The new high school experience for freshmen is anti-climatic

After years of anticipation, starting high school at home is a bummer

Since the start of middle school, high school has been the main topic for practically every student.

Teachers constantly reminded students they were being prepared for this huge transition in their lives. In eighth grade, the regular reminder of high school also came up when former students returned to campus to catch up with their old teachers.

There were even planned celebrations such as a trip to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, an eighth-grade farewell dance, and promotion to send the excited rising freshmen off to the next stage in their lives.

Everything was leading up to ninth grade. But then eighth grade was cut short in mid-March. The celebrations were canceled. The anticipated high school experience students were promised for years was thrown into chaos thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Freshman class president Mostafa Khan said he was excited to reunite with some middle school friends who are now sophomores and was disappointed when it didn’t happen.

“I was looking forward to seeing some of my 10th-grade friends and having the full high school experience, like going to homecoming and high school events,” Khan said.

The first year of high school is filled with so many firsts and experiences such as receiving a locker, using a cell phone during the school day, and just being allowed to walk across the grass on campus without getting screamed at. Everyone can look back at their first year in middle school and remember the excitement of getting their own P.E locker, and the anticipation of a real one was even greater.

Unfortunately, the moments that so many were looking forward to failed to make an appearance in online school.

Freshman Nadia Rouillard is one of many students who finds online school a disappointment.

“I am not good at online school,” Rouillard said. “I can never pay attention so I need someone to tell me to pay attention.”

Rouillard would much rather be in a classroom environment. She finds herself getting distracted and off course. She believes that online school is the correct fix for this situation, but misses the classroom.

Freshman Jessica Okorie disagrees with Rouillard, finding online learning to be easier than regular school, but is worried about the future of high school.

“I am going to take most of my freshman year online, and by the time I even go to school maybe [it will be] sophomore year,” Okorie said. “I’m not going to be used to the classes. I’m going to be a freshman twice.”

Khan said he is eager to get back in the classroom. Similar to Rouillard and Okorie, Khan wants to meet new people and be social.

“It’s really different from what we were used to… being able to socialize with our friends and now we have to communicate through a computer,” Khan said.

English teacher Devan Manning spoke about her views on ninth-grade students and their high school experience.

“I am kind of mourning for our ninth-grade classes,” Manning said. “The distance of community and belonging to the school is just harder to achieve when we’re virtual.”

Manning has experienced a similar situation when she was a senior in 2008 and 2009 when the economy crashed. She glimpsed what high schoolers had to deal with during difficult times, so she urges students to seek out help when they need it. Manning wants students to know that people at Cal are on their side.

“My best advice is to try and take care of yourself,” Manning said. “What I would hope freshmen would do is really be aware of their own mental health and kind of prioritizing that a little bit more than maybe their school performance.”

Rouillard feels that the teachers at Cal have been very cooperative and understanding of students’ difficult and abnormal situations.

“They treat you like a person instead of a little kid and I think that is the best thing a teacher can do for students,” Rouillard said.

Newspaper adviser Brian Barr, who also teaches English 9, had his freshmen write letters to themselves about starting their high school experience during a global pandemic. Click here to read some of the letters.

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