New York City teachers who read this blog include a number of ATRs.

Readers from outside the city ask what an ATR is.

I have explained that it is a teacher who used to work in a school that was “phased out” and replaced by new schools. This is the Bloomberg administration’s central strategy of school reform: close and replace, close and replace, repeat and repeat.

The teachers who lose their jobs have not been evaluated. They may be great teachers. They just happened to have the bad luck to teach in a closing school. If they are experienced teachers, other principals may reject them because their salaries are too high. So they become wanderers in the school system. They become members of the Absent Teacher Reserve, floating from school to school, a week at a time in each. They are lost souls in a soul-less system run by the greatest minds of our generation.

I heard from an ATR today. He or she can tell you what life is like for an ATR.

Dear Diane,
I am a 21 year veteran atr teacher. I truly appreciate your blogging. I have been subjected to the most ridiculous and hostile work environment this past year, As it stands, any teacher can become an ATR at anytime.
The troubling thing is that my “colleagues” shun us as though we are lepers. I guess its just not cricket to be seen talking to us. The prevailing meme is that we must be “bad” teachers.
The administration treats us like subs and even calls me a sub to my face. Imagine being informed in your email each week where you will be working the following week. At each school there is a different schedule, so forget dealing with your own children, holding a second job, going to school or even per session. The algorithm that the NYCDOE claims to use in the placement of the ATR underclass, includes distance from home as a major factor. For thirty of the thirty four schools I was sent to, the travel time each way was two hours minimum.
As an ATR I have no democratic rights. We have no chapter. The only proper description of the treatment we have recieved at the hands of the DOE and its HR enforcement arm, the UFT has been constructive discharge.
Every day is the first day of school. Both staff and students don’t consider me to be a “real teacher”.
It becomes a major battle to obtain a bathroom key. It is like being a migrant farmworker. Travelling from farm to farm. Each farm has its own idiosyncratic culture and rules.
This is the reward for twenty one years of service.
The younger teachers display incredible hubris. They think that they know how to teach despite having very little experience in the profession. When I was a beginning teacher I would see the older teachers as sources of advice. This is not the case anymore. Armed with the latest crackpot theories and jargon, the newer set think that they are better than us old dinosaurs who have become irrelevant.
Given the catastrophes that the business world has imposed on the global economy, I find it insane that the business model has been superimposed on education. Much like the economic downturn that resulted from business, this has happened in the last bastion of democracy, public education. In an ever growing fascist regime, education has been made part of the encroaching fascist takeover of this society.
Much like the 1917 October suprise and the Nazi Regime in Germany and the Chinese revolution of 1949, teachers have been persicuted,
These are savage and dark days.


Marc Epstein wrote last year about what it meant to be an ATR. Marc was a teacher at Jamaica High School for many years. His column was published in Huffington Post: