Since most teens with learning differences find school difficult and unrewarding, but are attracted to the wages and activity offered in the working world, The Cottage School class day is modeled as if it were a job. Each student enrolls as if they are being hired. They follow a business casual dress code and issued a planner that organizes their assignments as if it were a production schedule. Students receive an entry level mock hourly salary which is awarded each hour for 1) being on time 2) being prepared 3) being cooperative 4) paying attention and 5) completing assigned tasks. Students are also given monthly opportunities for “promotions”. The adjusted expectations, predictable schedule, hourly rewards and, mostly importantly, the message that they are capable, work together to create extraordinary opportunities for success!
As students reach high school they begin to plan for their post-secondary choices. Extensive assessments assist with identifying their attitudes and aptitudes for specific career fields. Weekly sessions with local business leaders introduce students to a variety of careers. Upper classmen participate in a job shadowing and co-op experiences. Whether they choose to attend a four year or two year college, a vocational or art school, military or working world, each senior must have a confirmed acceptance before they receive their diploma.
It is impressive to see the transformation from struggling student to confident young adult: taking responsibility for themselves and their assignments; self-advocating and taking on leadership roles; practicing appropriate job and social skills; managing their time and their emotions as if their job depended on it! When TCS graduates move on to the next step, they will still have learning differences. However, the true difference is that they manage their talents and strengths in an intentional and predictable manner which results in continued success in life!