Reed Clapp – Lessons For Kids At Home
When I seldom leave the house and yearn to see my adult kids, a routine comforts me. During quarantine, my husband and I wrap up our days and meet on the couch for a drink and the evening news. A little after 5 pm, Reed Clapp comes into our living room with his inventive bag of ideas for kids and parents and grandparents.
Reed, or Mr. Clapp as he’s known to his 22 third graders in Goodlettsville, TN, broadcasts simple lessons for parents who balance jobs and classwork from home. Whether kids study the trajectory of a paper airplane, compute the price of a single sheet of toilet paper, or play bingo on a nature walk, children are sponges and teachable moments are everywhere.
Although he seems a natural fit for on-camera work, I wonder how this gig came to be? His Nashville neighbor, who IS a reporter for the news station, called Reed for advice. She needed material about educating children from home in these quarantine times. “I reached out to help a friend, and my lessons and ideas became a regular segment,” Reed says.
His lessons aren’t complicated and don’t require parents to run out and buy supplies. “I want people to see there is a lesson in everything we do,” he says. Unloading the groceries? Grab the receipt and round numbers up and down. Building with Legos or dressing Barbie? Categorize blocks or clothing and make a bar graph. Watching the stars in your backyard? Summarize and deliver your news report on the sky.
As he signs off each day, Reed reminds parents to “teach your kids to work hard and be kind.”
One of my favorite lessons—and his too—revolves around the kitchen spice drawer. Pull out the cinnamon and tarragon and saffron. Where is it grown? Does the spice come from a tree or flower? Find its country of origin on a map or globe.
“Mine is a high-tech setup,” laughs Reed. With his laptop perched atop a stack of books on a kitchen stool, he records four or five quick lessons at a time—and changes his bow tie between each episode. He photographs household objects associated with the lesson and sends it all off to the studio editor.
“This news feed is a way I can still be creative and teach and contribute,” says Reed.
Nowadays, to ensure home instruction is uniform across the region, the school district’s central office creates and emails class lessons to parents. And Reed misses designing individual lessons for his kids.
Via Zoom, Reed checks in with his 8- and 9-year-olds each week. He may lead them through a scavenger hunt as they race through their homes, searching for an octagon or a polygon or a right angle. His meetings are not always school-instruction focused. “During these crazy times, when families are together 24/7 and nerves are often frayed, kids need community and emotional support. The learning will come,” he says.
Reed’s students are “pumped” for the annual class play. “The show must go on,” says Reed, and his kids are busy practicing lines and gathering costumes for Zoomerella, an online—of course—production.
A man after my own heart, Reed has a chart on his refrigerator—new restaurants to try and spaces to explore and neighborhoods to walk in Nashville. But he wasn’t always so adventurous.
He grew up in Western Kentucky and attended nearby Murray State. Reed had to push himself to move over the Tennessee border after grad school. “We get comfortable where we are—physically and mentally—and caught in a loop of fear and then resentment for not taking a risk,” he says.
In a perfect world, Reed will someday have his own school. He’ll devote the first hour of each day to “family time.” “We’ll check-in, talk about feelings, and role-play through scenarios,” he says.
“And always remember, teach your kids to work hard and be kind.”
We talk about some of the blessings in all this—longer family dinners and evenings together. Reed hopes the past six weeks have helped parents see the importance of a slower pace and unhurried conversations.
On a recent weekend, Reed and his fellow teachers drove their cars through the neighborhoods surrounding their elementary school. Kids, parents, and elderly neighbors waved and cheered for the drive-by parade.
“Do you want to come back or stay home?” Reed asked the kids.
“Come back!” was the unanimous response.
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