Monday, August 01, 2022

Let's Stop Trashing ATRs

Given Mayor Swagger's unwillingness to pony up and, you know, pay for education, schools are facing tough choices. Hundreds of teachers have been dumped into the ATR pool as a result. 

Why are people ATRs? Frequently, it's a result of being in the wrong place at the right time. Your school budget is cut, there are to be fewer bodies there, and yours is one of them. 

Today's Post attests to that. Where are new ATRs coming from?

About one in five teachers still without school placements were new hires last school year. Less than half were on probation at the end of the month.

This suggests that they were cut in reverse seniority order, as specified by our contract. There are plenty of reformies out there who'd like to change that, so principals or Tweedies could get rid of anyone they felt like. This is typified by Joel Klein's public demand to dismiss teachers on arbitrary and capricious grounds. We cannot afford that. 

I've seen many members get letters in file just because the principal felt like issuing them, and I know one who just ran to another school based on the fact she deemed she had no future in the one where she was, unjustly, given a letter and, even more unjustly, denied a per-session position.  Imagine if they could just dump you for being a pain in the ass. (Under that scenario, I'd have been working at Kinko's for the last ten years, and no one has suggested I'm a bad teacher in decades.)  

What's upsetting is the stereotype of the ATR as a bad teacher. Even more upsetting, the anonymous young teacher interviewed by the post perpetuates it:

“People are ATRs for different reasons,” said the Staten Island teacher, including those let go for ineffectiveness or misconduct, not enrollment losses. “We’ve gotten ATRs who got fired from their position for a reason. I’m not one of them, but now I’m grouped into that category.”

No ATR has been fired, full stop. Teachers who are fired do not become ATRs. What they become, in fact, is unemployed. I know a little bit about excessing. I was excessed from Lehman High School in 1985. I found a job teaching music. out of license, at JFK, and was there a year and a half before being excessed again. I then found a job teaching ESL at Newtown, was excessed again, and found another at John Adams.

I never became an ATR. I was just out of a job. I went to the hiring halls, and was told they could do nothing for me. One secretary brought be to a room full of people sitting in folding chairs. She told me those teachers were tenured, and that she had to place every single one of them before she even thought about placing me. 

The same teacher quoted above explains her situation:

“No one’s calling back,” she said. “I don’t understand. I’m rated well, my principal would say very nice things about me if they call.”

“I can’t prepare, but that’s what I spend my summers doing. Not to be able to plan for next year, and they’re just going to throw me into a position possibly, is ridiculous,” she added.

I certainly understand her frustration. I was in her position more than once, and each time was faced not only with those issue, but also the issue of losing my salary, health insurance, and place of residence. I didn't even have the option of scapegoating ATRs. As much as being an ATR sucks, losing your livelihood is a whole lot worse.

What I did was this--I put on a suit, sneaked past security, and walked into every school and department office that I though might hire me, a known quantity, as opposed to some person sitting around a hiring hall and waiting. That worked for me every time. 

Being able to keep my job without weeks of stalking administrators would have made me grateful. What really doesn't work for me is trashing ATR teachers. I'd feel even more awkward about it if I happened to be one. My job is to teach students from all over the world, and one thing I've learned in this job is that no stereotype is accurate, ever. 

We need to support our brother and sister ATRs. It's not their fault they're stuck in that pool. It's the fault of Mayor Swagger and Chancellor Soaring High. They deserve our wrath, our scorn, and our active protest, just for a start.

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