December 19, 2007

The Zen of being an ATR

Sayeth the Fool in Shakespeare's King Lear, man
"Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day."
and similar words speaketh the fool Feste in Twelfth Night.

And so it goes with us who have been excessed, that the rain hath raineth, and doth raineth every day, and yet it behooves us to make peace with this situation because it ain’t going to get better any time soon.

To describe to the uninitiated what it is like to be an ATR, a day-to-day sub, at the very prime of one’s career is something I never imagined I’d be in a position to do. I had assumed in my salad days that the natural course of a teaching career would involve a good deal of preparation at first, then a long stretch, perhaps a couple of decades, of becoming really good at the job, then mentoring in the latter years and retiring gracefully at a time of one’s own choosing.

Alas, such was not the case for me or for the more than 700 other ATRs whose careers got truncated when the UFT leadership dropped the ball and unceremoniously “Fool-ed” us when they signed onto the last contract. In the words of Enid Welsford, Lear’s Fool — just like us ATRs — became “a vagabond caught in a storm, outside gates which men have most effectually shut against him.”

As I make my way through one incomprehensible classroom moment after another, experiencing not only the challenges of dealing with hordes of unknown and inscrutable pubescents for mere moments of time but also the diabolical stupidity of it all, I take comfort that Shakespeare and his Fools knew all about the vicissitudes of life 400 years ago. Feste had the ability, says one commentator, "to stay detached from the emotional and self-motivated acts of others," which is more or less the way I've been feeling these days.

But, detachment can take many forms, and I find myself returning to all these miracles of human thought, in Shakespeare and even further back, to the teachings of the Zen masters. And somehow the burden is lifted.

Detachment means being passionate about your work but dispassionate about its rewards.

Detachment is the perspective that allows us to enjoy the journey of life.

Be alert in the present moment, where all fulfillment occurs.

When our energy is in the present, we are in the presence of life energy.

We are the quality of our attention.

Success and fulfillment come from inside, and it is only inside that matters.

We achieve peace of mind only when we accept the wisdom of uncertainty.

Enjoy the journey.


  1. Where did you get the figure of 700 ATR teachers? I've never seen a recorded number anywhere.

  2. It was given out at that November meeting for ATRs. Maybe it was 800. 700 might have been for the rubber room number -- both figures were mentioned, one for the ATRs and one for rubber room. Remember also that there were other ATRs who had already accepted positions by November. Add those figures onto the 7 or 800.

    RW said that BoE would not give out any figures. Union leadership then asked the CLs to collect the info from their schools. Then notices of that ATR meeting were mailed to the people they learned about from the CLs, and I believe others just showed up. Their names were added to the list at the meeting.

    All of this is very fuzzy, and I still cannot believe that the UFT computers can't cull this information without asking the CLs to collect it manually.

    Do I believe either machine anymore? Hardly.

  3. This is for the NY Educator. I've been an ATR for 2 years and I was at the meeting for the ATR with RW. She mentioned that there were more or less 700-800 atrs. Plus the DOE OPEN MARKEt gave me this number during the phone closisng interview.
    Going back to the article of WOODLASS, I feel the same as her. I am a sub. who does not know what to expect form one day to the other. In the organization list in my school my name is register as the "FLOATING TEACHER". and believe me I float and chnge my hats from one day to the other. What a big INSULT. I always have to be carry my tennis shoes just in case I have the GYM program -- and there are days that I feel so fed up that even though I have my sneakers in my bag, I tell the AP. that I did not bring it. Because I am tired of being used as an ATR.
    When is this nightmare going to be over? We had the meeting with Randy. What came up from that?? Nothing. Just a pretense of a meeting to cool off the ATRS.