Sheltered Diaries: Apparently, I’m a Teacher Now

“I’m not scared of the coronavirus, I just am not in the mood to get it, so I’m going to stay inside,” said my about-to-turn-9-year-old son, who we call Tiny on social media, last week.

My son, who is in third grade, has had a front-row seat to his mom covering the local issues surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic – from the early, nascent discussions about whether school would be canceled, to now, as he sits on the couch next to me while I cover press conferences and interview public officials.

Last week, I told him I was working on a story about the movement afoot to cancel the STAAR this year.

“I think they should probably think about doing it on the internet because we’ve worked very hard this year, but I also don’t want to take the test at all so maybe they should just give us all A’s for effort,” he responded. For the record, there may have been a touchdown dance involved when I told him it was indeed canceled.

A few days ago, I choked on my drink, and he ran down the hall screaming, “OH SNAP YOU GOT THE RONA.”

Last night, when he watched me type furiously as County Judge Clay Jenkins announced the shelter in place order and started listing essential businesses (news media is one of them), he said, “So dad is not essential, but you are. That’s gotta burn for dad, right?”

For the record, dad works for a hospital system, so he is indeed working all day, too.

But I don’t think any of us were prepared for Tiny’s mom and dad to become Tiny’s tag-team third-grade teachers. Not Tiny. And certainly not us.

So this morning was approached with, as I’m sure it was for most of you as well, a great deal of trepidation.

“I hope you’re going to be a nice teacher,” Tiny said, eyeballing me dubiously.

“I will if you’re a cooperative student,” I replied.

“Soooo … you’re saying that’s a no?” he said, and sauntered down the hall.

“I miss my friends. I miss my teacher. I miss my school.”

That being said, last night we sat down as a family and made a schedule for school. I didn’t know if I’d laugh at my naivete by 3 p.m. today, clutching Evan William’s finest without even pouring it into a glass, or if things would go OK.

It wasn’t perfect, but Tiny’s teacher assured me her days are never perfect. But it was OK. My husband and I took turns, based on who had a conference call or a deadline. Our schedule has lots of lengthy breaks punctuated by compact bursts of teaching, good for two busy working parents and one child on the autism spectrum.

We were lucky to get a packet to start us off with the day Tiny came home for spring break. Between that and some poking around, we found things that work. We start with 30 minutes of math around 9 a.m., a combination of worksheets and manipulatives and online work. Then we have our first 30-minute break.

We come back from that for about 45 minutes of reading and writing – reading a book and reviewing it, some vocabulary and grammar work online through an app called Flocabulary, and then journaling.

Today’s entry gutted me. I asked him to tell me three things he misses right now.

“I miss my friends. I miss my teacher. I miss my school.”

PE was some warm-ups outside and basketball. After that, art and music. After an hour lunch break, we did 30 minutes of social studies – learning about elections – and 30 minutes of science, where we started a unit on the coronavirus and then finished up with a coding game.

We were done by 2 p.m., and Tiny said, “Wow, you weren’t entirely horrible at that.”

I’m putting that on my resume.

But in reality, I know I’m no teacher. I’m a parent doing her best, wedging learning in between (and sometimes with) my deadlines. I forgot to eat lunch and breakfast today. I lost track of my caffeine intake, and I’m pretty sure I’m vibrating now.

But if this is what it takes for more people to stay well, and for our hospitals to have enough beds and equipment (eventually, anyway) to care for patients sick with COVID-19, then it’s worth it.

But for the love of God, stay in. Wash your hands. Please wash everything on your body, daily, Silkwood shower style. Pretend you’re Betty White and a national treasure that should not get out and risk catching this at all – even if you’re 25 and run marathons and can benchpress whatever a lot of benchpressing is.

I don’t think I can stress this enough – I’m not cut out to teach school. Seriously, when this is over just upend your purses and wallets on the nearest teacher’s desk, because they deserve all the money. So please stay home, wash your hands, and stay well, so I can stop teaching and also go back to not waking up by my long-dormant startle reflex three times a night. 

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about some of the things we’ve learned so far when it comes to juggling both work and school. And we’d love to hear your tips too. Send your homeschooling pictures, and your impressions on how your day went via the Preston Hollow or Park Cities Facebook pages, or through this link.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy 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 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 doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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