Graphic by Sara Valbuena
As I start my final year at Las Lomas, I have found myself caught up in the leadership role I inherited as an inevitable result of being a senior. When looking outside of this shocking rift in my responsibilities, I found the new freshmen have a feeling of these added responsibilities as well, but potentially even more heightened.
The last “normal” year of the freshman class of 2025 was the beginning half of their seventh grade year. Their middle school years were cut directly in half and now they are expected to return to school, but not just any year with the same familiar campus. This time, they are expected to return as full-fledged freshmen; completely to engage in both their first normal school-year in a year and a half and their first year of high school. It begs the question of what their expectations were prior compared to the reality they faced.
One of these freshmen, Luke Wauthy, found himself excited to return to school for the comprehensible schedule, the learning itself and seeing his friends. Wauthy participated in the hybrid schedule for the end of eighth grade at Walnut Creek Intermediate (WCI) and expressed strong negative feelings for it: “The hybrid schedule sucked, I went to school in person only two times a week and I prefer going everyday.” For Wauthy, consistent in-person instruction is important, “Learning in person has been so much more productive and better than online.” His appreciation and benefit for full-time, in-person instruction was a reality that he expected to come with the new school year at Las Lomas.
Along with his appreciation for the new learning environment, Wauthy found himself eager to see his friends everyday, thanks to this year’s return to the pre-pandemic schedule. This concept might’ve seemed mundane pre-COVID-19, but this seemingly new concept feels like a luxury now. Wauthy said, “I was excited to see all my friends and see them everyday.” School once again symbolizes a consistent atmosphere to see one’s friends everyday –not just sometimes — which seems so new amidst COVID-19.
However, seemingly inevitable in this absence of human interaction throughout the quarantine is the presence of small-to-large amounts of social anxiety in its place. When talking about his fears about starting high school he said, “The only thing I was afraid of on my first day of Las Lomas was ‘who is going to be in my classes?’” This anxiety feels natural on the beginning of any first day of school, but it is evident that this expected anxiety was more potent this year as a result of quarantine. Wauthy goes further in depth: “The first day of school I had quite a bit of anxiety, but nothing too bad and I remember walking into my French class first period, looking around and not recognizing anyone. It got me concerned, but all my other classes I have friends in which made my day, and now in French I know everyone in there, so it’s all good.”
Another student experiencing their first year of high school is freshman, Norah Mack. Like Wauthy, she also partook in the hybrid schedule for her eighth grade. Mack also encountered some of the typical anxiety with being the youngest on campus this year. She expressed her thoughts and said, “I was scared of being a freshman and all of the stories behind it, but I was paranoid for no reason, and it’s easier to get by than I thought.” This was a theme for Mack; her anxious thoughts were quickly put to rest when she realized her fears would not be realized. She added, “I had thought that on the first day I would be trampled or get lost before one of my classes, but I quickly realized that I was fine.” The fear of entering high school as ‘incomers’ is a typical fear shared amongst the incoming freshman of all ages. Fortunately, these fears were not realized for Mack.
When entering a new situation or circumstance, like progressing to the next campus for the next year of school, we feel our expectations or anxious thoughts come about either unconsciously or consciously. Wauthy didn’t feel such a dramatic shift between his expectation and reality: “I thought it would be like a normal day, which it was. I was fully prepared for the start of the school year. Most of the expectations were reality.” The difference between Mack’s expectations and reality were more dramatic than Wauthy, but the difference fortunately yielded positive results. She said, “My expectations were for it to be overwhelming, but it is less nerve racking than I thought it would be.”
The parallels of entering 9th and 12th grade after a year and a half of untraditional learning are more apparent than I ever thought. Regardless of the parallels though, there is one big difference between the two grade levels: as seniors enter our final year of our journey, the freshmen have only just begun theirs.