Getting On The Job

Firstly, we had a great week last week with four blog posts within 24 hours. We love participating in Flashblogs and sharing our experiences we have learned from our students with disabilities.

We’ve talked a lot about transitions before, and have briefly mentioned jobs, but not really so much as they relate between students and paraeducators.

On a technicality: unless a paraeducator is assigned to a system that is goes by a variety of names (workability, Learn to Job, Job skills), rarely does the question of job preparation come into play. Work coaches do things a lot differently and have different rules and criteria for candidates. Other students need a traditional job search approach and have to fill out applications and dress nicely for an interview. And paraeducators can (and have) coach those important milestones.

But the question does come up from time and not just for students who do not have reliable communication means, even for students who are quite able.

  • What is the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career’?
    This one is a big idea that usually comes from students who have other goals. But a job is the thing one does early on to make money. The job can become a career, but the career is usually something bigger with its own goals.
  • What does the student like to do?
    This is probably the most important question to consider. And yes: sitting alone playing video games is actually okay in this category. It may be harder in some cities and areas that aren’t lucky enough to have a video game development house, but with the advent of apps, this has become less and less of a barrier.
    Does the student like animals? Volunteering with a shelter or animal rescue group, while not a paid position, can give skills that are needed for potentially some job down the road.
    If the student is into law enforcement, call your local precinct or sheriff’s department. Sometimes they have events for young people interested in things related to law enforcement and explain the steps someone would need to find a job in law enforcement. There also may be volunteer positions within the precinct. Renay is actually lucky to live in a town that has an explorer’s program for teenagers looking to join law enforcement and the members of this special group help run traffic delays for the town’s special events.
    Does the student like to do things with art? Check around town, if there is an art co-op or some other artist shared space, and especially if there is a storefront associated with this space, the possibilities here are endless.
    Some students have a family business that they can participate in. Include the family what their goals for their student with regards to jobs might be, sometimes the student may have goals that the family would be surprised to learn about.
  • What can the student do?
    While this is badly phrased question, this usually actively looks at specific job skills.
    – Does the student have good skills with peers? Do they say ‘hi’?
    – When given a classroom job (passing out papers, cleaning up) how complete is the task?
    – How far away is “help” from the student when these demonstrations are going on?
    – Can “Help” be faded so that the student can be seen as independent?
    – Can the student ride a public bus/bike/drive?
    – What is the student’s skills when it comes to using cash money?
    – How does the student communicate?
    – What things might not translate from a scholastic/academic setting to a work place like an eatery, an office place, or other place of work?
  • I don’t think my student can do any of this.
    Some people may not ultimately have any job for any variety of reasons. But one never knows until you try.
    And on the other hand, one student who was sold on the idea of a specific job in his life, when faced with the realities of his job: he realized that the job wasn’t for him and made a different choice.
  • I don’t want a job.
    Gotta tell you: most adults don’t want a job either. Whether you really want fame or to never work a day in your life, the reality is that almost every adult in your life has spent a lot of time working for someone else. There are some communities that do teach people with disabilities how to run their own businesses or participate in specific skilled tasks. And maybe that will be more interesting to you. But you’ll need to try some jobs to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • What does a job give me anyway?
    It seems odd to be job oriented. But that is the end game actually even if you’re going to college. You want to be able to make money at some point in a variety of ways. You’re going to want that cool new piece of technology, or maybe a book, a cool vacation, a family, or an apartment. All of those things are going to cost money.
    In addition to money, a job can get you out and around the community, making you meet new people. For some, this is a scary idea, but the alternative is staying inside and never meeting another person. And those defeats all the time you’ve spent in school learning the things you have learned about the world and people around you. Yes, the world has changed a lot, especially in the last twenty years. There are many more jobs that can be done from home than the twenty years before that thanks to technology.
    You will learn how to deal with other people. This ultimately will be the most important skills you will learn about work.
  • How does my student make that leap from going to school to going to work?
    Well, amazingly there isn’t a lot of a leap, although this differs for every student. Firstly, they’ve been coming to school for at least 10 years regularly. As much as one can grouse about the system of education, the idea of showing up at one place, hopefully on time, is the main goal. The other skills are gained some directly, others indirectly, and over time. If you give a student a chance, sometimes they will surprise you, although sometimes it will be inconsistent initially.
    Those deadlines for projects you did in school, you’ll have projects that might have a timeline at work.
    All those persuasive essays: you might have to convince someone at work of your opinion. The letter writing you learned in the third grade, and maybe had to do repeatedly, through your school career: for work, these become emails and introductory letters.
    The skills add up. They are little things now that matter later.
  • So when should I really worry about job skills?
    Honestly, probably not until middle school. And not because you don’t have a foundation prior to being in the sixth or seventh grade, but because that’s when more opportunities for responsibility happen.

Having a job is not necessarily for everyone. And jobs look different for everyone. Having a job, whether a formal paycheck or a handshake agreement to walk the dog down the street gives anyone a step in the right direction in developing skills for work.

We do want to note: we skipped the entire process of working with Regional Centers or other organizations that facilitate job opportunities or provide job training skills. They have their own orientations and have specific rules but the end results are just like getting a job for anyone, with or without a disability.

ParaEducate’s Blog will sign off for the summer on May 28, 2015. Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us?  ParaEducate just joined Pinterst! Find ParaEducate online hereherehere and here. ParaEducate is company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

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ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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