North Memphis

Kids speak on life and learning in the pandemic

The week of March 16 was Spring Break for most local students. No one could have imagined a week-long break would turn into nearly four months off school, a summer worth forgetting, and a return to school but not in person...yet.

It seems everyone has something to say on education in the pandemic, but young children are rarely asked for their perspectives.

High Ground News sat down with two students who attend elementary and middle schools in North Memphis and one North Memphis middle schooler whose family switched to homeschooling in August. They share how COVID-19 has impacted their lives and how they’ve adjusted to their new learning situations.

North Memphis students and families have a long history of navigating challenges that adversely affect academic achievement. High rates of low-literacy among adults and kids, under-resourced schools, and low graduation rates are the obstacles faced in a normal year.

This is no normal year.

North Memphis also has passionate and innovative school staff, dedicated parents, and bright kids who are committed to working hard to make the most of these challenging times.

Meet three such students—Kamyia, Lance, and Anthony.

Kamyia Harris
6th Grade
KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle
Kamyia Harris (Submitted)

When and how did you first start learning about the pandemic?
I first heard of the coronavirus through conversations on TikTok. Everyone was talking about having to quarantine for like two weeks. At first, I was scared because I didn’t really know what quarantine meant and thought we’d be locked in our houses with guards outside. My mom talked with me and my sisters. She answered a lot of my questions. That helped me calm down.

What do you miss about school in-person?
I miss Fridays at my school. We would have dances, parties, karaoke, and rap battles each week and have a chance to just hang out with our friends. I miss it because it was so much fun. I also ended up getting a new phone and lost a lot of my contacts and don’t get a chance to talk to them since going to school virtually.

How are your friends and classmates dealing with this pandemic and virtual learning?
I have friends who have hard home lives, parent struggles, and are going through a rough time. Sometimes the only time they have any fun is when they are not home and are at school. I feel really bad for them.

Do you prefer school virtually or in-person like before the pandemic?
That is a really hard question because I want to go back to school so bad. There is still so much chaos right now with virtual learning. Some kids are struggling to stay connected and know what to do. Others are just doing stuff that is disrespectful and distracting. I guess they feel like they can’t get in trouble. I don’t think I’m getting the right education with virtual school.

Lance Banks
1st Grade
Perea Elementary School
Lance Banks (Submitted)

When and how did you first start learning about the pandemic?
I heard you can get very sick and die by it. I learned that from my teachers, my mom, and listening to my friends. I also heard that you have to be very safe when you go out to have fun like on a bike, skateboard, or scooter.

What did you miss about the end of the last school year and last summer?
I missed seeing my friends at school and going over to my friend’s houses. I like our summer vacations, but we couldn’t do that this year. I also play for the Memphis Bears football team and have missed playing this summer. I like to practice, but I like the games more. I hope I get to play again soon.

How do you feel about virtual learning at home instead of being at school?
I go to school one day and learn at home on the other days. I like them both, but I miss my friends at school. When I am at school only some of my friends are there. I would like to go back to how it was when it is safe.

How comfortable are you with computers and virtual learning?
I have an iPad and play games on my iPad. It isn’t that hard. My mom also helps me a lot.

Anthony Ivey
7th Grade
Anthony Ivey (Submitted)

When school just stopped last year, what did you miss about not finishing last school year?
We had a lot planned for the end of last school year. Of course, there were big tests, but we also had some important days we missed. College tours were cancelled, field day, and other field trips were cancelled. I was really looking forward to the college tours.

Your parents chose homeschool for you. How much did the pandemic influence the decision?
My parents were already thinking about homeschooling because transportation and other things were causing more problems than not. The coronavirus just helped them to commit.

How has the transition been for you, both homeschooling and virtual learning?
I continued school work throughout last summer. I was also in CLUE (Creative Learning in a Unique Environment) and have become very familiar with on-line computer based learning. My parents and I felt supported by Believe Memphis Academy. There were frequent phone calls and encouragement. We were also encouraged to support others in our school community.

Did you experience challenges making the change from traditional school to homeschooling?
I actually appreciate being able to learn at my pace and in a more quiet space. I like school and feel well supported by my parents to continue doing well. There are a number of teachers in my family that I can reach out to if I need to.
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Read more articles by Brandis Leverette.

Brandis Leverette is a former educator and ordained minister. He is a graduate of the second High Ground News Community Correspondents program.