Howdy y’all! No, really. I’m Texan but not that Texan. But I do say howdy here and there and y’all really is a real word, and I am terribly excited to have the opportunity to be part of Reality 101 this year!
To share a little bit of background on myself getting into teaching...
When I was applying for teaching positions, I had my heart set on a PPCD unit. I adore working with little ones. After applying to 30+ positions in the area, I was called for one interview and offered one position. I was hired to open a new class that they were calling the 12+ Class (now 18+ Program). It would be solely for students ages 18-22. Can you say “opposites”?
Needless to say, everything happens for a reason. I now adore and have become very passionate about working with my 18+ Program students. I very quickly realized that many of these parents and students had no idea what they will do after their student aged out of public school. So my left-brained, problem solving personality revved up and started to try to fix it.
What I really wanted to do was come up with a planning tool that would guide the school and the family through the process of transitioning successfully to adult life, but that was a little bigger a project than my action research was supposed to be. However, last year in working with a transition consultant, I finally have a “Life Planning Tool for 18+ Adult Schedules.” I have used this with each of the students in the program this year.
My plan outlines where the student will live, what they will be doing during their days, what skills they need to be more independent, what their necessary levels of supports are, what they will do for recreation and leisure, what their social life will look like, what work or volunteering they will do, what continuing education they will pursue, what funding they have and will need and what transportation they will use.
Based on that information, I can develop their PLAAFP and IEP. With a clear individualized programming goal, there is a clear finish line. When they reach that finish line, they graduate. Whether that is November, February, or June or at age 19 or 22! When they are ready, they go!
So it is now Week 6 of the 2013-2014 school year and everything is settling down enough for me to reflect a little on how well that planning tool has actually lent itself to my programming and instruction. While it definitely hasn’t been perfect, I can certainly point out several successes:
- Visual Hygiene Checklist – Students complete this routine every morning – already seeing significant improvements in appearance, smell, and independence!
- Self-Awareness – several assessments have led to a solid sense of preferences and interests for students who are new to the program.
- Pre-Vocational Skills – I see significant improvements in accuracy and speed with sorting, matching, and basic alphabetizing of mail in our campus mailroom.
- Parental Support – Having the opportunity to really visit with each set of parents or other primary support folks has really established a sense of buy-in and support for the program.
My greatest struggles are also pretty apparent:
- Policy & Procedures – Trying to establish an atypical educational program within a very traditional school system and model is HARD – restraints of daily attendance times has been my greatest obstacle.
- Urgency – The urgency that I have for my students and their goals is hard to instill in the “higher ups” because they have so many other things on their plate as well.
- Community Contacts – Finding businesses, groups, and individuals in the community who are willing and welcoming for my students is a struggle. I find myself constantly brainstorming and looking at things from a variety of angles.
But always onward and upward! Continue with the good things and try to work out the other kinks!
What experience do you have with transitioning students out of public school to their adult lives? What successes and struggles have you recognized in your programs already this year?