Sheltered Diaries: Jokes Aside, Teachers Are Powering the Learning

I used to joke that I would willingly upend my entire wallet onto our son’s teacher’s desk, so valuable is not only the work she does, but the love she gives him.

But I’m pretty sure now it’s not a joke. When it comes time to do school supply shopping next year, I may have to be restrained from doubling everything and just handing it over – possibly gold plated.

“Twenty-four Ticonderoga pencils? Dear, you’re getting 48, and they’ll come pre-sharpened. Five boxes of tissue, any brand? My friend, you’re getting 20, and they’ll all be name brand.  Anything else? Open line of credit at Starbucks? Shopping spree at Learning Express? A new house?”

Today was Tiny’s weekly class Zoom meeting – the chance his sainted teacher uses to catch up with her class, and let everyone see their friends.

It’s a joyful cacophony of little, excited voices, but it’s also serving an underlying purpose – to let her find out who may need help.

Today, after leading the kids through some breathing exercises, a game, and a dance-off, she got a review of her online lessons from a student.

“These assignments are too hard,” he groused.

“What is hard about them?” she questioned.

“The WHOLE ENTIRE LIST,” he said grumpily.

“Who else needs help with their work?” she asked the group. “Thumbs up or thumbs down?”

“OK, I’ll be reaching out to your parents to arrange one on one time to go over lessons,” she told the group. “Would it be helpful to maybe do a lesson all of us together, on Zoom?”

After counting the affirmative answers, she told the group she’d be sending messages to parents soon with some times kids could join in class lessons.

“Now, my son gets to do this thing called lunch bunch, where he can pick a classmate to just have a Zoom meeting during lunch, and they eat together and just chat. Does anybody want to do that?” she asked in between reminding everyone to mute their microphone if they weren’t talking.

As a testament to how much the kids miss their friends, everyone raised their hands. “OK, we’ll work on that. I’ll invite you and a friend to a Zoom meeting, and then I won’t say anything, I’ll just sit back to monitor while you guys talk over lunch,” she explained.

Did I mention that Mrs. Crystal Smith at Chapel Hill Preparatory is doing all of this while also making sure her kids are keeping up with their online classwork, too?

Teachers deserve all the money, I have said on many occasions. Now that we’re heading into our second month of homeschooling, I am even more convinced that the biggest and most admirable pivot of all has been done by the teachers, who were basically asked to burn their old lesson plans and create new ones that could be done whether you have a computer or not, and keep a watchful eye for any who may be falling behind in a time when they can’t physically watch to see if a student is struggling on a daily basis.

One of my favorite quotes about education came from the TV show The West Wing. In the episode “Six Meetings Before Lunch,” Sam Seaborn outlines everything that should be true about education, and I am only half-joking when I say at some point it will be a cross-stitched pillow on my couch, if we can quit having pandemics and tornadoes so I have the time to actually do it.

“Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything,” he said. “We don’t need little changes, we need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge to its citizens, just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”

OK, maybe it would be a really big pillow. I’m fine with that.

Next week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Normally, we’d fete our teachers with daily gifts and reminders of how much we appreciate and value their work, but this year, it’s going to be a little different.

But I hope that everyone does have a plan for letting the favorite teacher (or teachers) in their lives how much they are needed and appreciated – especially now.

How are you planning to do this? Let us know in the comments!


Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at

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