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.