agreement, but took most of a year to be negotiated, was done secretly, without ATR input, without open discussion and without being voted upon. Many of us have questions and concerns. We used to have an ATR advisory committee and ATR agreements were voted upon. At last nights Executive Board  meeting Ms. Arundel said we don't need meetings concerning this, as there are annual borough meetings every fall. Stuart Kaplan mentioned ATRs now have a choice of getting a buyout or being forced placed, and that a couple of ATRs he talked to were excited about the prospect. Mr. Mulgrew mentioned we're going to be a right to work nation and state soon - the implication being since it's going to be happening to all of us soon, the ATRs shouldn't balk because the UFT are using their own version of it now.

We are very excited!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Mike : Let's Make a Deal


      Hey Atlas, I gotcha a hell of a deal, $50K, to make like a tree and leave. What could be better? After taxes you can be the owner of a brand new Corolla and drive for Uber. What! No. I can't be hearing correctly. You want details? I told your buddy Harry you guys don't have to worry we'll place you. Obscure license, not enough vacancies, and eccentrics? Don't worry we got jobs for all of you. Details? No, I got no details. Meetings? No way, Jose - I mean Atlas - Amy is a very busy person and  her assistants are bogged down as well. Don't worry, be happy - we have your best interests at hand.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

UFT Meteor

   First enjoy your weekend, but remember why we're off on Monday. Many people don't stop and give pause for all those who sacrificed for our ideals. Most teachers I meet seem to truly hate their jobs. Some were actually running to their cars this afternoon. It was like a meteor was about to hit the area and it was a matter of life or death to escape as quickly as possible. I never saw traffic like I did this afternoon - it took me one hour to go four miles. Unfortunately, for most of us, the thought of being off far outweighs the reality. Personally, I had a lot of fun with the kids this week. I had the same classes and was teaching literature. No excerpts, the entire book. I tricked the kids into learning, despite themselves. Old teaching tricks that I learned long ago. It hit me how much I miss teaching. Actually teaching classes, having kids listen and do work felt wonderful. When I teach, I get a feeling of elation that is unlike anything else. That that joy was taken from me, and so many others, for no other reason than we are at the higher end of the pay scale is maddening. The UFT has been more than disappointing, in that it doesn't seem to be willing to support us, even minimally. That it went so far as to agree to put in discriminatory provisions in the last contract (that have since expired) was a profound betrayal. It now openly lies and/or ignores us and tells us how lucky ATRs are to have a job. The truly fortunate group is the UFT. It is lucky that dues are still mandatory. Things may change for all of us. I will continue to support the UFT, despite my anger and disappointment, but I hope that the UFT starts to respect its veteran members. The UFT should carefully consider what it is agreeing to in its representation of us. It hasn't asked for our input. It hasn't informed us or kept us informed. That fact, at the very least, should imply strong representation on the part of the UFT. Let's hope that a darkly imagined meteor doesn't strike ATRs or the UFT.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

(Repost 6/2/16) The Anti-Vocational Education and 'College For All' Ideological Harvest


     Back in the early 1990s, I was enrolled in Lehman College working on my Master's degree. During one of my more interesting classes, I had a professor who became very angry with me when I told her I disagreed with her. She had stated that all vocational high schools in NYC should be closed. She had asserted that vocational schools were racist facilities that were being used to keep minority students out of college. She maintained that all students should be sent to college. I, of course, said that was ridiculous. She asked me how old my son was (3, at the time) and said, "So it's ok for your son to go to college, but not the Black or Latino kid?" I replied if my son had the inclination toward the trades, I wouldn't stop him and that tradespeople can make very high salaries. (There is and was a subtle snobbery with many intellectuals that view skilled labor as a demeaning way to make a living. My son did end up going to a vocational high school. I should mention that this professor was a very attractive, nice Jewish lady.)
    As the years went by, I saw a lot of chipping away at the notion of vocational schools. First, as I've mentioned, from education professors; then from teachers and administrators, and finally from our beloved Mayor Bloomberg. Right after the No Child Left Behind Act, my AP went around to all the CTE teachers in our school and told us we had to get another license. She explained that the increased push to get all students into college and the end of zoned schools would mean the demise of vocational schools. The kids had to take newly required classes and tests. These classes left very little to no time for vocational classes. Most kids in the school were now taking 9 to 10 periods a day with no lunch. (We had to have the parents sign a waiver allowing it.)
    Next came massive amounts of kids being placed in our school with no interest in vocational classes. These kids used to go to their zoned schools, (and we used to send the ones that showed no aptitude to those schools). These students were now destroying every CTE class. The final nail in the coffin was of course, the completely diabolical 2005 contract. It allowed failing schools to be closed down and the veteran staffs to be turned into babysitters. Vocational schools were sent high need students and the resulting falling stats used as evidence for their closing.
    Now all students are being sent to college, regardless of academic readiness. (The Regent exams were supposed to ensure this.) Many former public school students can not pass an introductory class. Some spend all their financial aid on remedial classes. They then go into the world with no skills and no degree.
    I was recently at a play at SUNY Purchase. During intermission, I started talking with a semi-retired lady that seemed very familiar. She was telling me horror stories of the students she was teaching in a community college, as a adjunct English professor. "They're all so entitled! They expect me to spoon feed everything to them. They have no social skills, no vocabulary and can't write. Why don't they go out and learn a trade?!" Yes, you guessed it - my former professor from Lehman. I reminded her of our former conversation so many years before  - which had left a lasting impression on me, but none at all on her. She eventually did however, admit that she did feel that way once upon a time - but had been wrong. The crop of anti-vocational education and "college for all" ideologies, sown so long ago, is now being harvested by the very same people and institutions that planted it.