Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

 Another calendar year over. We, of course, are on a different calendar, like an ancient disappearing tribe. We celebrate New Years Eve in June and cry on NewYear's Day, Labor Day. I'm grateful for all God has given me. I wish everyone a happy and fulfilling New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Worker Without a Union

My son graduated from high school with a construction trade license. He went right to work as a low level worker paid very little with a private company. He would come home covered in dirt and exhausted. He said its cool I'm paying my dues and learning. Finally the plumbers union announced 50 spots to become an apprentice and union member - thousands applied. My son couldn't get in. He then started welding and the welder's union announced openings and again thousands applied, he didn't get in. Then he started doing electrical work and they announced a few union openings, again thousands applied and very few got in. Now he's learning another mechanical trade, got a 97 on the NYC city test and his number 5000, meaning 5000 will be called before him. He recently pulled his back out lifting boilers and is currently in a lot of pain. He's 25 years old, lives with me, is mechanically gifted and can't get a decent job - in large part because he's not a union member. They just can't let many in because they can't find their members decent paying jobs. The jobs are going to those who are desperate that are forced to work for much less.

    In discussing the UFT situation with my son, he said teachers are incredibly lucky. "You guys become automatic members with all the perks of membership. You don't have to go to different schools begging for a job and then hoping to get one for $10 an hour." I said you're correct and I'm sorry your in pain and anguish over your future. He said 'my friends who went to college have it much worse- they're not working and have a hundred thousand dollars worth of debt. I hope to become a union member some day and get a decent job'.  I'm very unhappy with the way the UFT is representing us, but I will continue to pay my dues regardless of what the Supreme Court decides. I urge all teachers to do the same.

No More Dues?

   A hundred bucks a month for union dues. Good deal? What do you get? Medical, dental and eye care? No. Contrary to popular belief the city gives that money to the UFT to dole out to us. The UFT perpetuates the myth that our dues are what pays for medical. OK, well now that's clear.

   What else do we get (or not get)? Representation in legislature and with elected officials. This is true, but what kind of representation has it been? It seems that for everything we have gained, we have lost its equal. Lately, we seem to be losing more than we are gaining - just in appreciation for having a friendly face. What about those who have been given the authority and privilege to represent us? Have they taken their positions seriously and honorably in the manner in which most of us expect them to? As a veteran teacher who is now an ATR, I have my own opinions. As members of the UFT, all teachers pay the same dues and are merged together in one union. The last contract divided us. Many veteran teachers are ATRs and the contract specified separate and unequal treatment for us. I looked up words that describe antonyms for the word 'union' - division, separate and unequal were listed. If a union acts against its own members that union will fall. You can't knock the foundation beams of a house and expect it to remain standing.

    Does it matter whether or not the Supreme Court rules for or against mandatory UFT dues? Its legitimacy is over. It simply can't claim to represent its membership with contractual discrimination against a portion of its members. Well, what if this was changed? How? 77% of the members voted for it. It seems that many members do not have a fundamental understanding of what a union is. If they did, that contract would never have passed. Those 77% will opt out if given the chance. The 23% who voted against the contract, the very people who were discriminated against, are the members who may keep paying dues.

     There is also a much bigger issue - the assault on the middle class. All unions will be affected by this, including the ones (all) that never have or would treat their members in the manner of the UFT. If unions have to fight for survival, so will the middle class. Most of us are not wealthy and many of us have or will have children. I don't want to see my children and grandchildren struggle the way my grandparents did.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Vocational Schools, STEM, and ATRs

     As I am pondering the state of education in NYC, there are many things that I find upsetting and frustrating. All students are being pushed into college. By all, I include those who are functionally illiterate and those who don't want to go to college.  I've met many students who want to be tradespeople, cosmetologists, and entrepreneurs. They don't know how to write a check, sign their name or tell time. No, they aren't mentally disabled - they just haven't been taught. Common Core, test prep and college readiness has made sure there is no time for that, or at least that's one (they're really all the same thing) of the excuses.

     NYC is the business capital of the world and there are virtually no business classes being taught. Bloomberg became a billionaire by creating his own businesses and ran the schools as such, but he closed vocational schools! (Schools, of course, are not businesses - they are social institutions. Running them as businesses is incredibly wrong.) If Bloomberg imparted one tenth of his entrepreneurial experience into business high schools he could have jump started tremendous innovations. Mulgrew was (and should have stayed) a wood-shop teacher, why hasn't he requested that the new mayor reopen vocational schools? It's downright embarrassing that NYC public schools feel business and the trades aren't important enough to teach.

     Then there's the big push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) classes, schools, and teachers. There's plenty of ATRs out there.  If you don't have enough STEM teachers couldn't ATR teachers be used to facilitate this shift? Many already are Math and Science teachers. Logic dictates ATRs have been permanently relegated to the position of "Sub".
     Happy holidays to all.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

How Teaching has Turned into 45 Minutes of Pleading

   I'm in a fairly good school for this stint. Actually the best one I've been to in a year. Last week as I was walking down the hall to go to my team teaching class, I picked up a clicker/counter, the type that's used to keep count in lunchrooms. I put it in my pocket to turn in later. My acting part that day was regular Ed English teacher.
   What follows is an actual scene from a sophomore English class. There are two scheduled teachers in the room and two paras.  It's 55 degrees outside and the thermometer on my phone says its 84 degrees  in the classroom (it feels much warmer). All the windows are open and I can actually hear the heat sizzling from the radiators. The bell rings and a very loud group comes into the room. One girl is being dragged in by her legs. Another is carried in on the back of a boy. Upon entering the room, he stumbles, sending her crashing into all the teachers belongings on his desk.
    Mr. Hopkins (who looks and dresses just like Jack Black): Please! Please! Come in and find a seat! Trevor you don't belong here! Please leave! (Trevor leaves and comes in with about 15 boys who don't belong in the class)
   Mr.  Hopkins: (Screaming) Please go to your classes! Please go to your classes! (Trevor and his friends stay, but the students who belong there wander out into the hall.)
   Ms. Mercedes (para): (Screaming in the hallway outside the door) Por favor! Por favor! Entre!
   Mr. O'Rourke (me)  : Mr. Hopkins, where are the deans or security?
   Mr. Hopkins: This school has restorative justice and we have no deans. Just help me get them in and seated. (I do my best.)
 After about 20 minutes the students are finally seated. There are currently 30 students; 28 girls and 2 boys. The Do Now is on the SmartBoard. More than half the students haven't started it and are openly using their phones.
  Mr. Hopkins: Please put away your phones! Please put away your phones!
A student puts her phone over her head and using a recording app that changes the pitch of Mr. Hopkins voice plays back, "Please put away your phones! Please put away your phones!". It sounds just like SpongeBob. The rooms erupts in laughter- several students fall out of there seats. One girl is crying uncontrollably.
  Mr. Hopkins: I've had all I can take! I'm calling parents tonight!
  Jessica (student): Good luck getting hold of that bitch! I haven't seen her in two days.
  Mr. Hopkins: We can discuss it later.
  Jessica: Oh, shut up!
Ms Gertrude, the second para enters the room (30 minutes late) followed by 4 students. She sits down next to a student and helps her. The room is filled to capacity. It's very difficult to circulate (or breathe).
   Mr. Hopkins: Mr. O'Rourke will be collecting the Do Now for Mr. Hayes.
   Several students in unison: He's absent again? What's wrong with him, Mr. O' Rook?
   Mr. O'Rourke: I have no idea.
   Jessica: O'Rook, hmm? Are you a heavy drinker?
   Mr. O'Rourke: I'm not, but things could change quickly.
   Jessica: I like you, mister.
   Mr. O'Rourke: Let's try to help Hopkins out and do some work. OK?
   Jessica: OK, mister.
Things get better, then worse and the period is over. I kept a running tally with a clicker-counter I found in the hallway. 151 pleases from Mr. Hopkins.

(All names have been changed.)

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Heartache of Labor Day

 For the past 25 years I've spent my Labor Day in a U.S. Open trance. I watch it from the moment it starts until it's over. It's the end of my summer vacation and as such is a mix of melancholy, anxiety and dread. The mix of those ingredients has changed considerably over the years. During the beginning of my teaching career the anxiety was much stronger. When I was in a terrible school, the dread was palpable. I remember watching Jimmy Connors play Patrick McEnroe late into the night, hoping the match would never end. If it could go on forever, so would my summer vacation. It was Connors 39th birthday and I remember screaming for him. If he could win, we could all hang onto our youth for a little while longer. As an ATR I no longer feel the pangs of anxiety or dread. Indeed, I no longer feel like a teacher. Now as my children are growing up, the melancholy is stronger. A cocktail that is very bittersweet. I sacrificed a lot during those years for my family and my students. I've had some success on both fronts. Labor Day is a day of rest and recognition for all workers. Enjoy your labor, for there can be great fulfillment from a job well done.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

ATR Greetings

(Leadership Academy Principal) Harvey: Toby, did you see that homeless person in front of the school? What's happening to this city? It never would have happened under Bloomberg!
( 2nd year teacher) Toby: Who's Bloomberg?

Harvey: You're kidding, right?

Toby: No. I'm from Wyoming.

Harvey: (rolls his eyes) The last mayor. The guy who's responsible for all the great things in NYC, including me! (pauses) Oh, no! How did that creature get past security?!

(A lady walks towards Harvey and Toby. Harvey breaks into a run to meet her.)

Harvey: Miss, I'm sorry you have the wrong building. The shelter is two blocks down.

Unknown Lady: I'm an ATR. My name is Beryl Stess.

Harvey: I see. (pauses) Let's get you situated. Toby get George. Miss Stess, how long will you be with us?

Ms. Stess: About 6 weeks.

(George walks up to them.)

Harvey: Oh, hello, George. This is Miss Stess. Miss Stess, this is our head custodian. You'll be working under him for the next 6 weeks. Just do whatever he tells you.

Ms. Stess: I want to speak to the chapter leader. This is unacceptable.

Harvey: He standing right next to you. Say hello Toby.

Toby: Hello.

Ms. Stess: I'm not doing custodial work.

Toby: You have to do whatever is asked of you or you'll be brought up on insubordination charges.

George: No, she doesn't. I'll go to MY union and stop it.

Harvey: No need for that George. Miss Stess, I'll put you in the stairwell for the six weeks you're here. Just make sure the kids get to class. (Gives her a cold stare) Don't make me have to call your ATR supervisor and report you for difficult behavior.

Ms. Stess: Fine.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to School Supplies For the ATR

  With the cruelest of days right around the corner, some new ATRs have called me for advice. In light of the $122 teachers choice largesse, I would start with a list of nessesary items. As an ATR you will most likely NOT get a restroom key and will have to beg any passing teacher to open the restroom door. I've actually had several refuse saying they don't have time or will not allow me to touch their keys. So item number one should be Adult Diapers. This will be especially nessesary when babysitting 4 or 5 periods in row. (As all the other teachers are doing 4 or 5, you will be expected to so as well.)

    Next on the list is are flesh colored or clear ear plugs. You may become subjected to teaching dance classes or Freshman classes that will easily burst your eardrums. Also if you are taking the train and have to walk through any projects in the South Bronx, a bullet proof vest is not a bad investment. Try to think like a bag lady (God bless anyone who's homeless) and travel light- all your possessions (coat, bag, lunch, supplies, etc.) will have to be lugged around as you will have no personal space. Seeking guidance from God is also important as you will find yourself needing calm in the midst of many storms. Patience and a sense of humor (in light of non-stop distain from everyone) is also necessary. Have a great year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why Does Murdoch Hate Trump? Why Should We Care?


     Why does Mr. Murdoch, or as I like to think of him - the Snow Miser, hate Trump? Why should we care? Well, as I've mentioned in previous post, the owner of the NY Post wants a new American Economy with Mr. Bloomberg . Their organization basically wants to cut wages across the board for many industries by opening up the work force to those who will work for much less. This new American economy would be paved with donations to wanting and wanton politicians. Mr. Trump brought out the fact that our system is broken and every politician is for sale. This candid remark happened while he was getting hammered by a very biased Megyn Kelly on Fox News (owned by Murdoch) . I should also let you know that the NY Post is pushing hard for charter schools, the demise of the UFT and the immediate, if not sooner, end to mayoral control of NY schools . This is all to open up the huge untapped education market here in NYC.
     Is Mr. Trump our friend? Is the enemy of our enemy, our friend? In this case, I would have to say yes. He is educating the public to some very shady practices that can lead to the ultimate destruction of public education as we know it. If our union disappears because of an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling, we won't be able to make any contributions that the Miser Brothers (Murdoch and Bloomberg)

most certainly will. That coupled with Murdoch's ownership of the NY Post and Fox News will be disastrous for us.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Deja Vu: Another Victory for the UFT!

  I got an email yesterday from Bad, Bad LeRoy Barr touting yet again an incredible victory by the UFT. Teacher's Choice has been increased to $122! A horrible contract, charter schools, Cuomo, daily attacks by the NY Post on DeBlasio and Farina (because they are preceived as being teacher friendly) and the dude who publicly refused ATRs their own chapter sends out this asinine email :

We hope you are enjoying your summer.
Every year, you and other New York City educators spend money out of your own pockets on materials you need to do your job in the coming school year.
We’re pleased to tell you that thanks to your advocacy efforts we have won a 62 percent overall increase in the Teacher's Choice funding to $9.65 million to help cover these expenses in the 2015–16 school year. Through social media and member lobbying, you helped to show the City Council the direct impact of Teacher's Choice on student learning. 
The amount for teachers has increased to $122 for the coming school year. We know that many of you spend several times this amount every year on materials. The increase this year will help to offset some of your expenses.
As in previous years, to participate in Teacher’s Choice, you will need to submit receipts as proof of purchase. These receipts must accompany a Statement of Purpose/Accountability form, which you will find under key documents on the DOE’s Teacher’s Choice website. Purchases must be made between Aug.1, 2015 and Jan. 8, 2016 to qualify for Teacher's Choice.
For more information, please see the Teacher’s Choice section of the UFT website.
LeRoy Barr and Ellie Engler
Staff Directors

   I understand that when a situation is as abysmal as ours even the slightest good news could rally the troops. The only problem is no one is fighting. There's an appearance that the UFT is completely disconnected from what's happening, and worse is allowing it via their inaction. An email like this one only bolsters that view.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A $5,900,000,000 NYC Surplus, a $350,000 Donation and Mike Mulgrew

    Another Victory For the UFT! (Updated Surplus Figures - Thank You, Mike!)

 Mike Mulgrew. Is there anyone left on the fence? Does he really have any supporters left? During the Bloomberg administration most of us gave him the benefit of the doubt. We were all getting hammered. Yesterday I read that he got Randi to make a $350,000 contribution before the contract negotiations! I think many of us are now feeling especially indignant that we got a contract written on toilet paper.

  What was that for? More Brownie Points to show how appreciative Mulgrew is that Bloomberg is gone and that we now have Bill?

 Most people when they give a monetary contribution expect something in return - not a big fat turd. Perhaps a good, or at least fair contract.

                                               Bill: " I'm so sorry Mike, the city is broke."

So now we are stuck eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (and I just got a notice today that my medical insurance may be raised) while Bill is celebrating a 5.9 BILLION dollar surplus!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What can be Done to Increase Voting in UFT Elections?

     Looking at the abysmal statistics for voting in UFT elections one thing becomes very apparent - the overall apathy of its members. Retirees are allowed to vote in UFT elections (!) and have been doing so at a higher percentage than their active counterparts. I don't know of any other union that allows retirees to vote in current elections. The retirees are actively seduced for their votes and have nothing to lose if they vote in an abject provision (via their vote for party or individual) that will fall squarely on the shoulders of the active members.

     What would happen if voting became mandatory? For instance, if you didn't vote you got a knock on the door (or a Skype call, etc.) in order to obtain that vote? The Census goes around to collect data that affects us in a myriad of ways. Our population pool is much smaller and technology has made information retrieval much easier. Our UFT votes and lack of them have a profound impact on our lives.

     Do I believe mandatory voting is viable? At the present time, no. That may change if union dues become optional. I'm assuming you wouldn't get a vote if you opted out of paying. What I do feel needs to be changed is the way in which we vote. Most people when they see that incredibly large envelope with a due date, leave it on the kitchen table and forget about it. When they remember it, it has expired and they toss it in the garbage. The people who don't, are the ones who have a lot of free time (i.e. retirees) and those who keep on top of union matters (an increasingly small minority). The UFT voting should be done electronically with an electronic signature. I have completed many legal documents this way and have never had a problem. This would greatly increase the voting statistics. This leads to another question - does our union want an increase in voting from its active members. I would venture, no. The reason being the whole retiree vote. It smacks of manipulation of data, in that there is no legitimate reason they should be voting in active elections. (This is meant as no offense to any retiree - I hope to be one soon.) In my opinion, the entire voting procedure for the UFT needs to be changed in order to assure an increase of input from the active members.

Update: I was informed that New Action brought an excellent election case to PERB requesting addresses of retirees. This was in order to give all groups an equal footing with Unity. PERB ruled that because retirees are not part of the bargaining unit, they aren't covered under the Taylor Law. The case was dismissed. So not only does Unity have full and unlimited access to a large constituency of voters, they have been basically allowed to legally thwart competing groups access to them. My incredulous reaction to all this is, how if they aren't part of the bargaining unit are they legally allowed to vote? It's in the UFT constitution.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who the Heck is Bernie Sanders?

   I must admit I am an ardent Hillary supporter, but have paused to rethink my support of her now that Randi has decided for me. This is a direct result of Randi's incredible arrogance. Almost every teacher I know and my entire family is a Bernie fan. What shocked me is that my very apolitical brother has a Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. I really didn't  know much about him, so I decided to do a little research.

    Bernie is a senator from Vermont. He has a direct unaffected approach that is like a breath of fresh air after listening to Cuomo and Christie all year. His policies make sense , an increasing rarity in the national political arena (i.e. Donald Trump).

    So has he won me over? Not yet, but there's still time. Why do I like Hillary so much? It's sometimes difficult to verbalize, but I've always felt that she has been much maligned and misunderstood. I also think she's brilliant and can achieve greatness for our country. The issues that are most important to me are the preservation of the middle class and a strong union. Both candidates want that, but Bernie has made a much more charismatic appeal. We all need to look at the issues and vote. Randi Weingarten will not be making my choice. Make no mistake, what Randi did hurt Hillary.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Randi Knows Best

Randi: Atlas, some of the teachers seem a little hostile towards me lately. My imagination?

Atlas: Perhaps it's because you, as AFT president, endorsed a candidate for US president, 16 months early without any input from the 1,600,000 members?!

Randi: Teachers are sheep. I don't need input from sheep. They don't know what's good for them.

Atlas: What's good for them or what's good for you?

Randi: It's the same thing. When I'm on the cabinet and Mike is president of the AFT, you'll all thank me!

Atlas: What happens if the Supreme Court rules against the unions?

Randi: All the more reason I need to be on that Cabinet.

Atlas: What happens if Bernie wins?

Randi: Impossible, I've already seen to that.

Atlas: I think you actually hurt Hillary by endorsing her this way. Not all of us are sheep!

Randi: That's correct, Atlas. Not all of you are sheep - some of you are ATRs. Just retire already!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Life Without Teaching! Now What?

"Please don't ask me to sub or run for office -
Mr. Portelos has my full support."

On my journeys around the Bronx I meet some very interesting characters. I talk to everyone, so I know people from the end of the South Bronx to Woodlawn. The saddest group I've met are the educators who have retired after 30 - 40 years and now have no idea what to do with themselves.

I've met retired educators subbing and have asked them, why? One very elegant bow tied gentleman told me, " you have no idea what it's like. I get up at 9, have breakfast and read the paper. Then its 10 o'clock, then 11 and so on. Then the next day, its the exact same thing. You see my entire being was focused on teaching and I didn't pursue outside interests or build a network of friends. So I'm subbing to save my sanity." I told him you may save it or you may lose it, and wished him luck. The conversation left a lasting impression on me.

Years ago I got a piece of valuable advice that I believe is true. Summer vacation is a dry run for retirement. If you find yourself climbing the walls, bored out of your mind or turning into a sloth- you're doomed. Outside interests, physical activity, and friends are very important for ones mental health. Have a great summer, no more blogging for me until the fall. Peace and love to all.

Some friends have asked me to continue my blog over the summer. If a topic of major importance comes up, I will. Thanks.

Monday, June 29, 2015

All Doors are Locked! (Including, of course, the restroom.)


They must be ATRs! Lock the doors!
   Many (25 plus) of my fellow ATRs have applied to positions (one to 15 different schools) on the Open Market. None (!) have gotten an interview. I called a friend, who works in a particular school, to ask about a postion that was advertised. He said don't bother, a teacher has already been hired. I asked who it was and was told it was a 24 year old with no experience. I asked why are these imaginary positions being posted. I was told "they have to interview a certain number, even if the job has been filled". So, I replied, if I got the interview, with my 24 years of experience, two masters degrees and numerous awards, I wouldn't get the position? "That's right, it's been filled. Even if it wasn't, no one is going to hire an ATR permanently. If you're hired provisionally (temporarially) the school doesn't pay your salary." (So it makes no sense to hire an ATR, except provisionally. These are the positions that wouldn't  be filled by any sane person and will be forced upon ATRs in the Fall.)  But if we are hired provisionally, we will be subject to Danielson and and the voodoo rating system- all without the same rights as the permanently hired teachers. These diminished due rights were added to our last contract. (Let's all remember that next spring.)

    So who is being hired permanently? The Untenured, Inexperienced, and Inexpensive, or UIIs as I like to refer to them. I don't begrudge them their jobs-( they are the same age as some of my children, and heaven knows those just starting out need a chance), but don't play us for fools telling us there are positions and we need to apply for them. Then there's the union - ATRs don't need a chapter because they are a temporarially displaced group! Weingarten's AFT agrees with these lies, as you can read about in the current ICEUFT blog. Exactly how and when will we stop being temporarily displaced, if no one will hire us permanently?  I urge all ATRs to join Solidarity and vote next spring.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Scene From 52 Broadway

Mike: I'm hearing alot of saber rattling from the peasant ATRs. What's this all about Amy?

Amy: I have no idea. Let me ask. Mike! Where are you?

Mike S. : Yes, your highness. How may I be of assistance?

Amy: What's going on with the ATRs?

Mike S.: I don't know, let me plug my phone in for about 30 seconds and I'll let you know. (Mike then plugs in his phone and answers a call.)

ATR (on the phone): I've just been U rated for the second year in row. I yawned while the supervisor was threatening me and now I've been brought up on insubordination charges. Please help me!

Mike S. : (Doesn't respond, hangs up phone and runs to Amy.) Amy, the ATRs are being U rated.

Amy: Thanks. ( Goes back to Mike's office)

Mike: Well, what's going on?

Amy: The ATRs are being U rated.

Mike: Oh, thank goodness. I thought it was something serious.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Fond Farewell

   On my odyssey around the Bronx I often come across teachers, paras, APs and even principals that I worked with, for well over a decade, at a school that is now closing it doors for the final time. This was a vocational school that really got kids into college or onto a career. If the kid had no interest or was a displinary problem he/she was sent to their zoned school. Then after the No Child Left Behind Act students were being sent to our school who had never chosen it. They were put into vocational classes in which they had no interest and the school started going down fast. Zoned, neighborhood  schools were closed. Therefor these students remained. Then high need students were sent specifically to this school. Of course, the stats plummeted, the school was slated for closure and most became ATRs. (Now the few remaining teachers will also become ATRs.)

     This is the month the school lets out its last breath. In doing so it leaves at its wake much success and happy memories. My best teaching days were spent there and to be honest I couldn't stand to go to the reunion. I'm too sentimental. Those times are past. Schools are now tantamount to fast food restaurants and mangled (or is it managed?) as such. I hope one day that schools become schools again in NYC.

     In closing, I want to wish all a wonderful summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What Does a NYC 3 Billion Dollar Surplus Say to Teachers?

 Last spring, listening to "doom and gloom" Mulgrew on how the city really couldn't afford to give us much, I shook my head. I thought to myself is anyone going to buy into this? I figured there was no way the contract would pass- after all, teachers are the most educated and thrifty (don't deny it) group around. There was also the undeniably abject provisions in the contract against ATRs.
While the UFT was marching for justice, they were discriminating against their most veteran members. The contract passed by 77%! Another great victory for the UFT, teachers and Mike Mulgrew.

     Years ago when Oprah's show was hitting the stratosphere, she had to renegotiate her contract with the network. At the time she had her agent go into the negotiations. He came back to her with what seemed a reasonable increase and she was going to sign the contract. What changed her mind? Well the network executives came out, told her that her agent was a great guy and slapped him on the back. It dawned on her that if someone is supposed to be negotiating the best deal for you, they are not going to have that kind of reaction with an adversary. She fired her agent. (She started her own company and started making serious money.) Will teachers ever have this epiphany?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bloomberg and Murdoch - Modern Day Gilded Age Tycoons

 I just read a deeply disturbing article that can have long lasting and devasting effects on the middle class and immigration. The CEO, Mr. Iger, of Disney brought in hundreds of Indian immigrants, tricked their employees into training them and then fired the American workers. Employers are using the H-1B visas to do this domestic version of outsourcing. The H-1B visas are supposed to be used for positions in the sciences in which there aren't enough American candidates. Iger used it to bring down labor costs at Disney. Guess who is partnering with Murdoch to push for an overhaul of immigration laws and an increase in H-1B visas? That right, Mr. Bloomberg. They call their organization "A Partnership for a New American Economy" . It has the potential to further decimate the middle-class, cost tax payers billions in unemployment, create intense hatred of immigrants, and make billions for the 1% club. Every large industry, including education, will be looking to bring in cheap labor to replace the American worker. This has the potential to be a disaster for our economy. I don't usually write about economic topics, but I feel everyone should know about this.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Do You Know of Any ATRs that were Permanently Hired?

     Interesting question? I know about 100 ATRs. About 25 of them have been provisionally placed, but only 1 has been permanently hired - and that was last year. I know of no one who was permanently hired this year.

     Many teachers, who aren't ATRs , don't understand the distinction between permanently hired and provisionally placed. Is this intentional? It certainly makes the ATR numbers look considerably lower to the uninformed and unquestioning. The vast majority of ATRs (who are out of the rotation pool) are provisionally placed and are thus given "subpar" status as opposed to the permanently hired teacher. "Subpar", in that it is temporary, forced, and the recipient of this gift is subject to diminished due process rights - not that the ATR is subpar (which is what many would have you believe). Would any ATR want to be provisionally placed? I know of many who did, believing their hard work and professionalism would win them a permanent position. Needless to say that didn't happen for any of them.

    Many ATRs are currently on the Open Market looking for a permanent position. It seems incredibly unfair that the permanent positions are being given to the inexperienced and untenured over the better candidates, while the unwanted provisional positions are forced onto ATRs.
    UPDATE 6/7: Several ATRs contacted me this weekend to tell me that they received their excess letters last Friday. Despite their best efforts they are back in the ATR pool.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Do We Get Out of the ATR Pool?

Yesterday morning, on my way into a large high school campus building, I met a former student of mine that I hadn't seen in years. He was happy to see me and surprised we were in the same school. He is now a teacher and doing well. He became a teacher via the traditional route. He said he really didn't understand the whole ATR thing, but if "they are forcing great teachers to be subs something is really messed up". How did it come to this? After 23 years of teaching, never receiving an unsatisfactory, being the moderator of several clubs, and having felt the thrill of having many of my former students graduate college, I woke up to find myself in a surreal environment. ATRs are sent to different schools on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, (or any old way) to sub. We don't know the staff, students, building, neighborhood or any of the things most teachers take for granted. There is no set routine, everything is in flux - from daily schedules to lunch. We are often treated with an undisguised level of distain by many we come into contact with. We are asked to do things that a regularly appointed teacher would never be asked. This ranges from lunch duty, deaning, hall duty, punching in and out- to being traded to schools within a building. If we complain we are told we must do it or face insubordination charges. We are told we can always grieve it at another time. No one has our backs. The Chapter Leaders rarely, if ever introduce themselves, and will tell you straight up they don't want to get involved with ATR issues. Even Mulgrew, the president of our union, put a diminished due process clause in the recent contract. Most of us have found that being a "sub" (in every context) in the ATR pool is completely demoralizing. Yet, here we remain, day after day, week after week, year after year. Who were we replaced with? "Newbies" (from organizations like TFA), who are overwhelmingly young, from rural America and totally unprepared for the reality of inner-city teaching. These teachers have been failing miserably and like the last flowers of autumn stay only a short time.

So why don't the schools hire us, if we are experienced and effective? Cost. The ATR situation was solidified by the city via individual school budgets. As each school gets a separate budget, there is an artificially placed economic disincentive to hiring anyone but the most inexperienced. Huh?! That's right. This is the worst possible thing you can do to students. The money all comes out of the same place. Why punish every constituency? Some of us have been languishing for a decade waiting for an end to this scheme. There was a recent (UFT) resolution from Ms. Hinds to go back to unit funding for schools. We now have a new mayor and chancellor. I believe they both want what's best for NYC's students. It is my hope that they change the funding process to ensure fairness for all.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Amy and Mike, Your Subjects Need You!

Dear Amy and Mike,
As the representatives of 2,200 ATRs many of us have been waiting years for a meeting, visit, or even an email. The vast majority have never met either of you. Some of us wonder if you exist at all. We recently tried to start a Chapter and it would have been civil to at least voice an opinion. We heard, Amy, that you entered quietly at the end of the recent farcical festivities. To say we are dissatisfied with the representation we are receiving (!) would be an understatement. Camilla and Charles make public appearances and try to help advocate for others. I believe it would be a wonderful start for both of you to emulate them as positive role models and do the same.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Winding Down Another School Year

As another school year ends I find myself reminiscing about years past. Students I saw grow up and go on to college. Friends I worked with and celebrated retirements with. I'm thankful for having so many good teaching years. I'm also thankful to be working and impacting students in a positive way. Last week I helped some students who were fearful of college interviews. I've also helped many with a variety of subjects over the past year.
We must take each day as it comes. The same goes for people. Life is a gift. Have a great time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Expect a Visit From Your ATR Supervisor Shortly

If you haven't seen an ATR supervisor yet, you may shortly. Many ATR APs took a buy out in March and were brought back on a part time status as ATR supervisors. Also many retired principals  have been hired to supervise ATRs. Most have between 10 to 15 ATRs that have been specifically targeted for a variety of reasons.
I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Please Sign Your Name

I was taking attendance ( in a Junior class of 34) a couple of days ago and asked the students to print and sign their names. I got the sheet back with 2 columns of printed names.
What caused this mishap, a class that didn't know English? No. I asked the class why no one signed their name. One young lady answered, somewhat abashed, that she was never taught to read or write script! So I said, " Let me get this straight, none of you can sign your names? How will you complete applications for employment, passports, driving or write checks?" One kid called out, "What's a check, mister?"

I was recently talking to a former elementary school teacher and was told penmanship is no longer being taught. It is simply deemed unimportant by the Common Core educrats. There are no more business classes and the kids don't know how to write a check, fill out an employment application, budget money or how to act properly on an interview. I tried to talk to two Senior girls who were slyly making fun of my business attire. I explained that when I go to work I have to dress professionally and that (hopefully) they would as well. One had flaming pink hair and the other a green Afro. They actually hung out with me for a half hour talking fashion. One wants to be a cosmetologist and was accepted to a pricey trade school. I told her a few years ago she could have gotten her license for free at a vocational high school. She asked me why they got rid of vocational high schools. I told her I really don't know. It seems we will have no tradespeople soon- only people who can take tests, but not sign their names.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Mr. Mulgrew, Tear down This Wall" or Why ATRs Need Their Own Chapter

Many in our society feel disenfranchised. The elderly, the poor, the undocumented, minorities and those who wait patiently for justice (that many times never comes). In society, the fair minded try to help and give voice to those without one. I've always felt that our union, the UFT, was one of those entities. I was proud of that and wore my UFT pin on my lapel for many years. The UFT was our collective voice, and that voice stood for fairness, courage and advocacy.

For many years, in the late 1970s and early 80s, my aunt and her friends would gather several times a week to pray for the collapse of the Soviet Union. She also said a rosary nightly for its collapse. At the time I didn't understand a faith that strong or why she would care so strongly for a people she had no connection with. She was from Ireland. One day I asked her. She said those people are suffering and need God's intervention. As a teenager, I shook my head and thought to myself that the Soviet Union would never fall. As I watched it's collapse and heard Mr. Reagan's statement "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.", I was certain, and still am, that it was God and prayer that did it.

So what's all this have to do with the plight of a couple of thousand of the most educated, experienced, and disenfranchised members of the UFT? Most ATRs are teachers who come from closing schools (and a few that have been cleared of charges) and are not wanted in any school because of their high salaries, knowledge, and experience. So we were sent to a different school every week last year and a different one every few weeks this year. We are treated with distain in most of the schools we go to. The students and staff refer to us as subs, and that is basically what we are. Many of us have become completely demoralized and quit, retire or have become sick.

ATRs are stigmatized and may need help from our union. There is a myriad of reasons for this. Do we get that help? Many Chapter Leaders in the schools we are in don't want to represent us. One recently told me he didn't want to get involved when I asked him for representation. Many are afraid and unaware of their duties and the new contract. We want our own chapter and true representation. We have been denied this. The reason, I believe, is because we are unwanted even by our own union.

The UFT is very similar to the Soviet Union before its fall. No disention, robotic adherence to Party, and complete blindness to the overwhelming suffering of its citizens. The Soviet Union fell. If the UFT doesn't start representing all its members fairly, it will as well. Large groups of teachers are completely disgusted. Monday night our union will have the opportunity to give voice to ATRs by allowing them their own chapter. Mr. Mulgrew, tear down this wall.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Spork - The First Sign of the End of Civilization

I'm continually astounded by the accelerated decline of our society. It's evident in almost everything and everyone I come into contact with. The Chinese are playing God by altering human DNA, some country has most definitely cloned human beings and Americans are oblivious to anything farther than their backyard (if they are lucky enough to own one).

What got me on this rant? Well it's been building up since I first saw the spork about 20 years ago. What's a spork? It's an evil creation that's half spoon and half fork. The Chinese experiment I read about in the Times must have triggered my buried memories of it. Let me give you some historical context. When I first became a teacher 25 years ago we had a very nice, clean teachers cafeteria. In them we had tablecloths, window shades and yes, stainless steel cutlery. After a couple of years in, I noticed plastic cutlery and overall, things started to seem a little shabby. A year or so later, no cutlery. A spork, with a napkin, enclosed in plastic. The clock stopped working and no one fixed it. The table cloth got dirty and no one cleaned it. It became tattered and was thrown away. The choice of food went from four or five to one. Exact change had to be used because no change was available. Eventually the teachers' cafeteria was closed because not enough people were using it. By chance or circumstance? Perhaps Bloomberg got his ideas from the iniation of the spork. Create deterioration and close the schools, but that's only schools. What about our quality of life?

It seems as if we have become a narcissistic society only interested in ourselves. I see people with these selfie sticks and shake my head. If you say "Thank you" to anyone under 40, you get a "No problem" in return. Think about that. Why would doing your job, or doing something nice be a problem? Everything is now a problem. My buddy was side swiped while walking across Tremont Avenue and the car never stopped. He wasn't hurt, Thank God, but the car stopped at the light! The guy stopped because he didn't want to get a ticket via the light's camera. It seems as if people will not even do what's expected, never mind decent, unless they'll get called on it. Eventually there's going to have to be cameras everywhere. The churches have to lock their doors because people have robbed them of their candlesticks, chalices, and poor boxes. Also many statues and graves have been robbed from cemeteries around the country. This would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

It doesn't stop there. Journalism has taken a nose dive in recent years. It became evident to many when that NY Times reporter was caught fabricating stories. This was shocking to many of us, but really inevitable considering the accounting, banking, and Wall Street scandals. What's a little less noticible and much more troubling, is the continued lowering of all standards in which those incidents were only the most visible examples. There seems to be complete rejection of the most basic tenant of Journalism - objectivity. (The only time I now see objectivity is when the author should be subjective, as in writing about witnessing a tragic incident.) I consider Journalism almost sacred. When I read article after article, from Chalkbeat and the Post to the NY Times, exhibiting bias by what is said and unsaid, I feel a little nauseated. The bar for everything has been lowered and we as a people have been as well.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Common Core Part 2

More gut wrenching high stakes tests this week! My daughter is a wreck and spent the whole weekend with me studying. It was 80 degrees and sunny outside and we were doing probability, logic and statistics inside. The stuff is complicated, contrived and the answers are never whole numbers (so we end up double checking everything). My nephew came over, he's the same age, and my sister opted him out. He's relaxed, tanned already and can't understand why my daughter won't go bike riding with him. He's right! How surreal is it when educated, middle class parents say no to what's deemed educationally superior by schools?

The papers are saying it's being driven by unions and being done by the affluent. Our union is in favor of Common Core and the vast majority of parents opting out are middle class. I just read that teachers who opted their kids out could lose their teaching license! I don't believe it though!

                       Andy: Those teachers broke the law, Atlas. Luckily, your daughter took the tests.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A New Action Delgate Defends Mulgrew's ATR Views (On Everything)

This is an actual conversation:

New Action Delegate: Here take this ( a leaflet entitled New Action Spring 2015). It may better inform you about New Action's views. Since you like to read lies on blogs about us.

Me: Thank you. Why is the union against ATRs having their own chapter?

NAD: Mulgrew feels, and we agree that by giving ATRs their own Chapter, we are solidifying a temporarily displaced group.

Me: You realize there are teachers who have been ATRs for over 10 years?! There will be more next year. Do you actually believe that horse shit?

NAD: I do and we are giving you ATRs the ability to run for UFT office in the school you're in the first week of May.

Me: Are you joking?! Who's going to vote for someone they don't know and who will be leaving?!

NAD: Don't say that. Portelos won his election from the rubber room!

Me: Yes, but he knew the school's staff. We don't even know the school we will be in.

NAD: You really should join New Action. We're helping lots of discontinued teachers.

Me: That's great, but you're doing nothing for ATRs. In fact, you are hurting us.

NAD: Oh well. Got to go.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Sky is Not Falling!

ATR Neo: Hey Atlas, I remember you saying Cuomo's anti-teacher agenda was going nowhere! He's won! It's all over for teachers and students!

Atlas: I still say his nonsense is going nowhere. The parents are eventually going to win the Common Core battle and he will have egg all over his face. He is going to get completely tripped up because of his enormous ego. No one respects him and most see him for who he is. Our educational system maybe on life support, but it won't be him that pulls the plug.

ATR Neo: What about the teachers?!

Atlas: No one in their right minds will  go into teaching. They may actually need ATRs to teach because of the extreme shortage of teachers that's right around the corner.

ATR Neo: Cuomo will destroy us all!

Atlas: Investigations are looming. His house of cards can fall at any time. The sky is not falling!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Threats and Intimidation for the Common Core

I recently blogged that my school district has a gag order on teachers discussing opting out of Common Core testing.

What I've discovered is much more insidious. I explained to my daughter that I'd rather her not take these tests. (As a teacher I believe these tests will be used to dismantle teaching staffs, in order to replace them with cheap labor. It also turns teaching into test prep and eliminates the joy of learning.) I expected a "Whoopee!" What I got shocked me. My daughter said she wants to take the tests. My daughter explained that she must take the common core tests because she has a high grade average. My daughter feels very strongly that she will not be recommended for advanced placement classes next year if she doesn't  take them. "Dad, I've worked so hard all year and now this will be held against me. Just let me take them." What the heck could I say? No? Risk her being placed in a remedial class as punishment for all of next year? Would this happen? I don't think so, but the kids sure think it will. What about the parents of kids who are undocumented? They're scared to death to opt out. We also got a robo- call saying state funding for the school would be cut if parents opted their children out. This is not what education should be about. Teaching and learning should be a joyful experience for students and staff. This is not education; this is now a business.