George Lucas Educational Foundation

Life Skills Teaching, a new start back from working overseas

Life Skills Teaching, a new start back from working overseas

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Hi all,
I love teaching kids with special needs and I need advice to find work back here in the USA after working abroad. I am back in the states now in Oregon but can only get a subbing job.What steps can i take to be a Life Skills teacher. What can I do to distinguish myself? I love working with these kids.

I am a teacher who has worked at international schools for most of my career. I have worked in France, England, Turkey, Malaysia, Zimbabwe and Egypt. I was most recently a theatre and drama teacher for the past 10 years so I am having difficulty finding work back here in the US as a sped teacher. I am 47 years old and due to family illness my wife and I have had to leave the international scene behind.

Added to these difficulties I taught in private schools abroad and American schools and districts seem to think that experience is too different to work here either as a private school or public school teacher. How do I convince people I would be great as a life skills teacher?

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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Hi! Welcome back to the USA. I would think your experience would be immensely valuable - but first, what do you mean by 'Life Skills'? Here in New Jersey, that means teaching Spanish or Technology!

Jeff's picture
Theatre teacher middle and high, ESL, Sped, gen subjects middle

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for responding. It feels good to have another professional to talk to about this. In Oregon it means teaching kids with cognitive challenges the basics like showing up for work on time, navigating public transportation, and for the young ones there are pre-reading and reading skills with physical therapy.

For kids who are non-verbal and nearly so the classroom is called a functional development placement. Any advice would be great.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Teaching Middle School 'Technology, Engineering & Design' in Northfield, NJ

Jeff, that makes sense (and is in line with sped) ... I'd imagine demand for that kind of role would be pretty significant - how flexible are you with regards to geography? And, what other "permutations" of teaching positions can you envision as being possible given your background? Specialization is great in high demand areas but a killer in the opposite scenario...

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Jeff,
As a former special ed teacher who had a hard time getting a special ed license just when I moved between states, I feel your pain.

If you want to work in public schools, licensure is going to be the number one thing if you don't already have one. Different states have different rules, and it gets insanely complicated. Unfortunately, most states are also still very much in a credit hours mindset, so going through the worst program is worth way more than your competencies built up over years of experience.

If you do already have your licensure, hooray! The tough part I'd imagine for a life skills position is that there probably aren't a lot of them out there. The 12,000 student district hat I worked in previously only had 3 or 4 Life Skills teachers spread across all grade levels. They'e also, as you seem to be, extremely dedicated to their work and students, so they tend to stick around for a long time. My suggestion here would be to find another special ed position working with students who are more integrated in the general classroom, build up your stateside experience, and look for opportunities to move in to life skills as they present themselves.

Jeff's picture
Theatre teacher middle and high, ESL, Sped, gen subjects middle

HI Dan,
Thanks for the feedback. I do have my license. The problem is just perception. I have been out of sped for a very long time and I have been in the private schools and abroad so it is a very hard to get people to believe I could handle it here back in the USA in public schools.

I am subbing and after about two weeks people are requesting me for sped, self contained and resource pull out. Today I am in self contained room for kids who have behavioral issues.

I started in one of these rooms as an aide and then had my own as a teacher for two years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was great work and I loved it but it was also very difficult of course.

I don't want to do this again however because in Oregon they mix all certification types together and in Wisconsin we don't. What I mean is that in Wisconsin a kid with autism would be in another self contained room than would a kid with impulse control.

The short and the long of this is I am getting a good rep out in schools but does anyone have advice how to make contact with people who could hire me in sped departments in districts?

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