Resilient Underclassmen and Their Journey to High School

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Photo Credit: Unsplash.com

Sylvia Krieg, Staff Writer

 

On September 9th 2021, Harriton High School opened its doors to 1,300 students and returned to a five-day-a-week, fully in-person schedule for the first time since March 12th of 2020. During the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, schools nationwide have had to adapt to a new learning model, and students have had to follow suit. Adjusting to new health and safety protocols has only been the beginning of what students have had to face both last school year, and this year as well. More changes they have encountered include transitioning from virtual to in-person school, and creating and maintaining friendships during an unprecedented time. While these changes have taken some getting used to, for the first time in history there are two classes of students – the classes of 2024 and 2025 – who have experienced the highs and lows of the transition into high school together, which is something I wanted to learn more about. From a survey sent out to Harriton’s freshmen and sophomores in Mrs. Caine’s freshman advisory, I learned the thoughts and feelings of underclassmen about returning, or beginning, high school this year.

The transition from a non-traditional school year back to an almost regular one has been a reality check for many students. The vast majority of students I talked to are uncomfortable with how challenging school can be without the ability to hide behind a screen. They have been noticing that their teachers have much higher expectations than they did last year. These are challenges facing all of the grades at Harriton, but freshman and sophomores have unique hurdles of their own. Many underclassmen said that they dislike the new structure of Lunch and Learn because it prevents them from having independence due to the requirement of reporting to a teacher’s room and checking in through a QR code. While the intention for the newly designed Lunch and Learn model is to spread out the student body, in reality, it prevents students from fully experiencing high school life, seeing specific teachers for help, attending club meetings, and socializing, all of which are adding unnecessary stress to an already difficult time. Although the adjustments are only temporary and designed to keep students safe and healthy, this new design has become yet another obstacle in the underclassmen’s path to settling in at Harriton.

Coming into this school year, the social lives of students, especially that of freshman and sophomores, have been majorly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of freshmen and sophomores surveyed said that they found it difficult to cultivate friendships in the past school year, due to the virtual-learning format and various schedule formats and changes. This is a pressing problem, as those students entering high school for the first time last year, should have been meeting new people and forming friendships. Luckily, the in-person format of this school year could cause a change. Despite the struggle to meet teachers during Lunch and Learn, many underclassmen have said that the ability to meet with teachers in-person at all, and experience classes while physically in school, has been much more manageable. They have also stated that their teachers have been welcoming while providing help and resources to guide them through their transition into high school.

While the transitions into high school both this school year and last school year were rollercoasters of ups and downs, students are working to find ways to adjust. Making new friendships and learning in general has been easier in-person, with more ability to meet teachers and fellow students face-to-face. While there are still some obstacles to overcome, such as the difficult Lunch and Learn schedule, I have no doubt that these resilient freshmen and sophomores will be able to come out on top, and begin to love their time at Harriton High School.