Monday, January 28, 2013

How To Survive An Observation As An ATR.

There is a rumor going around that the field (ATR) supervisors are giving ATRs an "unsatisfactory observation".   This has made many ATRs uneasy and believe that they will be the first to go when the union eventually allows a "teacher evaluation system" to be implemented. While I do not believe that there is a coordinated effort by the field supervisors to "U" rate the ATR, I do believe that some field supervisors are looking to get the ATR if they can.   Therefore, since the union refuses to give guidance to the ATR on  how to handle a class on a daily basis. This post discusses the best way to minimize getting a "U" rating.

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.
If a school Administrator does show up, use his or her arrival in the classroom to your advantage.  In the couple of cases that the school Administrator did show up, I told the class the following.  "Mr/Ms Administrator is here to observe the class and to make sure you are doing your work and let's make sure Mr/Ms. Administrator has no reason to call your parents".  The few times it happened to me it worked well.

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.
These suggestions along with the recommendations, listed previously, should minimize the chances of an ATR receiving a "U" rating.  I would like additional input on other survival techniques that ATRs are using to ensure that they do not get a "U" rating.

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.


Anonymous said...

Can a teacher or atr being observed out of thier license have that observation count towards a 3020a removal? I believe it cannot, am I correct?

Chaz said...

First, an ATR is a teacher.

Second, The short answer is no. However, they can get you on classroom management issues. In addition, if n Administrator is after you, that Administrator could claim the teacher is incompetent but it would be a hard case to prove without PIP+ and the DOE would probably not take it into a 3020-a hearing without other factors.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information. If it wasn't for you we ATRs would never have any useful information about the ATR process.

Anonymous said...

I suggest like Chaz said to do everything via email to either the field supervisor or whomever is observing you as an ATR. It will be the field supervisor b/c there isn't enough time in a week for a principal or an AP to give you something that is 'lesson specific' as the contract states a formal observation must be. In september, my field supervisor would not tell me when he was coming in. He just said it would be 'over the course of the next week.' So, I prepared to make the lesson to be lesson specific and then asked him via email to take a look at what I did and since it was in an email, he had no choice but to look helpful before he observed me.

Also, if you are an ATR being observed, another thing I did when I was observed last spring was to set up a day and time w/ a teacher in the school in the subject area and then contact the field supervisor. This way, the teacher, AP or principal can give their class a heads up.

Chaz makes good points about being firm and the email dialogue

Anonymous said...

Thanks Chaz: I don't understand why the UFT allows this sneak attack and how come they do not have an ATR Bill of Rights on how to protect themselves from abusive administrators.

Anonymous said...

Call in sick claim you need a mental health day if fore warned of an observation.

Anonymous said...

As it is Wednesday, I hope my post will be viewed. This goes out to all ATR teachers. I am in Queens. Drew Goodman is my ATR supervisor. He met me in one school that was not a good fit for me (and neither was the class in which he saw me). We spoke briefly. A few days later, I received an email from him stating he would be doing a formal observation of my teaching. I replied that I didn't know the school, the class, or the students. How could I create a lesson. He suggested I create a generic plan for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. He also suggested I send a lesson for him to review prior to this observation. I did. I made sure my lesson had the CC standards. I included his suggestions. When I began the following Monday, I was in a school I liked. I asked the principal (very decent and approachable) if I could be informed when Drew sent word that he was visiting this school. The principal gave me the support I needed. The secretary was supportive. The classroom teacher was supportive. The class was great. Drew stated he was very satisfied after the observation. A week later, he emailed my write up. It was satisfactory with some suggestions for improvement. God was with me, even though I am a good teacher. That may sound like bragging, but after all, who will tell me that if I don't tell myself?!?
I hope this gives some teachers a more positive view. Good luck and God bless all of us.

Anonymous said...

what happens to guidance counselors ?

Chaz said...

Anon: 8:22

I do agree that some ATR Supervisors are sympathetic to the ATR teachers and I am glad yours worked out but I have heard of too many cases the other way

Anonymous said...

Thank you Chaz for all,your advice
Just curious of why my the atr supervisor is visiting me for observations out of license?

First observation was in a oversized overcrowded ICT class where the other teacher just sat in the back smirking instead of co teaching. Mind you 39 first graders who were very needy and poorly managed. The lesson went ok but I had gotten a days notice so I could only do so much.
I didn't have enough time and didn't think through the lesson enough. The kids weren't fu
Ly getting the topic but that's how they always were with even there own teacher asking " can you help?" "i dont understand."they did it everyday and guess what that's what they did when the supervisor was in.
The observation ends up being a u. She said she would not put in file but weeks later came to see me again and said doe said it had to be put in the file until I do another. When i do another if it is an s the u be will be removed.
I signed under protest.
So I will now be observed again .
I set up my lesson for early childhood and I asked school for that specific day to make sure she gives me early childhood grade. All of a sudden last minute th change it and have me dnt fifth grade special Ed. I've never taught fifth and I'm not a special Ed teacher.
I contacted union and had to make arrangements to be excused as I won't be able to do it in a special class.what is this nonsense?
I have yet to find out what's going on but why are they co ing around in out of license areas? If they observe and u it does it stay? Union says they have no authority to do this.

I feel the supervisor is not out to get me . I truly feel she's ok but with these type of actions perhaps I'm being foolish
Ok thanks for listening. Feedback is welcomed
God bless