by Laura Schmidt-Hong
In early September, students walk down North’s bustling hallways, some chatting with friends and others rushing off to class. Many of the freshmen already appear comfortable in the school building, eager to embrace new friendships and new opportunities. Yet quite a few wear nervous, apprehensive expressions, feeling small in the sea of older students. In their eyes, the sprawling brick building is daunting, seemingly impossible to navigate. The classes are more rigorous than those in middle school, and the seats are filled with new faces. Even the extracurricular activities are more competitive.
Fast forward five months and the hallway will look similar, save the frightened glances. Every student is directioned, familiar with the building and with his or her teachers and peer group, accustomed to the daily routine.
So, what happened in between these two moments? How do the freshmen feel having completed the first semester?
For many freshmen, the most exciting parts of high school are the new academic and extracurricular opportunities. Freshman Ethan Gahm said he enjoyed joining new clubs, such as Science Team and debate team, while freshman Lauren Gobler joined the volleyball team and found it to be a valuable opportunity to make new friends. “Without volleyball, it wouldn’t be the same. It was also cool to represent your school with other people. It makes you feel like part of something bigger,” she said.
Expectations for high school
Many freshmen felt nervous about starting high school. According to freshman Eve Martin, the anticipation of high school was more daunting than the reality, and from what she had heard from other students, “it would be really crazy.” Based on these warnings, she “expected it to be a lot worse than it actually is.”
Gobler expressed similar feelings, adding, “coming into it, you’re always freaking out about it, like ‘I’m going to be bad in this class.’ You’re scared of a lot of stuff, but you get here and everyone’s nice and here to help you.” Freshman Emma McKee also found that North was more similar to middle school than she had expected, and Gahm even said that he prefers high school to middle school.
Freedom and responsibility
Some students also felt significantly more pressure upon starting high school. “People will start to demand more from you because you’re older and need to step up your responsibility,” said Martin. Gobler added, “They give us more choice, but that comes with responsibility. You’re held accountable and if something’s not right with you, you’re the one who has to step up.”
Students’ days are also “less regimented,” according to Gahm. The occasional assemblies, more structured environment, and lack of free blocks in middle school ensure that students are always occupied, added McKee, while in high school, “there are some times during the day when you don’t have anything going on, and you have parts of your day when you don’t have anything to do.”
Similarly, freshman Ben Weiss said that “there’s a lot more freedom. There’s structure, but it’s less controlling. It’s more liberating.” He described how students can sometimes listen to music and chew gum in directed study and “there’s a lot more leeway.”
However, along with the increased freedom came a greater workload, said Martin, though she admitted there will be even more work in future years. Gahm added that he is “more challenged than in middle school” and that “classes are harder, but it’s not too bad.”
Navigating the school
The size of North was also intimidating to some incoming freshmen. McKee noted that North is “obviously a much bigger school and there are so many more different people.” However, Weiss said he was expecting the building to be larger than it actually is and that once he went inside, “it shrunk. Now in term three…it doesn’t feel as huge.”
By now, most freshmen have fully transitioned. However, Martin added, “There are some times when I forget where I’m supposed to be going. Once, on the first day of semester two, when I was supposed to be in homeroom, I sat in my c-block class for a full seven minutes until someone told me it was homeroom.”
Gahm added that he “got used to it pretty quickly, after the first few weeks.” However, Weiss said that for him, the transition period lasted until winter vacation and that at the beginning of the school year, finding classes “was a little tough.”
While the transition into high school certainly has its ups and downs, many freshmen look forward to continuing their high school careers and taking advantage of all that North has to offer.
Gobler noted that it is always possible to become more involved in the school community, but that she feels she is “in a good place.”
Martin said that she feels “optimistic,” and McKee added that she is also “excited for the second half of next year.”