Transition Troubles: Freshmen adjust to new high school environment, experience ups and downs

Makayla Nicholis, Staff Writer

Think back to your very first day of school as a kindergartner. You were probably done up in your pigtails or favorite Transformers T-shirt, missing your mom and utterly lost in the vastness of your new school.
Fast-forward six years to fifth grade, the year where you didn’t just walk through the halls — you strutted.
That school was yours.
Jump again to sixth grade, when you were once again alone to navigate through the towering lockers and legs of the older kids.
Finally came eighth grade and the eagerness to move on to the greatness that inevitably awaited you within the walls of high school.
Every student has gone through this same cycle. From the kings of the school to the underdogs, the leap from middle school to high school is an annual struggle for students.
“In eighth grade you’re at the top of the food chain, and you have to learn to start from the bottom again,” freshman Alli Carrigan said.
Freshman Alex Florian said, for her, the most intimidating part about being in a new school was the hallways.
“I have four classes in the senior hall, so I’m always like, ‘Get to my class — get to the room,’” she said.
Besides environmental changes, freshman Kelsey Laroche said she is experiencing internal developments as well.
“We have more responsibilities, and that makes us more mature — to be able to focus on school and our friends at the same time,” she said.
Florian said she noticed the changing of friend groups as well.
“The only thing that’s changed is the groups, like a few of our friends are cheerleaders, and some people are just learning who they want to be with,” she said.
Carrigan said some aspects of high school can be a little scary.
“People were always like ‘You’re not going to be friends with the same people,’ and that really scared me,” she said. “But now I realize that it’s all going to work out.”
Carrigan said one positive of the transition is the newfound freedom she has.
“There are a lot less rules, and we aren’t watched over as closely,” she said. “We can kind of do our own thing.”
Florian said she liked how there were more classes to choose from to build a schedule.
“You can [choose classes] to put towards what you want to be when you grow up,” she said.
After her four years of high school, Florian said she hopes most to find a future for herself.
“I just want to know what I want to do,” she said. “I don’t care what other people do — I want to know what I want, what I need to go somewhere.”
Two years ago, math teacher Laura Volz switched from teaching at Blue Valley Middle to BV High. She said the hardest part about the transition from middle school to high school is the expectation for time management.
“There’s so much you have to do core class-wise,” she said. “Plus, if you’re involved in band or a sport, I can see very much how high school students could get stretched really thin. Versus when you’re in middle school, there are outside activities, but the rigor of what we teach in middle school just doesn’t even compare to what [high schoolers] are exposed to.”
Volz said while her teaching methods haven’t changed since leaving middle school, the way she handles the students has.
“In middle school, you sort of feel more like a mother, like, ‘OK guys, get your stuff out, let’s get started,’” she said. “[In high school], it’s more like, ‘the bell has rung, you need to have your stuff out and be ready to go. I shouldn’t need to mother you to have that expectation.’”
Volz said she prefers teaching high school over middle school.
“What I’m able to go over as a high school math teacher compared to sixth grade — I mean, I taught people how to add and subtract fractions for six weeks,” she said. “[High school] is just a lot more interesting and a lot more challenging.”
Besides content, Volz said she appreciates the students’ interest in her own life more in high school.
“I like the conversations I can have with students when they’re in high school,” she said. “It’s more ‘let’s be real.’ There are kids in the senior class I’ve known since they were 11 [years old], and we can talk about their problems with their girlfriend or this friend has a drug addiction. I really like to be an adult students can find and can be accessible to talk to. When you teach high school, students will ask, ‘How are you?,’ and that’s kind of fun. I like teaching math, but I love building relationships, too.”