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Distance learning – which Jordyn does for half a week these days – is clearly part of his struggle. His mother says she couldn’t afford WiFi for her $ 12 an hour salary as a security guard – a situation shared by many families in Mississippi, where about half of college students don’t 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 in Clarksdale over the course of a week, is about far more than inadequate technology. It’s also about the added disruption the pandemic has brought to a working class family that has already struggled to make ends meet. And it highlights the limits of hybrid learning to reach these non-engaged students.
“I used to like school,” he said quietly. “Now I don’t even like it anymore because it’s too hard.”
Until the pandemic, Jordyn and his mother lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he was known among his teachers as a smart but easily distractable student who was able to fly when engaged.
Shermell Hooper, his second grade teacher, remembered standing over his desk before he could write his name on the top of the page. If she had assigned a reading passage, she had to sit next to him to make him read.
On the day of a nationwide standardized test, she said, Jordyn was sitting in front of his computer, humming to himself, and spinning in his chair. She thought he was going to screw up – until the results came in.
When his mother picked him up, a school administrator was waiting for her and she feared Jordyn had gotten into trouble. “Then they told me that not only did he get the best score in his class, he got the best score in the class,” she said.
At a school-wide meeting, Jordyn’s name was mentioned, his classmates cheered, and he was given a new bike.