Monday, October 22, 2012

My Apology to ATRs Everywhere

Now that the agreement between the city and the UFT to fill vacancies with ATRs is kicking in, many schools are seeing an influx of ATRs. My school got at least three today that I know of. My school, like many others, had basically refused to use ATRs to this point, preferring to fill vacancies with newbies, so I really haven't had much opportunity to talk to any real live ATRs. Until today.

I went out of my way to talk to the ATR on my floor. I don't know what I was expecting, but I suppose some of the propaganda from the Klein era had seeped into my brain. This person would be sharing some of the kids I teach, and I half feared I would encounter someone who no one else would hire--someone, in short, who might be unsuited to the job.

I could not have been more wrong. The ATR I encountered was a perfectly charming woman who had lost her position due to excessing. She was intelligent, professionally attired (far more than I ever am), and eager to work. In the course of a ten minute conversation I had with her, I decided that if I were an admin at my school, I'd certainly want someone like her on my staff.

She has been in the ATR pool for THREE YEARS. No one will take her on permanently because she has eleven years in the system with her masters plus 30, so she makes significantly more than a newbie. Even if she is not a perfect fit for my school (and I'm not saying she isn't--but a ten minute conversation might not be enough to tell), she would surely be a great fit somewhere. It's absolutely disgraceful that someone who wants to teach can't find a job anywhere. Unfortunately, it appears that her stint at my school may only last for five days before she is again shuffled elsewhere. I thought the renewed agreement meant that ATRs got to stay, but apparently that's not the case.

So I want to apologize to all the ATRs out there for allowing Klein-speak to get into my head. I have had precisely one encounter with an ATR no one will hire, and she seemed to me to be an excellent candidate for any position. And I want everyone to know that there are some awesome teachers out there just waiting to be hired. It's time to get these talented teachers back to work.

Joel Klein and his successors did their best to stigmatize ATRs, and it worked to a large extent. This blog post is an attempt to wipe some of that away. I'm betting there are a lot of gems in the ATR pool, and principal wouldn't have to dive in very far to find them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Won't Break Even

Anti-union and anti-teacher propaganda trash movie "Won't Back Down" should probably have been named "Won't Break Even". It reportedly cost over $19 million to make, and after a suffering though the worst opening week of any widely released movie in history, it hit new lows this weekend.

WBD grossed an anemic and laughable $138,709, for a grand total of just over 5 million. At that rate, the movie would need to run another two years just to break even. My guess is it will disappear completely before very many more weekends pass. Considering that it is playing in 513 theaters, it earned just $270 per theater.

Perhaps, one day, the billionaires who fund this garbage will realize that the public is tired of the scapegoating of teachers.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Skedula Fails to Make the Grade

My esteemed fellow blogger, NYC Educator, has written a couple of posts about the new online grading system that is being shoved down everyone's throats. If you don't know about it, it's called Skedula and it's supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. For the reasons why it's not even better than moldy bread, you can read NYC's posts here and here.

For the record, I agree with NYC. Skedula sucks. It is cumbersome and unwieldy. The menus are hard to navigate and it is anything but intuitive. Before Skedula, I had used 3 other online grading systems, and all of them were far superior. Like NYC, I was able to master those systems in short order just by playing around with them. With Skedula, we needed extensive training just to get up and running. Worse still, the trainer from Skedula was a former city teacher who either was bounced from the DOE for incompetence or dropped repeatedly on his head as a baby, because he was about the worst trainer I have ever seen. He let the teachers (his students for the purposes of the training) dominate the discussion, with the result that pretty much no one understood the system any better than before we were trained.

NYC Educator was surprised with the number of comments he received on those posts, and so was I. It appears possible that Skedula has a swarm of PR people who seek out negative comments about their program and flood sites with testimonials about how if Skedula were human, they'd french kiss it. Who is spending all this time and money to push this program on city schools--and why?

One thing I do know is that Skedula is rife with potential for abuse. For example, my principal confirmed to my chapter leader that he has access to ALL incoming emails to teachers. Imagine the problems this might cause. If a parent has a private issue with a teacher, does the principal really need to see it? Does the parent know that these supposedly private communications are being sent to the principal? What if a parent writes to a teacher to complain about a school policy, or worse still, the principal himself?

To the best of my knowledge, emails written by teachers to parents do not automatically get sent to the principal, but a function is already built into the system one way--it's not to much of a stretch that a principal might, at some point, get both incoming AND outgoing emails.

Another problem with Skedula is that it is far too open. Other teachers in your school can see not only your grades, but also your anecdotal records (my understanding is that this is the default and can be changed, but who knows that, or how to do it?) You'd be wise to be careful when writing anecdotals, as its about as private as Facebook, only with more obscure controls.

I'm still pretty new to Skedula, but it already seems quite problematic. I want my emails and anecdotal records private. I don't want everyone in the building to have the ability to see what I am doing. I don't want admins checking to see how often I update my grades, or how often I log in.

How long will it be before someone gets removed from a classroom because of something that was said or done on Skedula? I'm betting we'll see that happen before too long.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Inspired by True Events

The anti-union film Won't Back Down claims to have been "inspired by true events".

Unfortunately for the film's makers, the real events would appear to be Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the film is one of the biggest bombs since the end of WWII.

Despite relentless humping by CBS, who hosted a star-studded special to let people know about the movie, to MSNBC, whose Education Nation put the lip lock on this dud, the film managed a paltry 2.7 million dollars in gross receipts, despite a nationwide release.

By comparison, Hotel Transylvania raked in 43 million. Of course, that may be because it was about blood sucking monsters. Won't Back Down, in contrast, was merely financed by blood sucking monsters.