Career Advice for Someone Considering EI/EBD Teaching

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by PsychTeach, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. PsychTeach

    PsychTeach New Member

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    Jul 6, 2015

    Hello,

    I graduated two years ago with a BA in Psychology and have since been trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Among other things, I've considered social work, school psychology, and teaching. I am particularly interested in teaching students with Emotional Impairments/Behavioral Disorders. I've volunteered in a Head Start classroom for the past three years and have loved the experience of working with the children there. I've mentored at risk elementary-school-age kids at a charter school as part of an internship for my undergrad degree. For the past six months, I've also been working at a residential treatment facility for teen girls in foster care who exhibit emotional and behavioral challenges, and I have greatly enjoyed that as well.

    Basically, I know I enjoy working with children with EBD as well as working in a school setting. I guess I'm simply fishing for more info on EBD teaching before I make my final decision. Can any of the EBD teachers out there give me a realistic picture of a day in your life (I'm sure no two days are the same)? What kinds of disorders are the students on your caseload diagnosed with? Do you work more on general curriculum or life skills? Are the majority of EBD jobs in self-contained classrooms? Are there as many EBD jobs at the elementary level as the secondary level? From what you've seen in your schools, would I have better career prospects pursuing school psychology or school social work?

    I apologize for all the questions. Thanks in advance!
     
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  3. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    Jul 6, 2015

    I've held two jobs where I've worked with students who had been identified with an Emotional Disorder, one as a para and one as a resource teacher. In all honesty, the job as the para is what led me to special ed. At the time, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I was only planning to be a general education elementary classroom teacher. I loved the job as the para so much that I decided to become dual certified. The para job was in a school for students whose disability was so severe that they could not function in a regular school setting. I was in the elementary classroom. All students were identified as ED, and they were mostly self-contained. My job as a resource teacher was in a regular elementary school, and I worked with students with a variety of disabilities, not only ED. So, let me see if I can answer some of your questions specifically...

    Can any of the EBD teachers out there give me a realistic picture of a day in your life (I'm sure no two days are the same)? You're right. No two days are the same. No two students are the same. It also depends on what type of classroom you have and what setting you are in, as well as the administrators, colleagues, and parents you are working with and the policies you are working within. You might be dealing with mild behaviors or very severe behaviors. You might be restraining students and/or putting them in a "time-out" (padded) room, or you might not. You might be chasing a student up and down a hallway or even around the parking lot or neighborhood. You may be calling the police. Most likely, these things won't happen EVERY day, but they will happen. Some days you may feel like you want to cry your eyes out, walk away, and never return. Other days, you may love what you do and feel like you can't imagine doing anything else. It's likely that you'll work with paras, which can be both a blessing and a curse (read some threads on this forum to see what I'm talking about). You may have administrators who offer you little to no support. Working with students identified as ED, especially those with very severe behaviors, is not for the faint of heart, but it can be very rewarding for the right person.

    What kinds of disorders are the students on your caseload diagnosed with? In many cases, I was not even aware of a specific medical diagnosis. Schools are not qualified to make those diagnoses, and not all parents take their children to a doctor to get them diagnosed. The school IEP team looked at the exhibited behaviors when determining whether or not the student met the educational definition of ED, which is entirely different from a medical diagnosis. So, it's possible that you'll know exactly what disorders you're working with, but it's also possible that you'll be working strictly with the behavior itself.

    Do you work more on general curriculum or life skills? Mostly social skills and general curriculum. Most students identified as ED are capable of life skills. In my resource job, I only saw my students for a small part of the day where I taught them social skills instruction, which involves a lot of role-playing and explicit instruction of social cues and awareness. They were otherwise in the regular classroom for general curriculum instruction. Of course, anytime their behavior escalated, their behavior plan allowed for them to come to my classroom for unscheduled support. In my para job, students were almost fully self-contained, so the teacher and I worked on academic instruction and social skills instruction regularly in our classroom.

    Are the majority of EBD jobs in self-contained classrooms? I think you can find both types of jobs, resource and self-contained. In my experience, from a teacher perspective and strictly speaking about working with students with an ED identification, self-contained is the way to go. Working in a regular school setting as a resource teacher was challenging because the principals and other teachers just didn't know how to work with students who had an ED identification, nor did they know how to support or work with the sped teacher. In the special school that was strictly for students with the ED identification, the principal knew that was what she was dealing with day in and out, so she was much, much more supportive and knowledgable in helping with issues that arose. That said, for the most part, the students' behaviors were much more manageable in the regular school setting, as most were not as severe as what you would deal with in the special school setting. That's not entirely true though, as it can be difficult to get students moved to the special setting, even when you, as the teacher working with them day in and out, know that is what they need. I've had a student who really needed to be in a self-contained program, but the building admin wouldn't support me in getting the district admin to agree to the change of placement. I was left to deal with the students' behaviors on my own, and the student never got what she truly needed.

    Are there as many EBD jobs at the elementary level as the secondary level? Yes, I think so. Although, as I've alluded to, it's possible that you may end up in a position where you work with students with a variety of disabilities. Unless you are working in a special setting for students with really severe behaviors, you may be considered a cross-cat teacher who works with students identified as ED as well as other disabilities, including Autism (which often also means dealing with behaviors), learning disabilities, other health impairment (such as ADHD), etc. There are probably more cross-cat resource or self-contained positions overall than self-contained ED positions, regardless of grade-level.

    From what you've seen in your schools, would I have better career prospects pursuing school psychology or school social work? I think you'll have better career prospects as a sped teacher, but as I said in response to the last question, you'll need to keep an open mind about working with students with other disabilities as well. From what I've seen, there are many more positions as a sped teacher than as a school psych or school social worker. In my last state, we didn't even have school social workers. My current state does, but I don't think the overall number even comes close to the number of sped teachers. Same goes for school psychs. There just aren't as many positions available. Now, if we're strictly comparing the number of school psychs and school social workers to self-contained ED teachers, then the number might be comparable. However, you'll have many more options for a job as a sped teacher compared to the school psych or social worker degrees. You may not find your ideal sped job right away, but you would definitely be able to find a job, which wouldn't necessarily be true with the other two jobs. That said, you should go with the job that interests you the most.

    Hopefully this has helped you some. I'll be happy to answer any other questions if you have them.
     
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  4. TeachCafe

    TeachCafe Comrade

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    Jul 6, 2015

    I'm like you. I graduated with a BA in psychology as well and started teaching at a private school for children with disabilities and behavior disorders.

    I really loved it and moved to teaching.

    Teaching it at a public school was no bueno. I truly hated it because unlike private practice where parents are paying for the services they can afford unlimited amounts of staff. Chasing children, restraining, etc you had a million different avenues of help. I called and people came. I had protective gear if I could see from the minute my student walked in the door it was going to be an intense day. If a student harmed you we filled out paperwork. I got band aids and an "oh it's okay" when students truly drew blood. One of the other classes had a para that developed welts from cat like deep scratches on her chest. That is NOT okay but in public school the law and all is on the side of the parents and students. SPED teachers are suppose to just take a lick and keep on ticking. That's not for me.

    At a public school with a free and appropriate education you have those same children plus 10 others and maybe 2 helpers. It's not enough. At my school we had students that if they weren't labeled ID and were in resource they would be moved from our campus into an adaptive behavior unit because it was intense and that was just say 2 students and I had 8 more.

    Look up your state caps. I don't even think mine has one or it's somewhere around 12. That's too **** many children with high needs like that.

    I ended up needing psychological intervention and once upon a time I wanted to be the one prescribing meds not taking them myself. It was NOT for me and I'm A okay with that. In a small, private setting 3:1, 2:1, 1:1 it is for me. I woke up dreading going to work and went home falling asleep fully dressed until I woke up at 3am to finally take those clothes and makeup off and shower and sleep for 2 more hours. That lasted from September until February. Not for me.

    But everyone is different so you may like it. I say sub in one of those classes. Subs are hard to come by. I got guilt tripped if I needed even half a day. You'll get to see a day in the life that way.

    I don't mean this as a "don't do it" I just wanted to say we have a very similar background and before becoming a public school teacher I thought I could handle it but I am not willing to do that again. I left my district because that was the only class offered to me. My contract was renewed and I loved my school but I hated my job.

    Truly so it was that or leave....I left and I know that was meant for me because the process of getting a general ed job was not what I assumed so I know this is where I'm suppose to be and not in a high needs classroom next year.
     
  5. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Jul 6, 2015

    There is no guarantee that a private school will be better. The students are ED/BD, the patients/students may be residential, many/most are there because of incidents with the law, and the program is mandatory to keep them out of jail. Many are substance abusers, gang members, come from broken homes, or are wards of the state. The school districts have placed them out of district because they can't deal with them. It is hard work, there can be constant turnover of staff -the job has a way of wearing you down.

    Now, all of that said, if you are comfortable working with this population, there will always be jobs. I would suggest becoming certified in a content area you are comfortable with, then add your SPED. In some states, if you have your standard certificate, you can get a provisional Teachers of Students with Disabilities certificate, and work, earning a living, as you take the required courses. The advantage of that is that if tuition reimbursement is one of your benefits, you are going to school on their dime.

    On another thread someone talked about it being more jail like, and that can be very true, complete with restraints, self harm, property destruction, and violence. I don't know about the little kids, but MS and HS are challenging, so make sure you know what you are getting into, eyes wide open. That doesn't mean I would attempt to dissuade you, since these students have need of strong teachers, but you need to know it can be a rough road.

    Good luck with your decision. :unsure:
     
  6. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Jul 6, 2015

    I'm not an EBD teacher, but I am a SPED teacher who does inclusion and I work closely with our EBD teacher. All of her students are included in the general education curriculum. I teach in a public school, btw.

    The EBD teacher has two aides, and the three of them provide support to their students in whatever classes they may have throughout the day. The EBD teacher also teaches three sections of a behavior support class.

    The types of behavior we typically deal with are mild aggression, anger/emotional regulation issues, and other mildly disruptive issues. As long as I've been there, no one in gen. ed. has ever been restrained. We don't have a self-contained EBD unit. If a student's needs are too severe for our services, they are transferred to an alternative school that specializes in severe behavior needs.
     
  7. waterfall

    waterfall Maven

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    Not an EBD teacher either, but I do have some students with EBD on my caseload. My students are classified as "moderate" but still have pretty severe issues, IMO. Lots of violence, tearing up their classrooms, running away, etc. It is very hard to get students moved to the self-contained room. I was able to get one student moved this year and he literally had some incident with violent behavior AND tore up his classroom multiple every single day and it was to the point where he was just spending 90% of his day in the office, in the pscyh's room, or in my room. This student had attended our school for a year and a half at that point, so it's very frustrating how slow the process is.

    What does the day look like?
    From what I can see across the hall it is all chaos all the time. There is literally very little time in the day when one or more of the kids is not screaming their heads off. Lots of running/throwing/hitting/kicking from the kids and they restrain multiple times per day. The constant noise is very grating to me and I'm not even the teacher in there!

    What do they teach?Many of the students are average or above average academically, so they try to teach general curriculum, but I feel like they just can't get many academics done because they're just dealing with behaviors all day. It's also a k-6 room, so of course it's impossible to provide the same quality of academics that you would be able to in a regular classroom setting.

    What kind of disorders are they diagnosed with?
    Like another poster said, our kids often don't have a specific medical diagnosis. We identify them as EBD at school. If a child has been to the doctor and gotten identified with something specific, parents are usually totally fine with sharing that information with the school.

    Jobs
    In my state, if you want to work with only EBD students that will always be in a self-contained room. If students are less severe and able to function in a mild/moderate placement, they'd be on mild/moderate teacher's caseload like mine and the teacher would work with students that have a variety of disabilities. If you truly want to work in this setting, you will have no problems finding a position in elementary. Twice I've gone in to interview for completely different positions and been offered a self-contained EBD position. I have NO interest in this type of position and personally wouldn't do it for a million dollars a year- so it's not like I was selling myself on working with this population in my interview or anything. Schools have a hard time filling EBD positions, and I'd think you could basically take your pick of jobs. My area doesn't have many school social workers at all, so it would be hard to find a job in that area. School psych jobs have less competition, but I would think they would be harder to come by then an EBD teacher position. IMO though, being a school psych would be a lot easier!
     
  8. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Jul 6, 2015

    I'm a "cross-categorical" teacher, meaning I get a whole range of issues on my caseload, ED/BD included. They have pretty much done away with self-contained ED/BD rooms unless you want to go to a designated sped facility.

    In terms of that, I have honestly thought about it. The support for sped in traditional public schools is just not there. My district has cut aides, technology, and other programs for SPED. I had 15 kids last year and no aide until January. Even after January, she would get pulled frequently to cover for other things.

    My ED/BD kids have always been my favorite. They need lots of routine, structure, and relationship building. I have taught them as both a self-contained teacher and as a push-out inclusion teacher. I was much much much happier as a SC teacher.

    Good luck!
     
  9. nightbird

    nightbird New Member

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    Jul 7, 2015

    I am an EBD. I am in my 7th year of teaching students with EBD. My state recently renamed our EBD programs to BSP (Behavioral Support Programs) to help remove the negative connotations that can exist with the EBD label. Each state is different with their programs and then different between districts. The district that I currently work in has EBD programs at the elementary, middle school, and high school settings. Some days are non stop action and others are relatively mild. The best advice that I could give that I have learned working in this setting that has preserved my sanity is one-don't take what happens personal and two) when an event happens and it has been addressed, move on. This two things have helped me. So many times we want to keep coming back to the event that happened because it either made us mad, scared, or hurt in some other way, but it really does no good to keep harping on the student for the whole day. It is very difficult to not take things personal as well especially when your job depends on your ability to establish and maintain relationships with some particularly difficult individuals.
     
  10. lilia123

    lilia123 Companion

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    Jul 7, 2015

    I have been an EBD/AU teacher at the elementary level going on my 7th year( I also took a couple years off with my children). These types of classrooms differ wildly from district to district. The best advice I can give you is to create a very consistent and structured environment with very little down time because down time turns very quickly into who can I aggravate time for these children. Also, learn to keep the environment positive, nobody wants to work for someone they feel hates them. I have seen many people try to gain control over these types of classrooms by yelling and trying to intimidate the kids and these teachers never lasted a year. Like people have said before it is extremely important to build relationships with these
    children and not take things personally. It can be a very rewarding job at times it can also be a very stressful job. Another piece of advice I can give you is when interviewing ask about the program's policies regarding aggressive behavior and type of supports available to teachers. If they can't give you an answer I would be very cautious accepting a job there because it means you will be standing their alone dealing with violate behavior. All well run EBD programs have a crisis plan and procedures to intervene when a child has become a danger to themselves or others.
     

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