When students turn 13 years old, all IEP’s must include vision statements related to what a student will be doing after they graduate from high school. That’s five years away for most students at 13, but the conversation is started and refined each year the IEP is reviewed. Naomi started school late and was retained one year, so the conversation with her was beginning in sixth grade. My standard approach is to interview a student before the IEP and get their ideas. I thought this would be a good approach with Naomi.
“So, Naomi,” I began, “What would you like to do after graduation?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“When you graduate from high school – what would you like to do when you don’t go to school anymore?”
Apparently Naomi has never been confronted with a future that didn’t involve going to school. “What do you mean?” she asked again, “When I don’t have to go to school anymore?”
“When you finish high school,” I explained, “You don’t go to school anymore unless you choose to.”
Naomi’s eyes got wide. “I don’t have to go to school?” she asked.
I was puzzled. Did she really not know that there was a time in life when school ended? “Naomi, you don’t have to go to school after you finish high school unless you decide to go to college,” I explained.
She was still processing the fact that a day was coming when she didn’t have to go to school anymore. Her face was positively lighting up. “I won’t have to go to school any more if I don’t want to?” She began dancing around the room. “I don’t have to go to school anymore.” She ran over to another student on the other side of the room who had stopped working and was watching the dance. “I won’t have to go to school anymore. I’m not going to school anymore.”
I just sat and watched Naomi prancing around and giggling. It’s impossible to rein her in when she gets this excited. After a few more minutes I called Naomi over to me again. I really needed to get this interview going. She finally came over and sat in the chair next to me, smiling, breathing heavily, and bouncing up and down. I probably should approach this differently if I was ever going to get some information from her. “Ok Naomi,” I began, “What would you like to do after school? What kind of job would you like to do?”
The notion of a “job” had a deflating effect on Naomi. I began again. “You know – a job – like your parents have jobs. What kind of job would you like to do some day?”
I struck gold. “A nurse,” she declared. “I want to be a nurse and take care of people.”
“You like taking care of people?”
“Yes. I’m going to work in a hospital.” We were making progress now.
“Naomi, if you want to work in a hospital, you might need to go to school some more after high school.” I thought we might as well start talking about vocational schools.
“Are you going to pay for it?” Naomi asked.
Wherever this was coming from, I was going to nip it in the bud. “No, I’m not going to pay for you to go to school,” I informed her.
“Then I’m not going,” she declared.
“What if you really want to work in a hospital and you need to go to some school to learn how to be a nurse,” I questioned.
“Only if you pay,” she again declared.
I had Naomi’s information on possible career interest and possible future schooling, so I moved on to living arrangements. “Where would you like to live after high school when you’re a nurse?” I asked.
“I’m living in Alaska.”
Alaska? I thought. Where did this come from? “Is your family moving to Alaska?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Naomi answered. “I’m going to Alaska when I get out of here.”
“OK. So you want to live on your own?” I summarized.
So I learned that Naomi wanted to be a nurse, living in Alaska, after she went to school that I paid for.