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Career Story: Teacher In Situ Of Hospitalized Students

Teacher In Situ Of Hospitalized Students

Job Title: Hospital School Teacher

Education: BA, American Studies, Oberlin College •• M.Ed., Special Education, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Previous Experience: I worked for five years in a federally certified day care center with an educational program, then went to school for my Master's. I worked afterwards in 2 different programs as part of a team teaching and providing treatment for middle school students with behavioral and emotional disabilities. One program was in a mental health center, another in a public school setting.

Job Tasks: My job combines teaching and liaison duties, with families, medical staff, and local schools. I work with students who have certain medical conditions, and general pediatric patients. Some of my students are here for an acute illness or injury, others are in and out of the hospital for treatment of chronic illnesses. With those students I typically have a long relationship, sometimes from kindergarten through 12th grade. If students will be at the hospital for more that a couple of days, I contact their schools to get their assignments (nowadays often this is done online). Assignments are often modified to accommodate the student's illnesses or medical procedures. Usually I work directly with each student for about an hour a day when they are able and provide other support through online resources or volunteers. Any special needs that students will have at school because of their illnesses or injuries are addressed through ongoing contact with their schools. Sometimes schools consult me about such needs long after students are discharged from the hospital. I have close working relationships with hospital staff such as doctors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, recreation therapists, and chaplains and enjoy working as part of a team to see that the needs of the whole child and his or her family are addressed during hospitalization and smooth transitions back to school are possible once students leave the hospital. I attend a monthly clinic for some of my students who are being followed up during their recovery, and help address any school issues that have arisen since discharge from the hospital.

I have additional responsibilities including school governance committee work, staff development planning and participation, and documentation of school attendance and services provided.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the opportunity to build long-term relationships with co-workers, hospital staff, students, and their families. There are also many staff in schools all over the state that I have worked with by email or telephone and never met in person. I have the feeling of being part of an invisible net of support for students and families in difficult circumstances. We get an opportunity to learn constantly from coworkers in other disciplines and from the students & families themselves. Because we work individually with most students, we can learn quite a bit about their individual learning styles and adapt accordingly.

Because students are sick, they often respond minimally. It is a challenge to find ways to engage students when they are not at their best, and to know when to push and when to back off. Some students do not improve, and every year some die of their illnesses, or are seriously impaired because of an injury or medical conditions. Everyday you are reminded not to take your health for granted.

Job Tips:
1.) In my experience there is not a lot of turn-over in these positions. Volunteering or substituting can be a way to get experience that can lead to a hospital teaching job.

2.) You have to be prepared to be flexible and improvisational. In a hospital setting education takes a back seat to medical procedures.

3.) It helps to have some varied teaching experience before teaching in this setting. You need to have some tried and true ideas for lessons that you can do at the spur of the moment, and some knowledge of what the school setting is like for students when they leave the hospital.

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