The Other Side: Homebound Teaching
Teachers are paid, at least in South Carolina, based on the number of years they’ve been working as a teacher as well as their level of education. Sometimes it’s enough to get by and sometimes it’s not. When I was working on a Bachelor’s level pay right when I started teaching, I struggled to make ends meet because I was supporting myself and the person I was with at the time with the majority of the bills. Once my license came through and my pay increased, I was making enough to buy a house, take over all the bills my parents were helping me with, and still be able to buy food and have some fun.
I’m not saying I don’t have to budget, but the difference between a Bachelor’s level pay and a Master’s level pay is fairly substantial, after the Master’s level, the only other pay increase really worth having is your Master’s plus 30. The doctorate level of pay is not worth it, in my opinion. The costs of getting your doctorate and the years of education you go through to get there with the amount of money you would make as a teacher isn’t that much of a difference. (For example, where I am, the difference between my pay level and that of a doctorate is only 7300 more a year, which is good compared to the capital where it is less that $6,000 and areas on the coast where it is around 6,100. The cost of getting a doctorate is going to be a lot more that $7,300. The plus 30, which I’m working on now, is going to result in a 3300/year pay raise. It’s not going to cost me $3,300 get my plus 30, so I can justify getting it.)
Now, with all that being said, I love my job. And I love helping students. Each year I take on one to two homebound students at a time. These are kids who can’t be in school due to medical reasons. We act as the liaison between the school and student to get their assignments and make sure they’re doing their work at home. This experience can be either rewarding, frustrating or down right heart breaking. I got known as the go-to girl for homebound students in my school, so a lot of guidance counselors would ask me before they asked other teachers. It’s not something just anyone can do: you have to apply and get accepted to do it. It’s basically a second job in the county and it’s added hourly pay to your pay check. It is literally a second job.
This year I was approached by one of the guidance counselors to do a homebound job for a family with two children (a girl and a boy) who were both on what’s called intermittent homebound. This meant that every day that either was absent, it automatically counted as a homebound hour and they would be able to fail due to absences at the end of the year. The guidance counselor said that I could be over there a lot or never, it simply depended on the students. She said, “They both have feeding tubes. That’s all I know.”
We played phone tag for a week or so before finally setting up an appointment. That first day, I came with work for the girl who hadn’t been in school all year. Her brother had been in school, so he didn’t have anything for me to do.
I’ve noticed two main types of homebound students: the one’s who legitimately need the time out of school and the ones that just don’t want to be in the classroom. This girl was one of the first ones.
She had a huge smile on her face when she introduced herself to me and said she was ready to get started. She was smiling, and she was hooked up to more tubes than I could count or see. She was very open about her condition: she was allergic to almost every food on the planet, and so were her two younger brothers (but just not as bad). She has what is called Eosinophilic Esophagitis, which is a medical condition characterized by extreme food allergies. Any foods that a person is allergic to that they eat will completely shut off their airway. It affects 1 out of every 2000 people, and all three children have it.
The girl went on to tell me that she was taken out of school in middle school because her stomach completely shut down. She currently has a central line that feeds her nutrients through a bag directly into her blood. The access is in her upper chest around her heart. She said, “I only get six access points here, and each time I get a line infection, they have to redo it and move the access.” I asked her what happens if she runs out of access, and she replied, “Well, things get interesting.” I left that day and cried all the way back to my house.
She’s a sophomore in high school right now. She hasn’t been in school since middle school because the central line has to be handled by a special type of nurse, and the nurses at the schools aren’t at the proper level. She and her family were working on getting a personal nurse for her to have with her in the school, and when Thanksgiving hit, it looked like she would be back in school after semester exams. I was over at her house two to three times a day helping her with work, getting excited about seeing her in the halls.
And then the flu season hit. She and her brother both got sick. She ended up in the hospital. After coming home, she lost her final access point to her central line around her heart to a line infection and had to undergo a surgery to attach an artery to her vein in her arm to make it enlarge. All the while, she’s on antibiotics to keep her line infection at bay because the only way she’s getting any nutrients is through those lines. Without them, she wouldn’t live. Her mother told me they were just hoping that the antibiotics hold the infection off for two months while they raise the vein in her arm to the surface for her new line to go in there.
The entire time she’s smiling at me saying, “Hey, feel my arm! It vibrates from where the artery blood is pumping really fast through the vein.”
I teach biology and genetics, but when it comes to homebound, I teach all levels of science, math, english, history and psychology. A lot of homebound teachers will drop work off, explain it to them, and then leave. They’ll come back in a few days to pick any completed work up and maybe administer a test. With this family, I am there for hours after school, many nights not getting off until seven. I teach her algebra 2 and chemistry, grammar and the French revolution.
And while she is learning from me, I am learning so much more from her. She has an amazing ability to keep herself upbeat and positive even when things aren’t looking the greatest. She’s taught me an unbelievable amount about the value of life and being thankful for what we have. She’s taught me the importance of family and love and connection with others. She’s taught me quite a lot about EE along the way as well.
The point of the whole story is this: Be thankful for what you have… And truly listen to those you love… and love them with your whole heart…
As a side note, she asked me to be her homebound teacher next year as well. I immediately said yes. At this point, I’d probably do this for free, I just want this girl to succeed more than anything else.