Chapter 92: ATR PrioritiesThe ATR rotation came to an end for me the week of Thanksgiving, 2014. That week I was sent to the Women’s Academy of Excellence to perform as a maternity leave replacement for one of their English teachers. This is an all girls school in the Bronx, a place I knew nothing about before arriving there.
Seven weeks later I have nothing but good things to say about the school and the people running it and teaching in it. In my humble opinion as a roving, excessed ATR indigent, the principal, Dr. Crocker, and her assistants Mr. Molina and Mr. Ford along with the entire staff are nothing if not dedicated to their students.
I taught the final six weeks of the semester to five classes and was responsible for the semester grades, although I had the help of an excellent young teacher with whom I co-taught in two of those classes. I should say that I was the assistant in those classes because Ms. Brown was in complete control and had the unconditional respect of all of the students in those two groups. That made things much easier for me as the new person stepping in.
I preface this chapter with these comments only to say that by all accounts I had a successful time at WAE - in spite of the the fact that my ATR supervisor, Ms. Annelisse Falzone, observed a highly effective class and rated it “unsatisfactory,” which I address in other chapters. The students did a lot of work for me and expressed their desire that I remain with them until their regular teacher returns in March. That, of course, is the most gratifying feeling a teacher can have, especially a temporary ATR replacement cog, which is how the ATR experience makes you feel.
Initially the maternity leave was set to end on Feb. 2. It was subsequently extended to March 10. I was under the impression that I would be on duty for the full extent of the maternity leave, whatever that might be - if, that is, I was performing in a manner acceptable to the administration. Dr. Crocker sat in on the disciplinary meeting that I had with my ATR supervisor but Dr. Crocker is her own person. She saw that the relationship that I have with Ms. Falzone does not reflect my abilities and performance as a teacher.
Thus when she expressed the desire to keep me on until the return of her regular teacher, I believe that she was sincere. When she said that she emailed the ATR juggernaut to request that I stay on into March, I believe that she did. I know that she got positive feedback from both staff and students about my performance in her school. I know that the students do not want me to leave.
Nevertheless the ATR system insists that a maternity leave is a six week gig and that my six weeks are up and so it’s time for me to go back into the rotation. Thus I got an email yesterday (Jan. 29, 2015), the usual weekly email, sending me to a new location for Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. I would just put it this way:
I want to stay at WAE.
The principal wants me to stay at WAE.
The students want me to stay at WAE.
QUESTION: What are the priorities of this ATR monster?
ANSWER: Clearly not the interest of the students, the school or the teacher.
So in keeping with the whimsical nature of this “memoir,” let’s dream up a little conversation between between me and some ATR bureaucrat. I'll shorten the word "bureaucrat" to its last three letters - just for the sake of convenience, of course.
Me: So, how you doin’?
RAT: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, how are you doing? Sure, it’s rhetorical but you’re supposed to understand that and answer in a rhetorically appropriate way. You know, something like, “Okay, how ‘bout you?”
RAT: What are you talking about?
Me: I’m talking about the nature of language.
RAT: The what?
Me: You know, that brilliant, imaginative way we have of communicating with one another, that incredible, completely abstract way of making sense out of the concrete universe.
RAT: Oh, I see. But why are you here?
Me: For kicks.
Me: Because I have nothing better to do that interact with morons.
RAT: Are you talking about your assignment?
Me: I’m talking about you.
RAT: What about me?
Me: Never mind. Here’s why I’m here.
Me: I want to know what your priorities are.
RAT: My what?
Me: Priorities. It was on the vocabulary list I gave to my sophomores.
RAT: What about them?
Me: What are they?
RAT: Well, we are here to ensure that every excessed teacher is following the mandates that we send out each week ….
Me: The mandates? What are those?
Me: You just used the word “mandate.” What is that?
RAT: It’s what it says here on the paper.
Me: Let me ask you this. If the square block fits into the square hole, where do you place it?
RAT: Place what?
Me: The square block
RAT: What square block?
Me: The one I just gave you in a hypothetical.
RAT: A what?
Me: Sorry. I forgot. Let me put it this way. Tell me something you like.
RAT: Well ….
Me: Something you really, really like.
RAT: You mean, something I like?
Me: No, something you really like.
RAT: I like ice cream.
Me: Okay. Now, if you like ice cream, doesn’t it make sense that you should have ice cream once in a while?
Me: So there are things that make sense?
RAT: I guess.
Me: I was beginning to wonder about that myself.
RAT: About what?
Me: Never mind. So about these weekly emails.
RAT: What about them?
Me: Do I have to go where you tell me to go?
Me: But if a principal wants me ….
RAT: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, if a principal has a need for me and wants me to work for her ….
RAT: I don’t think that ever happens.
Me: It happens. If the principal and the students want a particular ATR …
RAT: There are no particular ATRs.
Me: There are from my point of view.
RAT: You have no point of view. Your point of view is our point of view. It says right here ....
Me: If a school wants to keep an ATR….
RAT: It’s against the rules.
Me: So the rules are all that count?
RAT: A rule is a rule.
Me: Is a rule.
Me: A rule isn't a rule. A rule is a rule is a rule.
RAT: No, a rule is a rule.
Me: Ever heard of Shakespeare?
Me: A bureaucrat by any other name ....
I could go on.
The next time you hear a politician or an an employee of the DOE mouth the words, “It’s all about the kids,” think of this: ATR transposed just slightly is ... you get the idea.