Wednesday, September 5, 2012

LACOE -- Looking for a Special Ed Job -- The Meeting

Special Ed still has openings in many schools.

The job is demanding with a capital "D". To qualify, a teacher must earn a special authorization for the job. A teaching credential layers so much paperwork on a man just to qualify for the preliminary paperwork. It takes another year and a half of study to get a special ed authorization.

There are two types of special ed credentials: mild-moderate and moderate-severe, depending on the severity of the students' learning differences in the classroom. Also, different specializations may place one teacher with autistic students, while other teachers will work with the emotional disturbed, or the students with multiple handicaps.

For a brief time, I had concerned going into special. I knew that I would be guaranteed a job, but after all the drama and paperwork which I saw eating up teachers' time, space, and peace of mind, I had decided to forgo the whole thing.

But so many years later, with questions still rummaging around in my mind about what I wanted to do with the dim and diminishing prospects. Maybe a second look at Special Ed was worth the while after all.

At LACOE that one May afternoon, I was gathered in the huge main conference room to listen to a LACOE administrator explain the ins and outs of getting hired as a special ed teacher for the next year. The room was packed with teachers, including many of the substitute teachers whom I had seen working throughout the county. I remember one young Asian man, who covered classes frequently at Los Padrinos every week, or at least every day that I was there. He w

The moderator leading the convocation, a middle-aged woman slim and svelte with an Irish lilt, it seemed, outlined all the issues, all the paperwork that the prospective teachers in the room would have to go through in order to get hired. The lady leading the convocation, some upper-echelon district official, explained at length a very lengthy process. First, a prospective special teacher needed to enroll in the program offered by the county. The entire one and a half year program would cost about $3,500.

By enrolling in the program, I would receive a provisional acceptance letter, which would permit me to apply for jobs throughout the county. Once an employing district located my resume and offered me a job, if I got that far, then I would inform the County offices, and they would start me in the class. The first catch for this whole program, though, rested on the pernicious fact that I had to be hired in order to stay enrolled in the class. Either I had to go all the way with the program and work at the same time, or forgo the whole thing just like that.

Of course, I was suspending reality for the one hour that I was listening to this drawn-out spiel. I really believed, at least for that little bit of time, that I could actually run from a special ed program, a completely new classroom experience altogether, then run to the County office for three more hours of classes, then get home in time to prepare for the next day, eat, and sleep.

Yes, I really believe that I could do all that, even though I had tried that at least two different times in my life, with disastrous results. Still, there I was trying to repeat the same mistake with different results, much like my history of teaching in a different school, as if the school environment, population, or personnel needed to change in order for this "school thing" to work for me.

The new word that I learned that evening: "Triangulation", meaning the time and coordination that would tie in my home, my prospective job site, and the County Office. "Make sure that you do not take a job that is too far our of your way. The commute from home to work to school to home should not be so long and burdensome, that you will be burned out in a short time."

Another lesson that I should have learned by now: I had taken a French assignment in Brea, which on a good day was forty-five minutes away, and with traffic turned into an hour and a half. It was an ugly commute, combined with an ugly school culture of spoiled rich kids and arrogant administrators who refused to stand up to parents and thus preferred to walk all over me. After one month, I quit that job and never looked back.

The Irish-speaking lady then spent the next thirty plus minutes going over proper etiquette online, submitting proper resumes with the correct heading indicating the right school districts, including the Human Resources staff, or whoever else I was supposed to get in contact with. I could not believe that she thought the vast majority of the professionals whom she was addressing would employ email addresses with inappropriate names, or that we would submit paperwork with errors. Still, the woman needed to justify standing in front of us and talking for an hour and a half.

With all the negative experiences behind me, plus the overwhelming amount of time and money expected to get into the program, I thought about leaving right away. But since I had come from so far to attend, I decided to stay. The meeting ended, briefly I spoke with the convocation speaker. One lady came up to her, talking about how she had just flown in from San Francisco, looking for a job. This short, young woman was willing to go this far to find a job. That was dedication, a kind of calling which I did not sense within me. I was looking for a job, this woman wanted to further her career in spite of the economic and political downturns hurting the state and depriving public education of much-needed funding.

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