September 19, 2009

On hold for good reasons

I continue to blog less than I used to —

NOT because I've become bored with the subject . . .

NOT because I don't have things to say about the coup in NYC education we've witnessed, come to understand, suffered through, and written about for seven or eight years . . .

NOT because I've given up on unionism . . .

and NOT because I have become any less of an activist . . .

It's because I don't have the time, and that's because
get 50 kids per class 5 times a day.
Total: 250 students to be
accounted for on a daily basis,
whether they show up or not.
The picture up above is what 50 kids looks likes (plus the teacher in the back row). Who cares if it's in India, it's a good visual.

My registers this past week have been fluctuating between 50 and 53 kids as things are getting worked out. When I mentioned this to one of the highest officials in our "pro-active" union (I say that with tongue in cheek), his response was something like: "The principal doesn't have to give you that many kids," as if it were my fault my classes are this large.

Do I have to remind him that the likelihood of any principal in this city putting fewer than 50 kids in a high school music class to improve the quality of education is about zero?

The UFT fails to accept responsibility for this. It's somehow the DoE's fault, or in this case, the principal's, that the numbers are so high. But, who do these union execs think they're kidding? It's they who negotiated this contract, unless they all went to the bathroom when it came time to rethink Article VII.M.2.g. At any rate, no one's ever explained the purpose of putting 50 in a music class, and my gut feeling is that their bottom line is: Shut up. You're lucky you have a position.

So, the glorious summer vacation is Over with a capital O, and I've been bubbling duplicate attendance rosters and marking reams of classwork straight through the morning commute and all my preps, lunch hours, and cafeteria duty, on the subway going home, during happy hour, and halfway through Keith Olbermann. That's when I usually just fall asleep.

I won't bother anyone with the detailed letter I sent the union about these numbers. I've complained about them before, and though Weingarten said she'd look into some "non-contractual relief" for music teachers, nothing was ever done. The official I recently wrote to says he is looking into it, but "nothing" is what will continue to happen as the execs fall in line with pattern bargaining and give away some other hard-fought stuff in our current contract.

So, I was thinking that as long as I'm not posting much these days, I should at least have something here that relates to another issue that's not going away any time soon. ATRs.

You can read the full post on the handbook I wrote for ATR subs over at "Surviving limbo," but here's the manual itself, with a few current changes.

I wish I could say it was no longer needed.


[Note: This manual was written mostly for per diem subs.
Even if you've been given full or partial programs, a lot of this still applies.]


1. You are an inconvenience to your administrators and are essentially being tolerated. Do not try to be a goody-goody or get them to like your work, because bottom line, they don't actually want you on their budget.
[NEW COMMENT: Of course, if you're being paid out of central, they probably DO want you, but not enough to take you in properly.]

2. Do what is educationally sound at all times. That's the only way you'll be able to sleep at night.

3. You are a place holder, not a place filler. You are in someone else's room doing what you can with someone else's lesson for someone else's students, a situation which lasts for the duration of that person's absence.

4. Know that you the only person in the building being asked to "wing it," and no ed school ever taught you how. In the wonderworld of BloomKlein, your job specification has just shifted, and whether you like it or not, you're now a Jack-of-All-Trades, particularly in the HSS with all those specialized classes. Either enjoy, or . . .

5. Detach. Students might be cold-hearted, either unwittingly ("Hey, Miss, did you get downgraded or somethin'?") or purposefully ("F— you. You not a real teacher.") They can also be delightful, like the girl at the bus stop who shouted enthusiastically to her friend: "Hey, there's my substitute!" You are neither a sub-order of teacher or fabulous. You are doing your job to the best of your ability under volatile circumstances.


1. Class registers. Oh, how the intruder types love subs, and what a run-around they can give you.

2. Pens, pencils: but get collateral if you lend them, because they'll walk out with them and when they remember to return them, you've moved to another room.

3. Wordfinds, math puzzles, crossword puzzles, scrap paper. There'll be days when the teacher has left you nothing, and when kids are bored enough, some will take whatever you're handing out.

4. Chalk, eraser, dry erase pens. Don't rely on the teacher's supply.

5. List of school phone numbers, like for security, guidance counselors, the program office.


1. Have kids sign in on a separate sheet. Bubbling comes later, at your convenience and when you've had a chance to reflect over the legitimacy of the signatures.

2. Assign work immediately. Better still: write the assignment on the board before they get there and don't even open your mouth. Teens respond better when they're not being told by you to do anything.

3. Announce that you'll help anyone who needs it.

4. Then help a few of them, or at least look at what they're doing over their shoulder. Send a message that you're not just a disinterested bystander. It will convince some of undecided characters to crack a book.

5. Standard behavior for immature classes is to test the sub, and they can be merciless. So, it's now time to annotate that sign-in sheet. Look really serious when you do this, as if the mark you're giving them really means something. Tell one person he gets a check because he's working, another a half-check for not working so hard, or NW for No Work at all. Give your own marks for anything you can think of: being disruptive, intruding (contact Security to remove these kids), breaking school rules (don't contact Security for these because you'll annoy them, but you can write the student up later and let other people handle it).

6. A malicious child can really hurt you, but remember this. There are Chancellor's Regs on abuse to protect the student, but you won't find any regulations for the kind of abuse substitutes are frequently subjected to. In BloomKlein, teachers are abusers, students are . . . well, just kids.

7. Put the room in good order when you leave and the work in a neat pile. It's like wampum: you're trading a bit of effort for a bit of good feeling, and you'll be needing as much of that as you can get.

Part IV: DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, for example:

1. When no assignment has been left for you
2. The kids who enter late
3. When kids sign the attendance sheet, then cut out
4. Dangerous items left around the room (broken glass, formaldehyde, etc.)
5. Ripped books
6. Security not arriving if you've called them
7. An AP or principal walking into the room, for whatever reason
8. A kid's tirade of vulgar, aggressive words. It might get worse before it stops, but it will stop, especially when the rest of the class sees the humor (i.e., the stupidity) of it.



  1. Someone sent in these suggestions, and they can expand and say who they are if they want to:
    Look for the teachable moment: Listen to 1010 wins and read the News on the way to work.

    If there is something to discuss there: DO IT.

    At least for part of the period.

    Why the News? Kids more likely to have heard of stories that are there.

    I used markers to check off:
    1. MATH -- anything about economics--every day
    2. SCIENCE--not always as easy but...
    3. History--hey it's all history.
    4. English--popular movies that raise real issues: District 9 for instance now.

    Kept the stuff for a week.

    The other thing I would do is: Document why you couldn't follow their lesson--.

    Twice teachers complained about me. I walked by their room on the period I was free: Neither class was under control at all.
    I also felt (and maybe you want to word this a little better) that how the class [reacts?] to a sub frequently was based on how good control the regular teacher had.

  2. I salut eyou for posting this.

    I put this on my blog to help others.


  3. I worked briefly, and I emphasize briefly, in the New York Catholic School system.

    I think I made around 14,000 dollars a year to start and was given a program to teach six classes of 30+ students along with homeroom, tutoring, and after school duties.

    I'll never forget attending a back-to-school faculty conference at which the principal went on a tirade, pointing out the fact that teaching in a Catholic School was a "vocation" and not a job. He continued to explain that anyone who was expecting to earn more money or who wanted to complain did not understand that they were there to "serve God."

    I bring this up because in many ways, teaching in some New York City Schools - particularly those in more difficult areas - has become akin, in the minds of the public, to the same kind of missionary service.

    Teachers are faced with huge numbers of children who are forced into classes that are bursting at the seams and are told to be quiet and deal with it - even though we know very well that it is the worst possible situation for them.

    The implication is that if one complains, one does not have the "missionary, volunteer spirit" needed to work with the children of the inner city.

    I find this attitude to be completely bizarre and more than a little condescending to the children of New York City. How can it be possible to compare American children to those who are in need of volunteers?

    Since when did America become a third world country?

    Yet, then again, perhaps it has.

  4. Wonder why Johnny's not getting his art or Jane can't find a teaching position?
    Jane lost her position in the break-up of schools (into the small schools), so did the guidance counselors, the social workers, the foreign language teachers, the music teachers ...
    I've detailed this trend and tagged it as an issue of racial disparity in my latest blog-post at
    This post is part of a series on how the mayor and chancellor have perpetrated a series of fraudulent myths about "reform" and "advances" in the NYC schools.