ATRs, the unrepresented -- no elected representatives in the UFT
"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected.
"To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another."
Thomas Paine, First Principles of Government
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Why does the DOE insist on putting ATRs in the position of usurping topics for students' classes?
Why is New York City DOE expecting ATRs to displace the subject agenda of the classes that they cover? Why is the UFT acting as the glove to the DOE's hand on this policy? It's a disservice to both students and teachers.
This week the UFT is holding informational meetings in which it tells ATRs what the DOE expects of them. In previous years the UFT told ATRs not to worry about the field supervisors, that the only ATRs getting U ratings are ATRs having attendance or conduct problems. However, in the 2014 to 2015 school year numerous ATRs got career threatening U ratings. As noted recently, because of the rash of the U-ratings that teachers suddenly received after two decades of unblemished services, some ATRs have begun pursuing lawsuits. The UFT, incredibly, has staunchly backed the expectation that ATRs be evaluated in subbing contexts. In a vastly under-recognized problem that the union is ignoring, many decent teachers are receiving U-ratings with students that they have just met. Read this Chaz blog post and this post too. Just how will the UFT defend its record if the Supreme Court's decision on the Friedrichs v. CTA case goes the wrong way for teachers' unions? "Be thankful you've got a job" doesn't cut it when the UFT is asleep at the switch on the issue of inappropriate field observer observations that become U-ratings for the year.
It is a good occasion then, to closely examine the awkward and contentious role that ATRs are put into as they impose their lessons that are often irrelevant and disruptive to students' daily class schedules.
For the general public and for ATRs new to the rotation process:
In normal school systems and in the NYC DOE before rotation of ATRs began in 2011, schools had teachers provide their assistant principals with timely lesson plans that fit in with the sequence of topics in the calendar of lessons that teachers had with classes.
However, since the DOE began rotating excessed teachers, it has expected ATRs to bring in lessons of their own into classrooms. So, in the Bloomberg and not really post-Bloomberg era, administrators and regular classroom teachers usually have no lesson for the ATRs. This means that not only are the students missing out on an education by the absence or their teacher, there is no appropriate lesson for the ATR substitute teacher to deliver to the students. The students' sequence of learning is disrupted.
Just what does the DOE expect for the ATR to do in this situation? The DOE official policy is that when neither the school administration, nor the absent teacher leaves a lesson the ATR should bring in their own lesson. And given that most ATRs are displaced specialists of some sort, an art teacher, an earth science teacher, an English teacher, a math teacher, a reading specialist, a social studies teacher, they have very specialized backgrounds and very specialized lessons. However, often the subject specialty does not match the subject that the ATR is covering.
Thus, the application of the DOE rules means that in art class the ATR following the DOE field supervisor mandates must intrude with their own lesson. This means that students enter their third period art studio class fully expecting to do some drawing. Yet, the English Language Arts teacher must deliver a Common Core lesson, engage the students and get some written work from the students. If the ATR does not impose her own lesson, she will risk running into trouble with her field supervisor. Not surprisingly, this introduces tension between the students and the teacher right off the bat. The students will say, "This makes no sense. This is an art class, not an English class. I'm not going to do this." The ATR that wants to stay on good graces with the field supervisor she will tell the students, "Just please do my lesson. I'm only following orders."
Just imagine the kind of conversation that this can lead to when the kids go home?
"How was school today? What did you do in art class?"
"We didn't do art. We had to read some English teacher's Common Core reading passage and work in groups on a graphic organizer."
Even if the period's subject matches the ATR's subject expertise this leads to conflicts. We are not in France, where every class across the city is on precise the same topic on September 29. Earth science ATRs can have a fine lesson, only to be told "we learned that last week!"
Isn't this a great disservice to students? The UFT claims to care about students and families. Then why does it aid and abet the hijacking of students' scheduled topics for the purpose of ATR's demo lessons in preparation for field supervisor fly-by observations?
Isn't this a disservice to teachers? Can't the UFT understand that teachers don't like disrupting students' schedule of lessons with irrelevant topics to students' scheduled topic for the period? This is no insignificant matter, particularly as many field supervisors are giving out career-endangering U-ratings.