Freshmen Return to School
Under any circumstances, the transition from one school to another is rarely easy. This is especially true when that transition feels not only like stepping into a new school, but an entirely new world. Nutley High School’s freshman students, after being either hybrid or entirely virtual for a year and a half, are expressing great hopes and some fears for the journey ahead.
Three freshmen, Janell Marla Magante, Arianna Contella, and Jake Bellenger, all having followed the hybrid learning schedule, spoke about their transition and how it is coming along: “In elementary school, they always told us how intimidating high school was,” says Janell, “but it really wasn’t.”
Last year, the Nutley Public Schools District was almost entirely virtual. This transition from regular to at-home learning began in March of 2020 and lasted until almost June of 2021. In March 2021, hybrid learning was available to all students, K-12. However, at the end of what would be the current freshman’s eighth-grade year, hybrid learning began.
Between loud houses, siblings, computer troubles, and a lack of social opportunity, one would not be able to call last year's schooling style easy, especially before hybrid learning became an option. Some students found that, with everything happening at once, classes were harder to focus on and did not even feel like classes.
Others felt that learning at home was more relaxing and in many ways easier. Arianna, a freshman, claimed that, "it felt less serious than actual school, which can make things good and bad. It can make you feel calmer about school, but it can also make you lazier."
No matter your stance on last year’s learning setup, most freshmen agree that the upcoming school year would be one full of new surprises, opportunities, and freedoms. A lot of those opportunities lied academically since grades would become increasingly important upon entering high school.
Then again, social opportunities became scarce with virtual learning. Janell mentioned, “I hope to improve my social skills since quarantine seriously made them go downhill,” and others have expressed hopes similar to hers.
Athletic opportunities and extracurricular activities have also expanded from middle to high school, and a lot of people have been expressing great aspirations when it comes to expanding their interests.
As for differences in the standard school day, lunch holds one of the firmest contrasts between middle and high school. In seventh and eighth grade, a crowded cafeteria was the only option when it came to eating locations and, once Covid hit, awkward social distancing became the standard for lunch sessions. Now students find themselves going out on a daily basis and enjoying the unique possibilities that come with open community time.
Of course, the return to school didn’t mean resuming classes as if students had never left. For example, Covid mandates have taken place and in the classroom most work is computerized. Also, hands-on projects and activities became a thing of the past.
The electronic work also makes due dates quite different than before. Now, when there’s an assignment, it’s due by the end of the night. Last year, students would find themselves doing homework in the morning or the lunch period before the class which had assigned it since it often wasn’t due until the start of the period.
Now, that’s not an option and students occasionally complain about rushing their work, claiming that they can’t cram in what previously would. Jake mentioned that “Sometimes I like to wake up earlier if I’m in a rush the night before and do work then, but because work is due by 11:59, I find myself doing lackluster and rushed work.”
The idea of high school was often frightening. There were bits and pieces of information that students knew beforehand. Grades were going to matter more, work was going to grow heavier and there would be a larger age gap between students.
However, this transition did not disappoint and often served to be less intimidating than students expected. Janell mentioned that “in elementary school, they always told us how intimidating high school was but it really wasn’t to me.”
All in all, change, especially that from virtual to in-person, is never what one would call “simple” or “easy.” However, that does not mean it is entirely bad. Of course, there will be things that aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t totally erase the world of new opportunities and great expectations for what will come.