New job, functional academics-HELP!

Discussion in 'Special Education' started by logicrules, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. logicrules

    logicrules Rookie

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    Aug 7, 2007

    This is my second year in special ed. First year I taught a resource ELA classroom; specifically very low readers/writers, small classes. Many on BIPs, ESL with SI, ADHD, mild autism, MR, etc.

    I have never taught in a functional skills classroom. I'm even confused about the title; I'm hearing different things from different people. Some say it's LIFE skills; others say it's not 'quite' LIFE, but a step up. Meaning the kids are on a more functioning level. Still...I'm nervous and trying to get prepared for the first week. Not sure what to expect. This will be a new school and district. I could use any wisdom anyone has...especially activities the first week.
     
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  3. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Aug 7, 2007

    This is the exact setting that I teach in! My room is usually considered "one step above LIFE Skills" because my guys are slightly higher academically than the LIFE Skills kiddos.

    I use the TEACCH Structured Teaching Model in my classroom and have found a lot of success with that.

    My kids are typically 2-3 grade levels behind their peers (some are 4-5 behind) and/or have severe/serious behavior problems that prevent them from being in a regular classroom. They are included for Music/Art/PE with the regular education classroom.

    My room is "cross-categorical" - meaning I have kids with multiple disabilities so I am not just an "autism" class. Autism does seem to be a common denominator, though. We do a lot of visuals and visual schedules!

    This year we are:
    AU, MR, SI 3rd grader
    AU, ED, LD, SI 4th Grader
    AU, MR, SI 4th Grader
    ED, LD, SI 4th Grader
    LD 4th Grader

    With all of the crazy NCLB laws, they think my kiddos will be taking the TAKS test this year. They are a bit higher cognitively - so they do not qualify for "TAKS-Alt" (the state testing system for severely cognitively delayed). In the past, they have been assessed with the State Developed Alternative Assessment (SDAA) on their achievement level (most are K-1 level, I have one on the 2 level).

    Once I found a routine that worked for both the kids and I, I stuck with it. It works wonders to have a predictable day EVERY day. I try to add different sensory activties to our schedule to help with some of the kids with sensory issues. We write our spelling words in shaving cream, answer questions about reading stories in sidewalk chalk on the back patio, cover orange balloons in paper mache strips that have Halloween words written on them, etc. We try to "learn" a little while we're having a good time.

    All of my kids have academic goals that correlate with the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) - even if they are way off base from their grade level. They are modified to fit their achievement level, in a way, meaning that they will eventually work up to that goal. (Will recognize numbers 0 through 999,999 may be modified to: will recognize numbers 0-9 with verbal prompting, etc.)

    Feel free to PM me because it sounds like we have a similar classroom situation! Do you know how many students you will have? Do you have their IEPs? Achievement levels? Etc?

    Congratulations, you'll love it!
     
  4. logicrules

    logicrules Rookie

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    Aug 8, 2007

    teachersk: Thank you so much for sharing all the details about your Functional Academic classroom. It is very helpful as I decide what to do. I have a number of concerns; one is yours as well: TAKs for this type of student population. But I have another: I've only taught one year. This will be my second. Although I had a few students in my scripted reading program last year (as a brand new teacher and special ed last year I was assigned the lowest-level readers in our middle school; grade levels 7-8 but academic K-3).

    I know many of the functional academic kiddos are sweet and can be fun to work with, but I do not have direct experience with student with autism. The closest I had was last year with one student with mild autism and I mean MILD. Most of mine were MR, SI, ESL/SI, ADHD and ED. My classes were small; less than 10 most days but I had 2 blocks of 4 classes, a total on my case load of about 20, tops. In this case I'd have - again - smaller classes than gen. ed. but I'm nervous about the lack of knowledge I have in how to best serve them; the differentiation and accommodations, the strict adherence to structured routines, etc. And I've never been trained in CPI (restraint). I guess I'm just a bit overwhelmed with all of the things I DON'T know as a sped teacher with this type of population.

    The other issue is a glitch that occurred with my even being in the position of doing this. Technically I was offered a different position - and accepted it, only to be told by the principal yesterday they were not going to be able to hire me for the original job because of not being fully "highly qualified" in that particular field. Although at first the principal was sure I would be. I was offered this one as an alternative in order to be brought onto the campus as part of the staff and I guess so I wouldn't be without a job altogether. I actually TURNED down another job offer the day after I accepted this one and am now kicking myself. Along with cancelling a number of previously-scheduled interviews with other districts because I thought I had this one nailed down. Live and learn, they say.

    Sorry this is so long...I hope you understand my concerns. Maybe they're simply F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real). I just don't know. I'm more used to a higher-functioning classroom and to be honest have been hoping I could move into a setting with higher-level kiddos at some point (Yes, moving into gen. ed).

    I loved my kids last year and learned how to help them succeed. I know I can do anything I set my mind to; I just can't wrap my mind around this one since it is packaged as a 'last-minute' change and disappointment in not being able to teach what I was offered.

    Any ideas you might have in helping me get over this funk would be much appreciated!
     
  5. nicegirl

    nicegirl Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2007

    Hi,

    I had the same thing happen with not being highly qualified. I excluded myself from one position because I called HR directly after the interview and they said I wouldn't qualify. So I called the Principal to let him know I would love to take it, but I don't qualify. The other I was offered the position and wanted the job. I again told the hiring manager to put my name in through HR, but they might decline. They did in less than 24 hours. 3rd time is the charm! I am teaching a life skills class. I am scared to death too, but I actually think I am going to like it alot. From what I have heard alot of life skills teachers LOVE their jobs and wouldn't change it for the world. I hope I am in that boat after this year. My SPED coordinator has been VERY supportive telling me that we will learn as we go and how she is still learning new things. It's encouraging to know I am not in this alone and neither are you! We will all be here to support one another if need be! Good luck and know that everything happens for a reason! :haha:
     
  6. logicrules

    logicrules Rookie

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    Aug 8, 2007

    nicegirl said: "I excluded myself from one position because I called HR directly after the interview and they said I wouldn't qualify. So I called the Principal to let him know I would love to take it, but I don't qualify. The other I was offered the position and wanted the job. I again told the hiring manager to put my name in through HR, but they might decline. They did in less than 24 hours."

    If I read this correctly YOU (not the principal) did your homework and found out if you would qualify for what they were offering you. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? Or is this just another one of those "teaching moments" regarding the world of education that makes absolutely no logical sense? Sorry to sound so critical; I know a principal's job is tough enough just trying to keep the ship afloat; let alone stay abreast of all the new state and federal educational laws, including NCLB. But I would think it would be wise for any hiring manager (principals in particular) to check a candidate's qualifications clearly before offering a position to them. Definitely in the area of 'highly-qualified' status. Some districts let this slide a bit I believe due to the difficulty in finding and keeping teachers in many of these positions. It's a constant revolving door. Still...it's starting to appear more and more apparent that applicants (that would be we teachers) must be on top of what we actually "qualify" for in order to not be spinning our own wheels.

    Just my thoughts. I'm glad you found this job. You are definitely going into it with the right attitude. I would never "say never" to anything regarding teaching. But if I have some options I'd rather not put myself into a developmental environment if possible.

    As fate would have it I just got a return call from another district principal whose job I turned down. It was still open and he offered it to me. I took it. I notified this other principal just now of my decision (I have not signed a contract with them, so nothing is in writing at this point). Plus I felt I was put in a vise; when I was offered the alternative job I could have said NO, but that would mean I'd have NO job. I know she realized I was not excited about this one, so my decision may not come as a surprise. As has been stated to me by veteran teachers everywhere in my 'hood - you don't have a job until the contract is signed. I will forever remember this now!
     
  7. nicegirl

    nicegirl Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2007

    Well, the problem that I have noticed is that HR doesn't not communicate with the principal in regards to HQ status. The principal is going off of my resume which shows I am approved for special ed, because of the HQ status that doesn't make the decision clear cut. The first position in which I excluded myself, the principal told me that the teacher last year was no longer qualified because she didn't pass a specific content exam. The job was for a sped co-teach in high school. He said he was interested in me, but because of that I should check with my acp and then with the HR department. I called my acp first and they said no. I still called HR and verified that with them. I don't think it was a bad thing for him to ask me to check into it. It shows I have initiative and I had an answer for him within 24 hours. He kindly said he had worried that would be the case and I asked him to keep me in mind should any other positions for self-contained classrooms in his SPED department opened up. On the second position, yes, HR did all the work. My name was submitted for the request for hire and they declined me.

    With both positions, the admins were going off my resume solely. It is HR's job to approve or deny. The second admin even told me that HR said find someone you like, extend the offer, and we will review the credentials. That is how it works in this district. :)

    All that said, I am glad you found a position that works for you. If you are not comfortable then it's probably not the place to be. However, I had heard of people being switched all the time. Even in regular ed if you are hired for 4th, there is no guarantee that is where you will be placed come school time. From what I understand, your principal reserves the right to move you where he/she sees fit as long as you are HQ in that area. Kinda scary, but the way it is, I guess.
     
  8. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Aug 8, 2007

    Similar to what nicegirl mentioned, in our district, you are hired as a specific position such as:

    Elementary Special Education teacher
    This could mean: Inclusion, CMC, Resource, Cross-Categorical, Life Skills, Special Needs.

    Actually, the district has the right to switch your location - so you aren't even guaranteed a spot at the school. So, when you sign your contract for the upcoming year, obviously if you did well and were asked to return, (and the position is available/students are there to fill it) - then you return to your spot. But, if the numbers change or a new program opens up, they reserve the right to move you to that spot.

    But, also like nicegirl said, if you are not interested in the position, you probably did the right thing.

    I always said "I don't want the low functioning kids" and now I absolutely love what I do. I went into my position with a bit of apprehension, but it turned out to be perfect for me. I have a special place in my heart for children with autism, and continue to do CE hours and special workshops to add to my "bag of autism tricks." I would love to work in a special school for children with autism someday.

    I could tell just from your "post" tone of voice that you were feeling a little bitter about the switch and the position. This would probably add to the stress of an already stressful job. So, I do believe you did the best thing. But, I think you should also remember that it takes a special person to teach these kids, and they deserve the same as everyone else!

    Good luck to you in your new teaching position.
     
  9. fratbrats

    fratbrats Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2007

    Hello,

    I mentioned this on another thread, but it fits here. You all might know the answer to this being from Texas. I have passed the EC-4 Generalist as well as Special Education EC-12. My ACP said that I could apply for any age-level of sped. I interviewed for a position that is behavior modification grades 5-6. It would mostly be self-contained, with the goal of the students being able to earn the right to go to their regular class.

    I don't know if I even qualify for this and almost called HR prior to the interview to verify. I just figured the principal would know ahead of time if I qualify.

    Do any of you know?:confused:

    Thanks a bunch!
     
  10. nicegirl

    nicegirl Comrade

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    Aug 8, 2007

    fratbrats, from what I understand for self contained rooms it is at the discretion of the school district to make a decision. I would most definitely go on the interview, but also call HR or if the principal likes you I would ask her to. I think HR would get back with the principal on it more quickly. They won't know right away. They would have to review your college transcripts plus TeXes exams and get back with you. Don't be discouraged though. This may work. You just need clarification! :)
     
  11. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Aug 8, 2007

    You are "qualified" for the position but you are not "highly qualified" - I believe the districts are able to hire you but usually do not want to do that because it hurts their ratings. But, it wouldn't hurt to try to get the job, because usually they will give you that first year to become "highly qualified" - so you would have time to take the 4-8 test before december.
     
  12. computergirl

    computergirl Rookie

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    Aug 18, 2007

    Question on Highly Qualified

    Why would fratbrats not be highly qualified? He/she passed the EC-12 Spec Ed. Doesn't passing the test make you highly qualified? Sorry if this is a dumb question . . . but I'm in the same boat. I've passed the EC-4 generalist and the EC-12 Spec Ed and am trying to find a job.

    Thanks!
    Alison

     
  13. fratbrats

    fratbrats Comrade

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    Aug 18, 2007

    According to HR, I'm considered "Highly Qualified". Somehow, the EC-4 exam covers me up to 6th grade. But, I also had to have the Special Ed EC-12 exam to make it work. I cannot be in a regular education 5th or 6th grade room, though.

    I'm new at this, so it's a little confusing to me. I can be in a b-mod or autism room for 5th or 6th grade and I'm the teacher of record.

    I originally thought that I would be in an elementary school or perhaps a life skills teacher this year. I wasn't really thinking of teaching all the core subjects to 5th and 6th graders. So, it will be a wild ride this year!

    And Fratbrats is a girl!:wub: Go Pi Phi's!

    Good luck with your job search! All the jobs "came out of the woodwork" this past week for me. I was called for 2 interviews, as well as, for a 2nd in the position that I accepted. I didn't make it to the other interviews. I had to cancel because of the job offer.

    I became more aggressive with emailing and sending out resume packages to these principals that called me for the interviews. I think that it started to be "crunch time" and they needed to get these positions filled. I had just passed the Special ED exam on August 4th and immediately started updating my online applications and contacting principals that I knew had positions to fill.

    Go to this website below: I found it last week. There were jobs on there that weren't on the ISD's websites. You can upload your resume and cover letter. I wished that I knew about it earlier. It's free and fast!:2up:

    http://www.educationamerica.net/

    I saw that Denton ISD had some special ed positions listed on that website. I'm not sure how tricky that drive would be for you. I'm new to Texas and have just driven by Grapevine a few times.
     
  14. logicrules

    logicrules Rookie

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    Aug 19, 2007

    Teachersk said:
    "I always said "I don't want the low functioning kids" and now I absolutely love what I do."

    I do understand what you mean. I think the apprehension I feel about teaching this kind of child is the unknowns; that fear of failure stuff (I'm anal-retentive, high-achiever type). However, I had never worked in a classroom before (alt. cert) before last year and was thrown into a very tough situation in an at-risk population. The first few months were sheer Hell. Primarily because of my lack of experience as a teacher, let alone special needs. But I not only survived; I thrived. I was told toward the end of the year I was the best Corrective Reading teacher in my district. I never sought that kind of title, just did everything I could to do the best job I could for these very deserving kiddos. I'm trying to remind myself I survived a bunch of new challenges before; so I can do it again.

    Teachersk said:"I went into my position with a bit of apprehension, but it turned out to be perfect for me."

    Same here. I fell in love with my kids; despite the enormous challenges they and I faced. I had 12-16 year olds (7-8 grade) on K-3 reading/writing level. The biggest problem I had was behavior; these are socially-adept, street-smart kids (unlike the socially challenged AU populations). If I could find a job doing exactly what I had done last year I would jump on it (special ed reading/scripted decoding programs). But that kind of job didn't appear this time.

    Teachersk said:"I have a special place in my heart for children with autism, and continue to do CE hours and special workshops to add to my "bag of autism tricks."

    My heart will reach out to my new charges, too. One of my strengths is 'knowing my kids.' I took a lot of time last year doing just that. Since taking this new position on (In home trainer working with AU kids and their parents) I've been doing a TON of my own research on ASD. It is indeed, one of the most fascinating disorders I've ever been exposed to in my life. I am learning sooo much already and I haven't even set eyes (face-to-face) with one of the kids on my caseload yet. Stimming, ABA, positive reinforcers, negative reinforcers, antecedents, extinction, tact, mands, etc. Just getting the vocabulary down has been an eye-opening experience. I know I have a lot yet to learn, but do we ever really STOP learning? Autism is one of those spectrum disorders where, luckily, no one is truly an 'expert.' The sheer nature of this disorder is predicated by the individual affect the disorder has on each child. No two are ever alike. We're kind of all in this together; at least that's how I see it.

    Teachersk said:"I would love to work in a special school for children with autism someday." Believe me, this is a growing field for public schools. The need for teachers who will work in this capacity is growing in leaps and bounds. Let me know where you want to base yourself and I'll be happy to keep my eyes peeled for you. You would excel doing something akin to what I'm about to take on, I'm sure. Keep looking, you will find one.

    Teachersk said: "I could tell just from your "post" tone of voice that you were feeling a little bitter about the switch and the position."

    You are right. To have been told I'd be working with one type of student population - and have purchased supplies and contacted colleagues to discuss strategies about this - only to find out it was not going to happen (of no fault of my own) was disappointing and very frustrating. I blame the principal's over-zealousness in putting herself, another teacher and I in this position. She should have checked to make sure my background would fly before even offering me the job. Or at least not letting me think it was so solid an offer. I know she was new to the district and simply underestimated the supt.'s power on matters such as this, but still...I'd turned down many interview offers and a job offer - to commit to this district. The Functional Academic job was certainly "a job" but it wasn't one I'd originally interviewed for nor one high on my list. And when she called me back to tell me about the 'change' she didn't even bother to ask me if I WANTED to work in that capacity. I got the feeling she was trying to simply fill her own open positions, any way she could.

    "But, I think you should also remember that it takes a special person to teach these kids, and they deserve the same as everyone else!"

    I have a feeling you may have assumed I did not have much warmth or patience with low-functioning children by way of my earlier post. For that, I apologize. Anyone who has ever watched me work with my classes of MR, ED, ADHD, ESL/SI, high-functioning autism (not Aspergers) or just not-on-grade-level readers and writers would tell you my respect and care for them is always present. I had high expectations for them, but loved each and every one of them as if they were my own flesh-and-blood, wanting only the very best opportunity for them.

    Still do.
     
  15. daddy'sgirl

    daddy'sgirl Rookie

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    Aug 25, 2007

    teachersk,
    I too said "I don't want the low functioning kids". I am going to be a 5th grade inclusion teacher this year. This is my 1st year and I have never worked with AU. I'm a little nervous about being able to effectively help my students succeed. It's truly is my desire to help my students and do what's best for them. I found out on yesterday that one of my students is AU and has instances when he curls up in a ball on the floor when upset. Any suggestions on how to handle this child or on teaching sped in general?
     
  16. teachersk

    teachersk Connoisseur

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    Aug 25, 2007

    VISUAL AIDS! It is SO amazing to see how visual AU kids are. You can print out quite a few behavior visual supports from this website.
    http://setbc.org/setbc/communication/frame_pictureset.html
    Don't think that just because this child is a fifth grader that they do not need these "Babyish" symbols. The Mayer Johnson PECS are universal symbols that most AU kids have seen since they were 2-3 years old. Depending on the severity of this child's autism, they may or may not have the ability to communicate. What you want to do is take data on the situation. As you begin in your new position, take notes on what is CAUSING the rolling up into a ball on the floor. As soon as you can figure this out, it will be easy to fix! A lot of times this is a coping mechanism type of behavior. The child is doing this because they are frustrated and UNABLE to communicate what the heck is wrong or why the heck they are upset. If you enable and empower the child to be able to let you know (or others) what the problem is, you will be able to avoid meltdowns like this. Even if the child is verbal, it is helpful to put reminders on his desk or in his folder. If he can read, you can just write it. But, it's always helpful to have pictures with it. If you have access to the boardmaker software (your district should have it if you have special needs kids, especially AU!) One of my "tantrum" AU kids has this written on her desk:

    1. When I need help, I can raise my hand.
    2. When I feel angry, I can put my head down.
    3. When I need to use the restroom, I can pull my restroom card.

    It has made a WORLD of difference! If I can see her steaming up, I gently point to her desk to remind her of her options. This way, if she's frustrated, she knows that she is allowed to calm down by putting her head down. We allow her to do this because it avoids more serious behaviors.

    Hope this helps at least a little.
     

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