Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This school really is great!

I haven't updated this in awhile.  It's not because I don't have time.  Time is something I have plenty of as an ATR.  To be honest, I kind of forgot about this blog.  It's funny, I read education blogs everyday to while away the time and yet I forgot that I started one.  So, a quick update.

September to October I was placed at a school in the Park West building.  It was pretty interesting.  The principal and AP were nice, engaged, and seemed to have a genuine interest in helping their kids.  It is pleasing to come into situations like that since I know and have experienced admin who were anything but pleasing.  I enjoyed working there.  The kids were...ok....Some were good, many were average, some were annoying.  They don't have a filter, though they won't be rude to you if you correct them.  It's a first name school, which means, everyone including adults, uses their first name. 

I'm all about acclimating to whatever environment I am thrown into, but I would be lying if I said that using first names for teachers isn't weird to me.  While I consider myself progressive in terms of pedagogy and improving my practice, one area I am traditional in is how you address your teacher.  Last names are a show of respect and demonstrates that, I am the adult, you are the student.  I feel there has to be some sort of line where we establish that.  Overall, not a huge deal, but does take some getting used to.

Since November I have been placed in one of the top schools in the city.  I have to say, I have been very lucky with my placements.  The kids are as good as their reputation says they are.  All of the staff has been pleasant to work with.  I did have a slight issue with one teacher who I covered for, and is also in my field.  She seemed to be bothered that not all the students finished the work she left saying that "my kids said you taught them."  In the back of my mind I was thinking "is she upset that I taught instead of just handed out the work?" 

I love to teach, and will teach, if it's in my field, and I can.  As an ATR I don't get many opportunities like that.  We are basically used as substitutes and I guess, it's common for substitutes just to hand out work and read the newspaper.  Especially with students already engaged to learn.  Course I am going to teach, though it's good to know in case I cover that teacher's classes again.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

From Alphabet City to Midtown

I'm writing from the 5th school I've been placed at in my ATR rotation, the Facing History School on West 50th.  Too soon to tell what it will be like, but it seems alright.  Not like my last school which had its own building, this one shares space with several other schools.  Based on past history, that can be a mixed bag.  Time will tell.

Trying to be optimistic though, so far things have been fairly positive.  I would think there are better ways to use my time than having me hang in the teacher's lounge and surf the web all day.  I'm hoping I can meet some of the other Social Studies staff and see if I can hang out in their rooms on occasion.  Someone with my experience, and I have a bit, could be useful in a classroom.  If anything, as ATRs, this is one area where we could be useful.  Helping to grade papers, co-planning.

It's not ideal, obviously, but it's better than nothing.  I know that idea is tempting to some.  Who wouldn't want to just come to school and relax?  I get it.  It's fine for a few days, but after awhile it gets boring.  While I won't say I miss planning, I do kind of miss having my own class and getting to know the kids better.  Now that this DeVos thing is over with (which we all saw coming) I just hope that the activism on the part of people in education doesn't fade away.  On top of that, I hope people realize that the real battle is still here.  Cuomo still hates us, De Blasio still doesn't seem to care too much and schools in NYC are still beset with awful principals (not all) who regularly abuse teachers and try to end careers.

On top of that is the UFT who doesn't seem to do much of anything.  Though I suppose doing nothing is something.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Business as Usual at 52 Broadway

Yesterday, we were informed about the new teaching evaluations.  Not much has really changed, though somehow more was added to it.  So apparently, now instead of using junk science tests to rate us, schools will have the option of using junk science testing OR portfolio work.  While I am not against portfolios and think they can be useful if used properly, the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, none of this matters if you have abusive and incompetent people rating you.

I've worked at quite a few schools for various abusive and incompetent administrations.  They may not have been directly abusive towards me, but they have been abusive towards others and intentionally low rated people out of spite and anger.  The UFT very well could have said, look, we need to come up with something that is going to make sure that teachers are evaluated fairly.  Did they do this?  It doesn't seem that they did.

So it comes to that, if you are in a good school, you're fine, most likely.  Places where the kids are prepared, parents are involved, kids are respectful.  They will do the work and you can show all their progress for the year and get your highly effective rating.  But those places where the parents are not involved, the kids are unprepared and allowed to be disrespectful because the administration lets them get away with murder, will continue to suffer, despite all the supplies they purchase and hours they spend implementing all the "best practice strategies" some hare brained supervisor forces down their throats.

One good thing about being an ATR is that I get rated S or U, which is the old system.  Which really when you look at what it entails was basically fine before the City went and started messing with everything.  Not that I am saying it was perfect, it wasn't, but it wasn't this vindictive.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It's Friday!!!!

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Been a little busy the past few days.  Wednesday, I got a lunch coverage.  Basically I just had to ask where students were going and direct them to the Dean if I had concerns. Pretty simple really.  Met the principal, who introduced himself to me after coming down and talking to the students who ate lunch there.  Seemed like a pretty interesting and normal guy.  Which confirms my theory that this has been a weird year, meeting so many principals who seem like normal, intelligent people.  Who'd have thought?

Got an offer for an application for a transfer school.  Seems interesting.  To be honest, I've warmed to the idea of transfer schools recently.  They don't do regents, except English, and instead focus on a different form of assessment in what is called a PBAT (Performance Based Assessment).  Personally, I think this is an improvement.  I hate the Regents, and I even tell kids that if it were up to me, I wouldn't give them tests.  I'd rather them do projects or some kind of research paper which demonstrates what they know.

I don't get why some schools get to do this and others don't.  I understand why transfer schools do, but other schools that aren't transfer schools (like the one I am assigned to), also have a waiver to do this alternative form of assessment.  Maybe it's just one of those things, like why some schools can pre test kids for admission and other's can't.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lunch Lady Land

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Covering lunch today, that's my only assignment.  Funny you know.  I have a Master's Degree and this is what they are paying me for?  Could be worse, though, so will do what I can.

It recently dawned on me that this ATR experience, while at times frustrating is also a very eye opening experience.  Last year, I taught at the Academy for Social Action in Harlem.  The teachers I worked with were good people and we did our best with what we had.  Many of the kids we taught were disrespectful, but many of them also had severe issues which the school was unable to support.  On top of that we had a first year principal with skeptical teaching experience and an AP who I did not feel was very supportive of the teaching staff.  Actually, in many cases they were down right abusive.  Not to me, personally, but to others who I know worked as hard as they could in difficult circumstances.  One teacher was so stressed, he suffered seizures in school and still they found a reason to give him low ratings.  I hope he took legal action.

Most of the schools I've been in so far have been well run, with a clear vision and respect for all the staff.  Really can do attitude going on.  I've seen schools were the principal and AP's still teach, don't overburden teachers with unnecessary paperwork and provide support that is meaningful.  Why is it then that there are many other schools who seem to do the wrong thing over and over?  I know there are simple answers to this, but bear with me.

My last few years at MBHS were marked by a culture of Fear and Intimidation.  We had Dr. Andrea Lewis and Lottie Almonte, both who were run out of Bergtraum, but not before destroying the culture.  The year after I worked for Anne Geiger at Art & Tech who prosecuted a teacher on trumped up fallacious charges and had the temerity to go after the licenses of two hard working first year teachers.  Couple that with last year at Academy, where the principal and AP also went after licenses and gave the science teacher ineffective even though he actually got students to pass the Science Regents, where they had none the previous year.

All the schools I've worked in have been marked by Fear and Intimidation.  No one wants to work for abusive administrators.  The teachers suffer, the kids suffer, nothing gets done.   Not surprisingly, all those schools either close down, get reduced, merged or just manage to linger on though the day is inevitable when they will collapse.  Meanwhile, you have schools where there is respect for the profession that are succeeding.  If only the mayor could see that and actually fulfill his promise to help schools instead of whatever the heck he is doing now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Awesome Teacher on Rotation

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It's been two years since I've written a blog.  Since I am now officially in the ATR pool, I think this would be the best time to dig this blog up.  Especially since I don't have much to do everyday.  I just kind of wander from school to school.  So this post is mostly an update on what I've done up to this point.

Started the year at High School of Fashion Industries in Chelsea, filling a maternity leave for Global History.  The leave was only 5 weeks, but I wanted good experience.  This school was amazing! I loved it.  The principal is this super nice guy who greets the kids every morning.  Most of the school is girls, though there are some boys.  Every class I had, which was mostly freshmen, I had kids ready to work every day, and some real interesting questioning and discussion with them.  Things got a little weird when the regular teacher came back, but overall I really enjoyed being there and was sad to leave.  That was September to October.

From there I was sent to Manhattan Business Academy, also in Chelsea.  This is within the Bayard Rustin building, which I knew nothing about.  It seemed...ok...  I don't know.  The principal seemed nice but the impression I got from the teachers is there is a lot of extra work and there isn't much voice.  Seems like kids were given a lot of power.  Most of my days they had me doing nothing, so I hung in the teacher's lounge with the other Social Studies ATRs as kids walked in constantly asking their regular teachers for work packets, which teachers would print out.  Rarely would these kids complete these, which I got from teachers.  Thankfully, election week was my last week there.

From there I went to Forsyth Satellite Academy.  I have never been in a transfer school before.  It's quite interesting, they do regents but they also do something called a PBAT, which is a Performance Based Assessment.  Also started later, but attendance is still very bad.  But I like the idea of starting closer to 9am.  Most of the time I had little to do but towards the end of my time there I had more and more coverages.  The staff was really cool and supportive and seemed to work well with each other.  I wouldn't mind teaching in a school like that.

Now I am East Side Community High School, on the LES.  This school is really good with a big focus on reading.  They have blocks where kids read and annotate.  I am still learning more about this school but so far everyone has been really nice.

Well I think that's all for today.  I think forthcoming posts will involve me weighing in on teaching topics and maybe doing an expose on principals you should avoid.  Because, well, got to help others out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014



So today I came into work wondering what to do.  I had got an email the previous day asking if I could come to the High School for Arts and Tech in the MLK campus for a 9:45am interview.  I was thinking "great, another interview where I will probably just be a number so they can hire some d-bag."  When I told the secretary she was saying how she wasn't sure if I could because she was setting up a coverage for me (today).  So when I came in and saw that my day didn't really start till 11:30am, I emailed the guy at the school and asked if 9:45am was still good. It was, so I went.

I had been in this school twice before when I worked at Bergtraum (actually 3 times because I once saw a bodybuilding competition here.  If you've never been, go, it's...interesting).  Met the principal, she seemed, old and nice, and wheelchair bound but very eager.  The AP was nice and easy to talk to.  Suit wearing guy, Spanish, I checked his linked in profile while he was meeting with a teacher and well, someone who is an AP for over 20 years, that's a good feeling there (as opposed to people who are in their 3rd year).

Really like the vibe, the smartboards, the class (Global 9, my fave).  Start monday, can't wait.  Would type more but hands hurt.