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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

My students are 'broken kids I cannot fix'

Teachers on Reddit are sharing horror stories of their students' emotional, social and academic melt downs, screen addictions and apathy.


More than half of third and fourth graders "are indifferent to learning, unashamed of their antisocial behaviors, and truly unpleasant to spend time with," writes an elementary specialist in a high-poverty urban district. "They feel like broken kids I cannot fix. I worry about what will happen when they become adults in 2032-33."


A fifth-grade teacher writes about "extremely low academic performance (about 80% of my class is below grade level) and downright awful behavior with no awareness of themselves or others around them."

This year's third graders are "incredibly needy, can be so downright rude, and apathetic to the point where they just look at me like I’m the crazy one for caring how well they do sometimes," writes another teacher.


Another teacher worries about "oversexualized" 10-year-olds caught sexting each other.

The 3rd graders are totally social skill deficient. Everything out of their mouths is an insult of some form, their language is ugliness and when confronted the feeling is they genuinely do not understand why making fun of somebody’s dead mother is not okay. I greatly worry for them, from the lack of social skills to the hyper violence they take as commonplace.

High school teachers have been told they'll have to learn how to teach phonics, because their incoming students won't know how to read.


A former special ed teacher, now a substitute, is seeing "A LOT more kids with speech impediments" and pronunciation problems.


I'm guessing that's face masks.


Students lost far more academic and social skills than their parents realize, write researchers Tom Kane of Harvard and Sean Reardon of Stanford in the New York Times. Achievement gaps widened, but more affluent children did not do better than lower-income students within the same district.


"Test scores declined more in districts where schools were closed longer," Kane and Reardon write. In addition, students lost more in places with high Covid death rates, more anxious and depressed adults and where "social activities were the most curtailed." Remember that the playgrounds were closed. "The overall effect has been devastating," they write. Here's a link to their data. Kane and Reardon would like to see more summer learning and enrichment, more tutoring and more use of educational software to track students' progress. But they don't think it will be enough in the hardest-hit communities. Like some of the Reddit teachers, they suggest an optional fifth year of high school to help young people prepare for career paths or college.

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