‘I Used to Like School’: An 11-Year-Old’s Struggle With Pandemic Learning

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Remote learning — which these days Jordyn does for half the week — is clearly part of his struggle. His mother says she cannot afford Wi-Fi on her $12-an-hour salary as a security guard — a situation shared by many families in Mississippi, where about half of students do not have reliable broadband at home, the highest percentage of any state, according to a study by Common Sense Media.

But Jordyn’s story, which The New York Times documented over the course of a week in Clarksdale, is about much more than inadequate technology. It is also about the added disruption the pandemic has brought to one working-class family that was already struggling to make ends meet. And it underscores the limits of hybrid learning to reach those disengaged students.

“I used to like school,” he said softly. “Now I don’t even like it anymore because it’s too hard.”

Until the pandemic, Jordyn and his mother lived in Battle Creek, Mich., where he was known among his teachers as a bright but easily distracted student, one who was capable of soaring when he was engaged.

Shermell Hooper, his second-grade teacher, recalled having to stand over his desk before he would write his name at the top of the page. If she assigned a reading passage, she had to sit next to him to get him to read.

On the day of a nationwide standardized test, she said, Jordyn sat in front of his computer, humming to himself and spinning around in his chair. She thought he was goofing off — until the results came in.

When his mother came to pick him up, a school administrator was waiting for her, and she worried Jordyn had gotten into trouble. “That’s when they told me that he had gotten not just the best score in his class but the best score in the entire grade,” she said.

At a schoolwide assembly, Jordyn’s name was called, his classmates cheered and he received a new bike.

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