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I Don’t Feel Well: A Teaching Artist’s Journey Through Healthcare

I Don’t Feel Well: A Teaching Artist’s Journey Through Healthcare

By Katie Rainey

 

            “What’s wrong? Your tummy hurt?”

            I crouch down to her level, kneeling to meet her eye to eye.

            “My throat is scratchy.”

            There are students all around, drawing, jumping, playing, burning off pent-up energy from a long day at school. I’m trying to maintain some sense of classroom in this after-school program – a visual arts and story residency for kindergartners that falls after their required 9+ hours of common core and state standards learning – when one smallish girl with pigtails and a Frozen shirt tugs on my arm and tells me she feels ill. Most of the time, TAs know these words are likely a red herring; that when a student whispers I feel sick it’s really because they had their feelings hurt, or they’re frustrated in their art-making, or they want some additional attention from a busy teacher stretched thin across a class of 25+. So I kneel on our brightly colored story-time carpet and see if I nip this problem in the bud.

            “Your throat is scratchy?”

            “Itchy.”

            “Okay, go get a drink of water with your buddy.”

            “I’m stuffy too.”

            “Well, class will be over soon and your mommy will be here to make it better. Let’s try coloring for a whi-”

            And then it happens. Before I can finish my sentence, this girl’s shoulders raise and her face scrunches up and she lets loose a cough so loud, I swear there’s an adult man living inside her. There’s no time to duck and her wet cough lands square in my mouth, spackling my face. I swallow any urge to gag and spit.

            “Sorry,” she says, and coughs again.

            “Go get water,” I manage, and then turn to the classroom sanitizer dispenser and douse my hands in sterile slime, rubbing some on my chin and cheeks just for good measure, but it is all in vain and I know it too.

            It is 2014, I am 28-years-old (too old to continue creeping by on my parents’ insurance), and have recently been forcefully egressed from my MFA program’s student healthcare plan. I’m just finding my footing as a teaching artist in this city, so the last thing on my mind is healthcare. Food and shelter are more prominent priorities. Finding gigs is more prominent. Even navigating the labyrinthine world of teaching artist taxes is more mentally preponderant than healthcare. That is until this moment, when a tiny tot in pigtails coughs into my mouth and – already – I feel the insidious bubbles of flu season percolating within me.

            And what I expected to happen did. Three days later, it’s full-blown flu season in my apartment and I don’t have health insurance. A friend recommends that I visit CityMD as they’ll see me without insurance, and I do, and I spend several hours waiting for a doctor to not make eye contact with me, scribble something on a pad, and rush me out the door to make room for the next insurance-less soul stepping in. A few hours later, I’m cocooned in a nest of blankets, taking sips of doctor-prescribed codeine cough syrup and garlic soup. It’s not the best remedy, but it’ll do in the absence of real doctor care. After a week of ups and downs – attempting to teach all the while, because we TAs know what a struggle it can be to miss even one class – I kick the flu away and am back to my old self.

            And then the mail arrives.

            CityMD sends me a crisp $200+ bill for some half-doctoring and a nostrum. Well, I could have just spent that money on insurance and seen a real doctor for all that trouble.

            So I decide to do just that.

 

Katie (M.K.) Rainey is a writer, teaching artist, and editor from Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the Managing Director for Training & Communications at Community-Word Project and a current member of the Teaching Artist Affairs Committee. She is the winner of the 2017 Bechtel Prize at Teachers & Writers Magazine and the 2017 Lazuli Literary Group Writing Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Collagist, Teaching Artist Guild Magazine, Atticus Review, Fiction Southeast, and more. She co-hosts the Dead Rabbits Reading Series and lives in Harlem with her dog.

•••

            Artists in the United States are twice as likely to be uninsured as the general population  (“Health Insurance Is Still a Work-In-Progress for Artists and Performers” by Renata Marinaro). That’s not a surprising fact and, based on my experience in the field of teaching artistry, I can guess those numbers run higher for teaching artists. The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has helped to change that significantly.

            For me, the process was relatively easy. I visited the NY State of Health and created an account. From there I was able to choose between a variety of plans – from the lowest-priced catastrophic plans to the Gold/Platinum/Premium/Who-can-afford-this? plans. I settled for something in between, but more towards the low-end because I’m a working teaching artist and, duh. Because of my income status, I was able to apply for a subsidy on the plan, which helped my budget (be aware that if your income increases during the year, you might end up owing that subsidy back). There are monthly auto-payments you can set up and reminders to help you stay on track. There are dental and vision additions you can make and the customer service is very fluid and helpful. In the spring, you’ll receive a 1095-A from your insurance company and mark that deduction along with all of your other fiscal accouterments that come with the territory of teaching artistry.

            It is so important that we artists value our healthcare and take care of ourselves. It should be a priority for all teaching artists, even if you think you’re an invincible twenty-something who never gets sick. We work in schools, where we’re exposed to more germs than the average person. We have to take care of ourselves so that we can continue to care for the students we serve.

            But what about now? What challenges do we face under the current administration and what can we do to make sure our healthcare rights are safe? What will open enrollment look like this year? What is the $20 plan and am I eligible?

            The Teaching Artist Affairs Committee of the NYC Arts in Education Roundtable) is looking to answer all of those questions and more in a webinar on health insurance for teaching artists co-hosted by The Actor’s Fund. Join us on November 17th for a livestream webinar and get the most out of the Affordable Care Act this year. Can’t make the livestream?  Don’t worry. Put your ACA questions in the comments below and we’ll make sure they get answered. Then check back and we’ll have the whole presentation archived for your to watch whenever your schedule allows.

 

Every Teaching Artist Insured!

Friday, November 17th 2:30pm-4:00pm, livestream

Every Teaching Artist Insured is a free live stream presentation for teaching artists, freelance artists, and arts administrators who do not have insurance through an employer or union.  This one hour presentation will provide clear information on how to sign up for a health insurance plan through the New York State of Health Marketplace (Obamacare), and information on local, low cost healthcare options for New York City residents.

REGISTER HERE

Facilitated by Renata Marinaro, National Director of Health Services for The Actor’s Fund, this livestream presentation will equip you with the tools you need to get medical services as a freelancer. Topics will include:

  • How do I enroll for ACA (Obamacare) insurance?
  • How do I report sporadic or self-employed income?
  • What are my options in 2018?
  • Straight-talk about changes in ACA, executive orders, and how they may affect you.
  • Am I eligible for Medicaid or subsidized insurance?
  • Am I eligible for a $20 plan?
  • Where do I get care if I’m uninsured?

 

Additional Resources from the Day of Learning: Working with Students with Disabilities

Resource List:  Day of Learning for Arts Educators (Working with Students with Disabilities)

Teaching Tools and Curriculum

Advocacy and Organizations

Government

Videos of Best Practices in the Arts

Renew your Roundtable Membership or Become a Member!

Connect with the largest, most diverse group of arts education colleagues in New York City! We currently have almost 100 organizational members representing all five boroughs. Roundtable membership gives you access to members-only events and discounted rates on all our programming. Membership runs for a full year from July 1st through June 30th. Both organizational and individual members are welcome! Click here to renew your membership or become a member.

A Teaching Artist’s Confession

By Stacey Bone-Gleason, Teaching Artist and Actress.

I’m not good at everything, and that’s ok. There, I said it!

I know it sounds obvious but, as a teaching artist, I’ve found it’s hard for me to admit. I’ll happily admit the things I have trouble with outside of my artistic field: I can’t draw; I can’t cook a steak; and don’t even get me started on how bad I am at organized sports. However, when it comes to the many different ways I can be a teaching artist, I often try to be the expert in every possible residency. That is simply impossible.

That’s not to say my work isn’t strong, or that I don’t work ridiculously hard to plan for every type of residency that comes my way, or that my strengths and passions might change.  But it is important to find, and know, my niche.

I was given the advice early on as an actress to take any gig that came my way until I could have the luxury of picking and choosing. I believe that was the right path to take when I started both of my careers. As a teaching artist there are so many possible paths, subjects, and populations to work with. It takes time to find your niche. How would I ever find out what I could and couldn’t do if I didn’t try different things? I never would have known that I love, and have a talent for, directing young people had I not said “yes” the first time I was asked. I never would have known how much I love pre-show workshops or improvisation had they not fallen into my lap.

Admitting I should say “no” is easier said than done. First, there is the financial issue. We, as teaching artists, live in a constant state of financial uncertainty. Then there is the ego issue. We WANT to be good at everything as a teaching artist (or as an actress for that matter). So, when we finally realize that there is an age or population or topic that other teaching artists are better with than we are, it’s a blow to our ego and it hurts. I have just now started to feel confident in saying “no,” even when a residency fits into my schedule. And I’d be lying if I said it still didn’t hurt.

For me, the greatest indicator of which jobs to say “no” to is in my planning time. The residencies I dread planning for, that seem to exhaust rather than excite me, are the ones I need to give a second look when the offer comes in.

My advice for early career teaching artists is to take every opportunity you can. Try and find your area of expertise, the style of teaching that truly brings out your light as a teaching artist and allows you to bring out the best in your students. Just don’t be afraid, one day down the line, to say “no” when you realize that’s what’s best for both you and your students.

Stacey Bone-Gleason is a professional teaching artist and actress. She teaches for numerous cultural organizations in Westchester and NYC including Arc Stages, TADA!, CAE, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Purchase College and BAM. She has even taught pre-show lessons internationally in Istanbul. She has helped to develop and perform TYA performances for the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC and presented at arts education conferences such as the NY TIOS and Face to Face conferences. As an actress she has performed Off-Broadway, regionally and internationally in shows ranging from classical to contemporary and musical theater. Favorite credits include Unbroken Circle produced by Seth Rudetsky, Macbeth, Tempest and Midsummer (Tempest Ladies) in NYC and Istanbul, The Baristas (South Carolina Rep). Training: NYU/Stella Adler Studio of Acting (BFA) and Educational Theatre at CCNY (MS). www.staceybonegleason.com

New Roundtable Managing Director

The New York City Arts in Education Roundtable is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors has appointed Kyla Searle as Managing Director. Searle is a writer, producer, curator,  and educator. She has worked in arts education for more than 10 years in Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago  and, for the last six years, in New York City.

Searle has worked as a producer in project design and community arts practice for the Yerba Buena  Center for the Arts in San Francisco, the Institute for Arts and Civic Dialogue, the Northern Manhattan  Arts Alliance, and numerous artist‐led projects. Her work in Oakland led to Congressional recognition  and she has received multiple grants to investigate arts education abroad. She holds degrees in Urban  Studies and Public Health from the University of California Los Angeles and in Arts Practice from New  York University. She will receive an MFA from Brown University.
“The search committee was greatly impressed with Ms. Searle as an artist, educator and administrator,”  said Kati Koerner, co‐chair of the Roundtable’s Board of Directors. “The Roundtable is excited about the  ways Ms. Searle will bring her experience using the arts to build community to bear in helping us  continue to meet the professional development and networking needs of arts education practitioners  city‐wide.”
Searle will begin her work with the Roundtable this week. She said she is committed to working at the  intersections of arts and community development, and is thrilled to continue her work in arts education  at the Roundtable.
Searle replaces Jenny Clarke, who left the Roundtable in September after three years as Managing  Director.
 “The Roundtable is grateful to its departing Managing Director, Jenny Clarke, for her many contributions  to the growth of our organization and wishes her well in her new position as Executive Director of ACMP  – The Chamber Music Network,” Koerner said.