General Rules For ATRs In The Classroom:
There is no regulation that stops a school Administrator from observing an ATR and I am sure in rare cases an Administrator would do a "walk through" just to make sure the class is not unruly. However, the school Administrators are too busy to do a full observation since they will need to write it up and have a post-observation meeting. Therefore, the ATR must not get angry, upset, or lazy when they are covering classes. The ATR simply needs to do their job and nothing more. I recommend that the ATR should do the following when filling in for a classroom teacher on a daily basis.
- Make sure the teacher left work for the class, if not, you should have a generic lesson plan that covers the period. It doesn't matter that you have a Math lesson and covering an English class, give them the Math lesson unless another staff member has a more appropriate lesson to give you. I tried to have a generic lesson for English, Math, Social Studies, and Science in my book bag when I covered a class on a daily basis.
- Tell the class that the rules are "no card playing, electronics, and disruptive behavior, otherwise I will call the Dean to escort you to their office". For the most part, this works and the class will not be unruly.
- Inform the class that you are a "troubleshooter" and not a substitute teacher. Your job is to observe any academic or behavior issues and report the student's name to the Principal who will contact the parents. The majority of students may not believe you but they will be reluctant to call your bluff.
Full Observation By A Field (ATR) Supervisor:
Usually, but not always, the field supervisor will contact the ATR and tell the teacher that he will be at the school to observe the ATR. This should be considered an informal observation since there is no pre-observation conference. However, if you do not request a pre-observation conference, then the field supervisor can claim it's a formal observation. Therefore, request a pre-observation conference by e-mail and if one is not held, then it can only be an informal observation. Realistically, the field supervisor can only observe the ATR on the teacher's classroom management skills since it is highly unlikely that you are teaching in your subject area when the field supervisor shows up for the observation. Therefore, it is very important to follow the suggestions in this post.
- Make sure the students are engaged in the lesson that the teacher or you have them doing.It is extremely important that you walk around the room to make sure the students are doing their work.
- Be friendly but authoritative, tone is very important and students positively respond to a teacher that takes control of the classroom.
- Let a student help with the attendance and make sure the headcount of present students are correct.
Note: By contract, the informal observation cannot be used in the 3020-a hearing against a teacher. However, there is no regulations stopping a DOE lawyer from submitting the informal observation at the hearing and having an Administrator discuss it. While it is true that the Arbitrator cannot use the "informal observation" as a basis for the "award", many still do and you cannot unhear what was heard by the arbitrators that do not use the "informal observation" as a basis for the "award". Moreover, the courts have already ruled that "informal observations" can be used as a basis for "U" ratings this case shows just such a situation.