April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have worked in a variety of settings which allowed me to learn in a very in-depth way about pre-vocational, vocational, and sheltered workshop opportunities for adults with disabilities.

Pre-vocational skills are not happening enough across schools. I firmly believe that in conjunction with academics ALL students should be learning what it is like to develop useful skills and it should start with very simple responsibilities. I believe for ALL kids we are not preparing them enough for the real world. The basics are being overlooked and with technology soaring kids need to be taught the proper way to do things. For instance when writing to a teacher or coach to request a letter of recommendation for a summer job remembering that texting language is not “O.K.” – letter U does not replace the word you.

With another colleague years ago we researched a variety of vocational and pre-vocational programs, then together devised one of our own. I became a job coach and went into the community to search for jobs to match kids skills. I went to trainings and learned that most of these jobs are short lived. I must have done something right because my students stayed at theirs for years. The key was I matched the job to their “super power” (a term coined by my favorite educator Katy Shamitz of Skills for Living and The Chapman School). I had a student who knew everything about movies and actors and of course I got him a job at Block Buster and he rocked it. All of the students placed need training and practice. They needed to be taught to look in the mirror and check their clothes for neatness before work, crash courses on public vs private behavior and what it means to get a pay check.

We expect our typical kids to just do these things but they are no better skilled at doing them than those with disabilities.

We have removed classes like home economics and shop from most schools where students can learn to follow non-academic directions. We want them to be prepared for real life yet we only teach them a lot of useless information that if they wanted to know, they could use Google. Is it really important that my fourth grader or any fourth grader memorizes the capital city of each state? Could that time be better spent?

For certain we will be exploring pre-vocational and vocational training for my daughter through high school years. For my son, who probably needs it even more than she does because he is the classic “book smart” kid – well, we’ve already begun training with volunteer situations which is a natural first step.

Maybe this sounds like a rant…oh well.
I just want educators to think outside the lines of the common core curriculum and think about what they are teaching and how it relates to real-life skills. How can learning be made more meaningful for ALL students?

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