Looking into self-contained programs

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by literarynerd, Mar 31, 2018.

  1. literarynerd

    literarynerd Rookie

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    Mar 31, 2018

    As I continue my job search, the only special ed positions available so far are at special education programs/schools. One school is a k-8 school and the other is a program within a high school. My special education experience so far has been co-teaching and self-contained Academic Support class for high school, and then a mix of push-in and pull-out groups in elementary school.

    I definitely don't like co-teaching and absolutely don't like my Academic Support class which has 10-15 special ed students. The academic support class is supposed to be where a special education teacher can meet with one student at a time to work on specific goals but it always (for every sped teacher I've talked to) ends up being an out-of-control study hall where I spend over a hour trying to get them all to do school work.

    Co-teaching is a style of teaching that just doesn't match my personality or the way I'd like to teach.

    At first, I immediately scrolled past the therapeutic/behavioral/specialized programs because they're very different from what I've done. Now, however, I'm really considering them. I would rather have a smaller caseload(assuming I would have a smaller caseload) of high-needs students than a caseload of 17 with varying needs.

    I'm hoping that someone on here teaches at a highly specialized/behavioral/therapeutic special education school/program could share some light here. What is your day-to-day like?
     
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Apr 1, 2018

    There's a trade off for everything. These are often students in a much more restrictive environment, and that is the key - they are in that RE because they are very difficult. Some programs are commuters, others the students are residential, and that impacts the dynamics. Many of these students are at out of district placements because their needs are so great. In the younger grades, it could be anything, ASD just happens to be a common one, as is cognitive impairment. By the time you get to high school, EBD students may your student population. Some schools are residential and affiliated with hospitals for highly significant medical issues that create the disabilities and classifications. You need to bring your "A game" if this is going to be your choice. You will work much harder, but if this student population is appealing to you, the rewards and satisfaction could be right up your ally. Most of these schools are private, so no union, which can impact wages, contracts, raises, etc. They are much less predictable, and salaries can be the same, depending on the revenue base.

    As for caseload, I am one of about 14 teachers (more or less) who instruct the students. We all create PLAAF's for our subject matter for each student we teach. I currently have 26 students every day, and they make up roughly 5-6 students per class. Aides are available at times, but their time is divided among all of the teachers in the school, so do the math. We do have safetys available at all times for the behaviors. We tend to rotate through IEP's and treatment meetings. Because students are sent to us, the IEP is on the sending district's plate, not ours. We, however, are tasked with monitoring and having input on all students behavior, whether they are ours or not, because behavior needs to be consistent. Teachers who don't write up behavior, good or bad, do a disservice to the other teachers as well as to the students, since it sends mixed messages of what is acceptable. If this need to be an active part of the behavior modification process is distasteful to you, this is not the place for you. You will be the weak link, and trust me when I say that it is all about consistency. I write as many positives as I do negatives, so people who refuse to write up students make those of us who do look like the villain, which is, once again, not fair to anyone.

    Check it out - it may or may not appeal to you when you actually research the school and meet the students. No two schools will be exactly the same, have the same mix of students, or serve the same populations. The teachers who work at our school tend to have longer history of employment in our division, because if you hate it, you don't usually stay past a year or two. The learning curve can be steep, but your other teachers will support you and show you the ropes. I can't tell you about elementary programs, since that is not my thing. Maybe someone else will chime in with that info.
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2018
  4. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    Apr 2, 2018

    I taught in a K-2 EBD classroom for eight years. My class never went above 12, with 2 aides. My students were pulled from multiple districts, so it was a more restrictive setting, but not the most restrictive we offered. 12 is the state limit for an EBD classroom, but, if they decide you are a cross-cat classroom you can end up with 16. Their needs were across the board. Some had very intense needs both academic and behavior, others were honestly behavior only.

    It's extremely rewarding, but, wow, it can chew you up and spit you out.

    I still had to work and get along with therapists, aides, district reps, supervisors, principals, other teachers----it's not outright co-teaching, but, you do have to be flexible. Also, as vickilyn mentioned, we had no Union.
     
  5. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Maven

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    My school is for special education students from 5-21 years old. Mostly students with autism but there are others. We have no more than 6 students per class and most classrooms have 2-3 TAs. There are many therapists that you end up working with but you don't really work WITH them in the classroom so mainly we get to run our classrooms however we see fit. We have a union. We have a clinical department that takes care of behavior plans and case managers who relay information to the districts, parents, etc. There are a lot of difficult behaviors to deal with every day but we do have behavior staff that we can call to help. Curriculum is whatever we see fit to teach as long as it fits within the state standards.
     
  6. Jenaloo

    Jenaloo New Member

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    Jun 5, 2018

    I teach severe/profound sped and the largest class I've had is 10 students with 3 paraprofessionals. But they all have various medical and cognitive issues. The smallest class I've ever had was 2 students. There is so much diapering and tube feeding going on that it's difficult to get a lesson completed. There are behavior issues and constant interruptions by staff so it can be frustrating. Having the paraprofessionals is great but if you can't train them yourself they can tend to just do what they want. I'm totally self contained. Every type of sped class is different so I would say go with what you are happy and comfortable with. I love my job and couldn't imagine teaching anything else but I NEED my summer break each year so I can reboot. Severe is definitely not for everyone, before I was hired they had 6 teachers in 7 years and when I moved for one calendar year they went through 2 teachers! I've been there for 8 years now. Good luck!
     
  7. heatherberm

    heatherberm Cohort

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    Jun 5, 2018

    I worked in a Day Treatment program for 8 years. Most of the rooms were 8:1:1 with the two youngest classes being 6:1:1. Most of the students had multiple disabilities but all had a diagnosis of EBD. I loved it for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. You're *the^ teacher in the room so you have a lot more control over instruction than you do in a co-teaching setting. In our building there was only one class for the grade level so you didn't have to worry about doing the same thing other teachers in a grade level were doing. The behaviors can be intense, but there's generally more support in a completely special ed setting. We had numerous counselors on staff, all on call all day, as well as a time out area that was staffed by full-time staff. Students could go there to take a break and someone could help them calm down and get ready to re-enter. I really enjoyed the therapeutic nature of the program and actually considered going into counseling/social work for a while.

    That said, as others have said, you do still need to be able to work with an aide all day - I saw classes thrive or die based on the relationship between the teacher and the aide - and it is definitely hard work. I also had numerous classes where skill levels were all over the place with some kids working well below grade level and some at or even above grade level. That was hard to maneuver sometimes (although that's also special ed). Sometimes it felt like, because of the high level of behaviors and emotional needs, academics were an afterthought which could be frustrating.

    When my husband and I moved to the area we currently live in, I stayed in self-contained but now work in a district elementary school primarily with students with learning disabilities. I have enjoyed the break from the more severe needs, but I also miss it sometimes. It's hard work but it's really rewarding too. We're starting to talk about moving back home and when we do, I'd definitely consider going back to it.

    (I just realized the OP is from a few months ago but now that I've written a response, I'll just leave it here in case someone else needs it.)
     
  8. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    Aug 6, 2018

    Personally, I prefer teaching in a self-contained program as oppose to a general education program. I have taught both, so I feel this is an informed opinion.
    Currently, I am teaching an Academic Delay (12:1:1) special class for 2nd-4th grade. Students are eligible for this program, if they are not learning on grade level, require specially-designed instruction, and need a smaller setting. Next year, the school district is considering changing my 12:1:1 to 12:1:2 (an extra aide.....the only difference).
    Over the years, in this program, I have worked with students with ADHD (OHI), learning disabilities, and Autism. Last school year, students with an emotional impairment, hearing impairment, and speech-language impairment have been enrolled in my class. Next year, supposedly 50% of my class will have an EBD.
    I have been teaching this class for about 6 years.
    Last year, I only had one student with a severe disability. This student had severe childhood apraxia of speech.
     
  9. literarynerd

    literarynerd Rookie

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    Aug 6, 2018

    Coming back to this several months later still looking for a job. There are continually jobs popping up so I'm not nervous just yet. I did get to the second round at a special education school for students 11-21 with autism and developmental delays. After I interviewed the first time, I thought "No way am I doing this. I couldn't handle it." However, I went in for a second interview and observed for two hours in the morning. They mentioned that it was a crazy morning and apologized but with all the adult supports, it didn't seem too crazy at all. Everyone was well-trained. I've had to restrain kids myself with little resources and training. I loved the lesson that I observed and the people that I met.

    Even though I didn't get the job, I'm definitely opening my mind up to this kind of job. This will be my second job in two years so I need to find the right fit. Maybe the right fit is this "far out" opportunity that I'd never considered.
     
  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    I'm interested to see how this works out, so keep us updated! This may be a silly question, but do you feel that you have the training necessary to work with severe and profound needs? My college program was a dual certification program with mild/mod needs and gen ed elementary. Most of my sped classes focused on methods of co-teaching and collaboration. The summer after my first year of teaching, I naively took an ESY job with severe/profound preschool students. At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I had no idea what to do with them all day. Their goals were literally things like, "tolerate a sitting position" or "show attention with an eye gaze for 5 seconds." It's not like we were sitting down and doing a math lesson, a reading lesson, etc.

    I've learned a lot more over the years since we've had a couple of kids with severe needs incorrectly placed in my sped program and I was in charge of them for months while "proving" that they needed self-contained. I still don't think I'd feel confident in running my own program though! Another factor is that even our programs that we call "self-contained" our getting more and more pressure to have kids spend more time in gen ed. It's no longer having your own classroom where you're 100% in control.

    I also hate co-teaching. The past several years I've done almost all pull-out, but we're getting lots of pressure from the district to do co-teaching and I think my admin will cave this year. We don't have anywhere near the staff to do it effectively (I have four grade levels) so I'm going to push for pull-out still being the best option with the staff we have, but I don't know that admin will go for it. I might consider going to a more specialized setting over pushing in all day if it comes to that. My area does have a few private schools specifically for students with learning disabilities, but they never have any openings. I'm also not sure what the pay is- in general private schools around here tend to pay terribly. I don't know if the fact that these aren't religious schools would make a difference.

    As a side note, we tried to open an autism program at my school for this school year. My current district doesn't have one and students with the most severe needs end up getting sent to out of district placements, which is extremely expensive. They couldn't find a teacher for the program, so we weren't able to start it this year. They got very few applicants- only had 2 interviews, which didn't go well, and scheduled a 3rd interview where the person didn't show up!
     

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