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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

From David Hedges: ATR Without ADA Rights

Dedicated To All ATRs In NYC
David Hedges

As an ATR I reported to a high school in Brooklyn and was told that my program for the week required that I teach four consecutive periods with no time for a bathroom break.  I
am entitled to a bathroom break under the ADA and is enforced by the Medical office of the DOE.  The principal, Michael Alexander overruled those directives, claiming that a private arrangement he had made with a teacher on maternity leave preempted my rights under the OEO and trumped my rights under the UFT/DOE agreement.  Shame on you Michael Alexander!

Mr. Alexander,

After I alerted you to the fact that your private arrangement with a teacher in your school does not trump OEO and UFT requirements, you did not modify my program and comply with the Accommodation that I am entitled to under ADA law.  As a result of complying with your directive I became ill, since you saw to it that my entitlement to a bathroom break was ignored.  This was after we had presented the issue to the school's chapter leader!

Mr. Brewton from the OEO has responded to my complaint and has written that he will pursue the matter from his office.  You will hear from him.

As of the time of this writing I am unsure if my health will permit my appearance in your school tomorrow.  

I would be remiss if I did not add that whatever your private arrangements with your staff are, they are of absolutely no relevancy to me, nor to my rights under the ADA law and the DOE/UFT agreement.  Your ardent indifference is, in my view, an irresponsible abuse of your authority.


David Hedges

A copy of this letter was sent to OEO, UFT, and now to you, my dear readers.

From David Hedges: Dumped ATR sings a sad song

A veteran contributor, Dumped ATR, reflects on her first day back to school, 
and back in the ATR. 

Dedicated to All ATRS In NYC
Why don't they mention the pain?

Chita Rivera
When Kander and Ebb wrote
the song "Why don't they mention
the pain?" for Chita Rivera's
autobiographical cabaret act,
they were giving a veteran
and a star a moment to be
both comic and honest about the
difficulty of performing even
for someone talented and fortunate
in her career. It is tremendously ironic
for me to invoke this song in
discussing the substance of my
conversation with other ATR teachers
on this first day of school. But, I
remember what it felt like to hear
this song: to look into Rivera's eyes
and feel the physical and spiritual torture that comes from trying to
succeed as a dancer. 

Five ATR's showed up at a medium-sized high school in Queens.
Two of us had done leave-replacements last term--and all of us had
filled in for another teacher more than once. We were all in our 
forties, with over twenty years of experience. We should have been
able to get our rooms ready, make copies for the upcoming days' lessons,
touch base with colleagues about their summers, etc. Instead,
we attended meetings with the faculty who shared their concerns
and congratulations. We tried to be helpful and offered our advice too
eagerly to people who don't know us in an effort to show our knowledge
and usefulness. At lunch, however, we talked about "the pain." The
times we expected to be hired and weren't. The school supplies we
bought for classes we weren't offered, after all. The many times we
blended into the wildness and the chaos of schools in which we
didn't know students' names. 

The supervisors who made use of our energies, who lent their phone
numbers to our lists of references, who were thankful, but did not
make us permanent staff, may not have been thinking of us this
afternoon. But, we were thinking of them--of their demands, and in
some cases, their gall. The supervisor who threatened to put a letter in
a file, and then tried to "pull us from the rotation"--use us an ATR
for a few weeks without even the dignity of a provisional hire
for a leave replacement. The supervisors who went out of their
way to try and keep us and couldn't. The students we would probably
never see again. 

It's especially difficult to have spent a good part of your professional
career having tried to make a difference in students' lives, and now find
yourself "disappearing" almost as soon as you begin to teach classes
of kids. I don't know where most of the students I taught in a leave-
replacement two years ago went to college. Principals don't invite
you to graduation--they have more pressing things to do, but you still
wonder what happened--did the kid who was struggling to pass math ever
score above a 75, or is she heading for remedial math in college? If you
do find out that the latter is the case, you feel guilty. Of course, other
people taught that student after you moved on. But you will never be
sure that you got any one part of your lesson right--did the skills stay
with that kid in September? People are busy with the kids and demands
in front of them, and so are you. 

I have managed to stay in touch with some colleagues and that
has been wonderful. But, as I went to my assignment today, I missed
what I might have shared with the people I worked with last spring as
a leave- replacement for someone who is now back. What did they decide
to do about that 11th-grade curriculum question? I'm still thinking about
it--sure, I've texted back and forth, but I'm way behind the conversation.
It's like tweeting to players on a sports team after the regular season is
over--they are in their playoffs. The question is no longer the same.

And they know I wish I were there. And that it's painful. But, I 
mention this for my colleagues who are in pain and who may 
not be acknowledged by anyone. And for all of us for whom the pain 
is also cumulative.

Absent Teacher Uniform Assignment Format

Reposted from a terrific blog, 

Dedicated to All ATRs in NYC by David Hedges

Whether or you have been in the ATR pool for a long time or you are new to us and this is your third school so far this year, I want to reassure you that being an ATR is not just a wonderful opportunity for your own professional development but also, that your unique placement in each school can make a real difference in the lives of the students and the other teachers you meet.

We are the itinerate ambassadors of a learning culture from the past that modeled and taught the ideal of self-renewal.  We are rapidly becoming archaic and have very little time left in which we can transmit a sense of urgent purpose that is not data driven, but grounded in Humanism.

Most of us in the ATR pool are veteran teachers.  For instance, we are experienced in guiding students toward serving their long-term self-interests without being confrontational and without resorting to the “because I said so” attitude.  We have a lot to offer the younger teachers who are under a lot of pressure to take responsibility for things that are beyond their control, such as test scores and family problems that spill over into the classroom. [1]

 Younger teachers entering the system do not have the advantages that we had.  They don’t spend the first few days of professional development hearing pep talks about education. They are given the Teachers’ Handbook, told to analyze data, instructed to think like a computer programmer or a statistician so they can use ARIS effectively, and then, if time allows, inspect the book room for ideas.

Data driven instruction, like market driven corporation puts balance sheets first, and attends to the human experience after all the numbers have had their say.  A Social Studies teacher at a very good school in Brooklyn who has the reputation with his students and colleagues of being able to tell stories from history that capture everyone’s imagination, told me that his gift at making history come alive is actually viewed as a defect to his teaching by his supervisor.  Teachers are leaving NYC because we don’t want to be instructional marketing specialists.  We want to share that feeling of aliveness that comes when you are part of a community of people who love what you love: education. 

I entered the teaching profession for a number of reasons, but the most significant one nowadays is that I wanted to inspire students to learn without tests or grades as a motivation.  Intrinsic values, rather than extrinsic ones were the currency in my classroom economy.  My feeling was that everyone could earn a high grade.   I was lucky to have had teachers who were more inspiring than the grades were.  They taught me about learning contracts and showed me that if I set my own goals, rather than teach myself to submit to those of others, and do my best to meet them, then would be no reason why I can’t earn the highest grade I want.  I was taught to confront one of the most challenging existential crises very early.  A different zeitgeist haunted our consciences during the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Silberman’s Crisis in the Classroom is still excellent reading.

Now, back to what I set out to talk about with you.  We, as ATRs, are a specialized department onto ourselves and we have no support but that which we provide for ourselves.  In fact, we have to do this job in an even more hostile working environment than our juniors.  We don’t even get to have real pre-observation conferences nor have we a UFT chapter leader who knows how to keep the administration on the leash.  No community, no support, and higher risks for unruly classes and U ratings.

What we might do is create a “Uniform Absent Teacher Lesson” for each subject and grade.  Schools should have a uniform sub-lesson format so that students can recognize it instantly and comply with it, knowing that they will be held accountable.  As it stands, the absent teacher lessons are the weakest link in the instructional chain.  Imagine, in contrast, if, when a teacher is absent, students are provided with a standard format- a booklet that states, in plain language, what the learning objectives are, enumerates each step of the procedures, and includes a rubric for student reflection that (a) helps them to identify their strengths and (b) suggests alternative paths that may lead them toward even better results in the future.

I am including a link to an excellent self-contained Earth Science lab that has all of the qualities that I think belong in a good substitute lesson activity:

The cover page of the document might emulate the New York State Regents Examination. (see below)


The New York City Department of Education
Department of Curriculum Development

[Insert subject area here]
For [Insert teacher’s name here]

A separate answer sheet has been provided for you. Follow the instructions
for completing the student information on your answer sheet. You must also fill in
the heading on each page of your essay booklet that has a space for it, and write
your name at the top of each sheet of scrap paper.

If a Scantron is provided, be sure you answer all the questions in this assignment and write your name on the Scantron sheet in the appropriate place. Remember, stray markings scanned as wrong answers and will adversely affect your grade.

This assignment tests your ability to work independently.

Read all directions carefully. 

Learning Objectives:  By the end of this assignment you will be able to [insert specific subject area’s objective here]


Shows evidence of being able to read and follow directions