ATR Survival Guide

ATR Survival Guide

We took our popular Educator Survival Guide and modified it for educators in the NYC Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool. This is not a “one size fits all” guide, but we hope you find useful information that can help you, and your students, through your current career situation. If you find it useful, please share it. If you want to add, please comment below.

This is guide is ever changing and we hope to continue to improve it through contributions and comments by other ATRs. Like we said above, this is not a “one size fits all” guide as there are many, many variables in play here. What works, and doesn’t work, can depend on your grade level, the location where you work, your license and background, supervisors and most importantly YOU.

  1. Attitude: You may or may not enjoy being an ATR and most likely you are an ATR through no fault of your own, but the fact is these are the cards you are currently dealt. To survive, and thrive, you have to play these cards the best way you can. Despite the odds, you have to remain as positive as possible. You are employed and paid to do something, so let’s make the best of it and do something. Make a positive difference to the students you encounter. You have to accept that you are a temporary stranger in a school. You may not be welcomed with open arms by permanent staff. Keep in mind that permanent staff is drowning in work and you should not take it to heart.If you are not assigned to a class, perhaps you can offer the school other services. Maybe you are creative and can help with a flyer or push in to a class that needs help. Make sure you are not assigned more than one professional duty a day and are given your contractual preps.
  2. Fill your tool bag: Even if a car mechanic was moved from shop to shop, like we are, they still need tools to work. From a ratchet set, to light to a hydraulic lift, the more tools they have the better they can do the job. The same goes for you. Yes, we know that often times you are given nothing, but let’s see how we can fix that.
    1. Projector and interactive board: Most, but not all schools, have interactive boards or some projector system set up. Make use of it by capturing the students’ attention through engaging and highly visual lessons. If a teacher, or administrator, says you are not allowed to use it, or any present tool in the room, send them an email and ask them to put it in writing. One ATR who covered a teacher’s room a few time was told “I would appreciate it of you don’t touch my stuff while you’re in here.” The ATR responded with “With all due respect, for the next 45 minutes these are my students, this is my classroom and this DOE owned equipment is for me to use. If there is a problem, please speak to my supervisor who may be dropping in to observe me.” Access was given.
    2. Laptop: You may not always have access to one, so buy one. You can get an inexpensive one for $200 at Best Buy and make it your own. Fill it with your lessons and resources as well as web shortcuts. Download a free version of Microsoft Office here ( using your DOE email credentials (click Install up top) and use PowerPoint to create a great presentation. You can also get a more visually appealing online presentation app called and access it from any classroom with internet. Have your lessons easily accessible. use Prezi or upload them to you Google Drive or Dropbox to download from wherever.
    3. School Wifi: “But no one gave me Wifi at the school I was assigned to!” No problem. Go to this link, enter you DOE email credentials and the school name to access the Wifi codes for any school.
    4. Interactive Software: You can also download and install SMART Notebook by going to this link here and use this code: NB-AECAS-CIDXC-NK5CR-GEB2D The SMART Exchange site has many lessons already created.
    5. A Great Lesson: The UFT has confirmed that if you find the lesson left for you inadequate, out of your license or league, or just downright boring, then engage the students with your own awesome lesson. You have freedom most permanent educators do not. Exercise it. Create a lesson, or lessons, you are passionate about. Sitting there playing on your phone, while students are hanging out playing on theirs can not only land you in trouble, but is a disservice to them. See section 1 above on attitude. You may also want to peruse some great lessons here at or
    6. ATR Francesco Portelos, shares some other useful teacher tools on his educational site and click FOR EDUCATORS up top.
  3. Daily protocol: 5 in a row? Clocking in and out and signing in and out at security? No! You are not supposed to do any of those things.  No violations of the rules agreed to by the UFT and DOE here: Print them out if you have to. Some school secretaries and administrators genuinely do not know.
  4. Document. Document. Document! It is extremely important that you document and document well. Do it in an organized manner. One of the best ways to do that is with your smartphone.
    1. Take Pictures: Set up an app like Dropbox, iCloud or Google Photos. The reason is that you can set it up so your photos are automatically uploaded to your secure online storage for retrieval later.  When you’re given your program for the day, snap a photo of it. When you’re left a lesson, snap a photo. They are time and date stamped so they can be retrieved later if needed. Hopefully you won’t need to prove anything, but you never know.
    2. Record: If you feel that you are the subject of unwarranted harassment, or targeted, it is good practice to record communication. It’s not ideal, but lesson observations can be very subjective and you don’t want anyone falsifying observations or allegations without the truth coming out. There are many free apps for smartphones and remember that audio recording is legal in NYS as long as one party knows about it.
  5. Dealing with Field Supervisors and School Supervisors: Whether you are in contact with school administrators or field supervisors, know that the onus is on them to help support and facilitate your work. Need supplies? Need access to keys? Ask them.  Document it in an email if you have to. There are ATRs who have been the subject of false allegations while interacting with supervisors. See Number 4 above regarding documentation. Some of the best rebuttals have been with the aid of an audio recorder. Some ATRs recorded the pre-observation, actual observation lesson and post observation. They used the information to rebut the false claims made in post observation reports. For example:      “Field Supervisor Smith, you stated in your post observation report that none of the students answered my question regarding the story setting. However, students _____ did answer that very question. He did so at about 14 minutes and 33 seconds into the lesson.”  See how your factual data is countering their false allegation?You can always check and add comments for Field Supervisors here at Please be honest and professional when doing so. Stick to the facts.If things get very bad and you have proof of unethical actions, you can also file a Moral Character complaint with the NYS Education Department. See link here for the form:
  6. For more in depth defense tips on “Gotcha” observations, read


We hope to continue to add and improve this guide. Please let us know what works and what doesn’t.



  1. This is so helpful! Thank you!

  2. I hope this helps! I really like the input that fell in the topics of Attitude and Fill your tool bag. When it comes to GUC – Guidance Counselor’s/School Counselor’s. It can be quite a different approach although we should maintain a positive attitude. We should keep in mind that the assigned GUC can appear at times territorial about you interacting with their students. Therefore, taken a light approach in servicing students would not come across as you taking them away. Presentation is everything and it helps when you come into unknown territory knowing what it is you’d like to do when that opportunity comes. Having materials and supplies such as guidance/intervention books and USB with projects. Things that you have utilized when your were assigned to your very own students can actually sheds light on your strength professionally and how differently your ideas can easily be emulated in the school(s) you are assigned.

  3. Love it and will do

  4. I love the Guide, and for some please note that’s it’s a guide. Next, I believe that ATTITUDE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR in the Guide for without a good attitude everything else is a mess. However, the other points are important too.


  6. Is solidarity interested in stoping and wage discrimination that is the ATR system? Thank you very much but I don’t want to see a survival guide about how to cope with being ATRed. I want to see the political will and commitment to social justice needed to abolish this practice and place all so called atrs in pemenant assignments. Many people have spent most of their careers in the atr pool. Is this fair to a hardworking professional? Policies from the Bloomberg era continue to destroy the careers of people in the ATR pool. Administrators feel it’s a disincentive to hire people that earn a higher salary and are older in age. ATR is an appartied system that is morally and ethically wrong and a disgrace for any organization that calls themselves a “union” to allow their members to be treated this way. It is a pain experience to be in the ATR pool because you are always new to a school building and community. When the year is over all that team building work that was done counts for nothing and you are moved to a different assignment the next year. You never work with those people again. As an atr you do not belong to any community and that is a very painful and demoralizing condition to experience. Also other colleagues who don’t know you make assumptions about who you are as a human being. These assumptions can be negative and arbitrary but it still feels incredibly cruel and torturous that a good person who is a Hard working individual happens to be in the atr pool because their school closed. People think your not a good person and don’t extend the same human kindness that they would to another person. It’s like other people view you as inferior to them just because you are in the ATR pool. When you try to get your self out of the ATr pool and apply for jobs on the Open Market you never get called for an interview. How is that even possible? In the corrupt UFt/NYC/doe it sure is possible. So you can’t really escape from the Office of Talent that is in charge of placing ATRs. Also to make matters even worse you see the jobs applied for and see that a person right out of college has the position. Wow how is that possible that the NYC doe is allowed hire from outside with out first hiring from with in the ATR pool first. What a disgrace to do this to good hardworking professional that would like to have a permanet placement. May be you can add the information I outlined to your guide to Surviving as an ATR. This may really help people get a realistic sense of what happens when they become ATRed.

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