WATERTOWN — Six teachers who video chat every week to talk about what they’re reading, school and the frustrations and positives about distanced learning were about to end one of their meetings on Wednesday when all of a sudden one of the planet’s biggest country music artists with a connection to Fort Drum was waiting to join.
Brad Paisley posted a video Wednesday evening on his Facebook page — which is liked by more than 7.2 million accounts — with a caption thanking teachers. The video he posted is of a Zoom meeting with six teachers from the Watertown School District who had been gathering virtually ever since the schools closed midway through March. Mr. Paisley, with a new single “No I In Beer,” has been surprising different groups by joining their online meetings.
“Hold up what you’re drinking,” he said to the teachers, who then raised mostly wine. “Wine? The song’s about beer.”
Mr. Paisley continued joking with the Watertown teachers as a few substituted their wine glasses for a can.
The group is made up of Tara Ramie, a third-grade teacher; Karen Gibbs, an elementary teacher; Stacey Kelley, a second-grade teacher; Leslee Mattis, a kindergarten teacher; and Peg Drappo, a pre-K administrator.
Like all teachers, they have been navigating and adapting to the state of teaching in the COVID-19 pandemic. And they feel it’s best to meet and discuss how it’s all going.
The district is continuing to work out different strategies that help protect the social and emotional well-being of students and their families, which was its No. 1 priority to begin with.
“I think one thing our district is doing a fantastic job of is trying not to overwhelm parents,” Ms. Drappo said. “I think some teachers do a little bit too much, and we’re trying to pull them back because every situation in this city is different.”
As a result, the district is working to bring play back into learning.
“I think that’s one thing that’s really happened with this is that kids are getting out and playing and creating,” Ms. Drappo said, “and not doing worksheets.”
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Drappo said she saw Mr. Paisley on the news surprising groups on Zoom. Knowing she and her book club would be meeting on Zoom later that evening, she took a photo of the TV and sent it to the five other teachers. Another group member, Ms. Gibbs, later found a number associated with the star. Then Ms. Ramie, another member, sent it a text, which prompted an automated response.
Their Zoom meeting began at 4 p.m. and they talked about school and the book they were all reading, and when it came time to hang up, Ms. Ramie decided to send one more text to that Brad Paisley number.
“And when she did all of a sudden it came up that he was in the waiting room,” Ms. Drappo said. “We were like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ We didn’t believe it, then all of a sudden he showed up on the screen.”
She said Mr. Paisley asked where they are from, to which they responded Northern New York. He told them his dad was stationed at Fort Drum when he was 4 years old.
Mr. Paisley asked them how they are doing, and they asked how he’s doing.
“He said he was sick and tired of cleaning and doing dishes,” Ms. Drappo said. “He’s in the same boat as we all are, which is kind of cool.”
Mr. Paisley’s Facebook post with the video was around two minutes long, but they actually spoke with him for over 10 minutes, Ms. Drappo said.
“How nice of him to do it,” Ms. Drappo said. “He doesn’t have to be doing this kind of stuff.”
The point was to thank teachers for their efforts in continuing to educate students through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If anybody deserves a drink right now it’s teachers,” said Mr. Paisley, adding that his mom was a teacher for years. “I appreciate you guys doing what you’re doing.”